Who can’t like a person who says his favorite toy growing up was Mr. Potato Head? And his most formidable adversary was Barbie? Add to that he’s committed to a concept in Judaism which holds its believers responsible not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare, but also for the welfare of society at large. In short, a guy who believes it’s his job to help others.
Allan G. Hassenfeld is a third-generation Hassenfeld brother and much of the energy and spirit behind the toy company giant Hasbro. G. Wayne Miller, author of the true-life business suspense story Toy Wars, now brings us Kid Number One, a thorough narrative of the Hassenfelds, the toy conglomerate they built, and its abundance of international kindness. Hasbro is not just a manufacturer of games and toys. Miller’s latest book makes that clear.
The history of the company that brought us G.I. Joe, Transformers, My Little Pony, and of course Mr. Potato Head is a testament to an America fueled by immigrants. Driven from Europe as teenagers during the first World War, brothers Henry and Hillel Hassenfeld came to the U.S. fleeing societal unrest, unmitigated hatred, and pogroms which slaughtered thousands of Jews. Like other Jews before them, they settled in the lower east side of Manhattan and struggled to make enough money to eat. Their first venture was rags. Literally, rags.
How they got from rags to Mr. Potato Head is only part of the story. Kid Number One indeed chronicles Hasbro’s history, faceoffs with its fiercest competition, and the painful stories of toys that didn’t succeed.
Alan never wanted to be CEO of anything. He was happy traveling the world. But when he became part of the company, he found he could build a corporate atmosphere of ethical professionalism and familial loyalty while making enough profit to do what he wanted to do more than anything: spread goodness around the world.
It’s hard to do justice to the Hassenfeld brothers’ philanthropy. After the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico, Alan flew doctors, nurses, and 11,000 pounds of food, water, clothes, and medications to the ravaged island. He brought the sickest Puerto Ricans back to the mainland for treatment.
He helped build the Bamboo School in Thailand and provided scholarships for needy children. He supported the Mechai Viravaidya Foundation there, to improve the lives of people in remote rural villages. He helped refugees from Europe and Asia start productive lives in the U.S., supported the Afghan Women’s Development Centers, and established a Day of Global Joy at Hasbro where employees were encouraged to go do acts of charity.
Perhaps the jewel in the crown is the Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, RI, an architecturally designed building with children’s needs and imaginations as the focus.
Kid Number One is a business book, yes, but reading it will make you feel like there’s some good in this world. Purchase at https://amzn.to/2CikMEN.
NOTE: BookBites is a continuing series bringing readers information and ideas for their next read. For more reading ideas, visit BookTrib.com and subscribe to our weekly newsletter.