We've seen some really scary radioactive consumer products and a dozen nuclear-powered vehicle concepts from the mid-20th century. But these toys make you realize that children of the 1950s were exposed to radioactive products all the time — for fun!
Many of these toys were merely called "atomic" to sound swell, but some were actually radioactive.
Buck Rogers No. U-235 Atomic Pistol
The Kix Atomic Bomb Ring, also known as the Lone Ranger Atomic Ring, a Kix cereal promotion from 1947
The instructions stated that "you'll see brilliant flashes of light in the inky darkness inside the atom chamber. These frenzied vivid flashes are caused by the released energy of atoms. PERFECTLY SAFE - We guarantee you can wear the KIX Atomic "Bomb" Ring with complete safety. The atomic materials inside the ring are harmless."
Basically it was a tiny spinthariscope: when the red tail fin was taken off, you could look through the ring and observe some scintillations caused by nuclear reactions of polonium-alpha particles on a zinc sulfide screen. One million rings were made, and these were the most popular premium rings ever.
Atomic Robot Man, Japan, 1949
Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, produced by Alfred Carlton Gilbert, available from 1951 to 1952
The set came with four types of uranium ore, a beta-alpha source (Pb-210), a pure beta source (Ru-106), a gamma source (Zn-65?), a spinthariscope, a cloud chamber with its own short-lived alpha source (Po-210), an electroscope, a geiger counter, a manual, a comic book (Dagwood Splits the Atom) and a government manual "Prospecting for Uranium." – according to Oak Ridge Associated Universities.
Gilbert U-239 Geiger Counter, manufactured by the A.C. Gilbert Company in the early 1950s, one of these was included in the Atomic Energy Lab, but it was sold separately, too.
"Developed at the Gilbert Hall of Science with country's leading atomic energy scientists. Counter clicks rapidly when radioactive material is near; clicks are heard through earphone. Neon light indicator recessed in Geiger Counter top also indicates radioactivity by means of flashes."
And there is an interesting label on the box:
That's what the United States Government will pay to anyone who discovers substantial deposits of Uranium Ore! Full details are given in the booklet "Prospecting for Uranium", packed with the Geiger Counter inside this box."
Atomic Age Air Rifle
Safe, Harmless Giant Atomic Bomb
(via Wikimedia Commons)
Uranium, a board game for two to four "Prospectors", created by Howard Boughner for Saalfield Publishing, Akron, Ohio, c. 1950
Uranium Rush, a board game from the mid-1950s by Gardner Games
The PEZ Space Gun
A bottle of Frisky Whiskey, produced by the fictional Oak Ridge Distilling Company in the early 1960s.
The product was made by the Poynter Products in Cincinnati, Ohio, and it was an empty plastic bottle with a small battery-powered motor that caused the bottle to shake when it's picked up.