MNN Galleries

7 pet fads through the decades

By: Matt Hickman on Oct. 3, 2013, 1:54 p.m.
Ant crawl around in an artificial ant farm

Photo: Dmitri Ma/Shutterstock

2 of 9

Ant farms, 1950s

The industrious picnic ruiners and prolific colonizers otherwise known as ants may be the last thing that folks would want inside of their homes. However, thanks to late novelty toy entrepreneur Milton Levine — the man responsible for plastic shrunken heads and potato guns — the itch-inducing insects became somewhat of an unlikely household staple starting in 1956 with the introduction of the escape-proof Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm.

Formal ant farms, or formicariums, existed long before Levine and business partner E.J. Cossman started selling 6-inch-by-9-inch plastic ant habitats for a little under two bucks, but it was Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm that gave mass-produced formicariums widespread appeal as an educational toy — appeal that continues to this day. To date, over 20 million units have been sold.