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Keeping it

The GRPM Blog

Pop Culture Takeover


October 18, 2021

Nintendo Game Boy

A Glimpse into the GRPM’s Collections.

The GRPM collects objects related to history, science, and culture, and today we are going to be talking about POPULAR culture. American pop culture can be traced back to the first daily newspapers in the late 1700s, through dime novels and vaudeville, to the popular musicians, athletes, toys and movies we are all familiar with today.

Here is my TOP 10 LIST of pop culture artifacts in the GRPM’s Collections!

Newspaper, 1790s
Affordable daily newspapers were the earliest way a distinctly American popular culture began to develop. They allowed large numbers of people to all consume the same information at the same time.

Newspaper, The Boston and Country Gazette

Davy Crockett Raccoon Skin Cap, c. 1950
The romance and fantasy of the frontier has been a part of American popular culture for centuries. Racoon skin caps were originally worn by some American Indians as a traditional article of clothing; however, European pioneers that settled in the Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina regions in the 18th and 19th centuries adopted it as their own and wore them as hunting caps. Even Benjamin Franklin, in his trip to Paris as Ambassador to France, wore a cap as a symbol of patriotism. Its rough-hewn look has become an iconic part of the American frontiersman’s image.

Davy Crockett Raccoon Skin Cap

Mickey Mouse Pull Toy, 1953
Created by Walt Disney in 1928, Mickey Mouse is one of the most well-known, and well-loved, cartoon characters the world has ever known. Serving as a mascot for the Disney brand, Mickey’s likeness has been plastered on just about every imaginable product including popular children’s toys.

Multicolor Mickey Mouse Pull Toy

Coca-Cola Advertisement, 1955
It is hard to think of a more iconic duo than Santa Claus and Coca-Cola. Coke has been using images of Santa to sell their bubbly beverages since the 1930s and is often credited with creating the modern image of the red and white, fur-clad, Santa Claus.

Nike Sneakers, c. 1970
Nike was one of the first brands to produce shoes specifically for the growing sports of running and aerobics during the early 1970s. These shoes used lighter weight materials like nylon and polyesters in place of the heavier, old-fashioned canvas and rubber. Wearing popular sneaker brands quickly became a fashion statement endorsed by celebrities and sports stars, ensuring their place in pop culture.

Red and White Nike Sneakers

Pet Rock, 1975
Some popular culture fads burn out quickly. This was the case for the infamous “pet rock” toy invented by Gary Ross Dahl in 1975. Although Dahl sold millions of the novelties for $3.95 each, most were quickly forgotten.

Superman Lunch Box, 1978
Every American school kid wanted a lunch box with their favorite cartoon character, sports star, or superhero on the front. One of the ways popular culture spreads is when  characters from popular films and television shows appear on products that we interact with every day.

Red Superman Lunch Box

Millennium Falcon Toy, 1979
Instantly recognizable to “nerds” everywhere, Star Wars was one of the first science fiction movies to cross over into widespread popularity. New toy releases accompanied each new film so that children, and adults, all over the world could re-enact the adventures of their intergalactic heroes.

Millennium Falcon Toy

Nintendo Game Boy, 1989
The Game Boy was neither the first, nor the most advanced handheld gaming system available during the 1990s, but it was far and away the most successful. Its low retail price (about $90) and the ability to play for many hours using only four AA batteries gave the Nintendo unit a heads up against its competition. Nintendo’s system appealed to millions of casual gamers who played it during long car trips, in bed at night, or clandestinely at work or school. Nintendo’s ability to market to a wide audience ensured the Game Boy’s success and its place as an iconic piece of technology history.

Nintendo Game Boy

Apple iPod, 2003
The iPod is perhaps the most iconic technological device of the early twenty-first century. With hundreds of millions sold worldwide, the pocket-sized music players with their trademark white cord and earbuds have become a symbol of musical, technological, marketing and cultural change.

White Apple IPod

Want to Learn More about Pop Culture?

Experience the evolution of pop culture and technology throughout history in the GRPM’s “must-see” POPnology exhibit! Great for all ages, immerse yourself in over a dozen interactives including taking a picture near the DeLorean Time Machine, coming face-to-face with icons from popular sci-fi movies such as E.T. and R2D2, launch a rocket to Mars and more.

You have to see it to believe it. 

POPnology Exhibit Entrance

By: Alex Forist, the GRPM’s Chief Curator

Late Opening Notice.

On Saturday, May 11, the Museum will open at 12 p.m. due to road closures for the Amway River Bank Run.

Early Closure Notice.

The Museum will close at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1 for Museum Adventure After Dark. Tickets are still available!