The Canadian Toy Association

MacDonald (Mac) Irwin

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Canadian Toy Industry Hall of Fame Inductees


The Irwin brothers were industry trailblazers, breaking ground that would change the business forever. After dropping out of university in 1948 to help their father with his small struggling souvenir and toy wholesale company Arnold and MacDonald Irwin built Irwin Toy Ltd. into one of Canada’s largest toy manufacturers. Along the way they ventured into new territory. They were the first in Canada to advertise on television, doing so even before Canada had its own network. In the 1950's they placed children-oriented ads on U.S. border stations that reached into Canadian markets. Marketing geniuses, they also took the then unusual step of producing a 30-40 page toy catalogue for consumers, which they distributed via retailers.

It was the Irwins who spearheaded industry efforts to devise an acceptable broadcasting code for children’s advertising. The code allows only four minutes of commercials per half-hour of children’s programming, instead of the six minutes allowed on other shows. They also led the industry’s 10 year battle to overturn Quebec’s ban on children’s television advertising, a fight which they lost in the Supreme Court by one vote in 1992.

In the 1980’s they charted a new course for their business when they began inventing their own product rather than only manufacturing licensed goods as was standard practice at that time. One of their first Canadian invented products was Jenga, a wooden pyramid game that quickly became a hit around the world.

Mac Irwin served as CTMA Chairman in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

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