If you ever played with a toy doctor’s bag when you were young, you can thank a Woodhaven native for it. Lynn Pressman Raymond was born Lynn Rambach in Woodhaven, Queens, in 1912.
As she grew older, her family moved to Brooklyn, where she was a standout at Erasmus Hall High School in Flatbush. As a young woman, she began her career in sales and marketing by rising through the ranks of various stores (including Abraham & Straus) as a publicist.
Eventually, her talents caught the attention of James McCreery & Co., a fashionable department store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, where she soon found herself in charge of publicity.
But her true calling was the acquisition of toys and games and she found herself drawn to positive and educational products. She also found herself drawn to Jack Pressman, who owned a toy and game company and earned the nickname “The Marble King” because of how many marbles he purchased to supply all the Chinese Checkers games that he sold.
In 1942, they married and as vice president of Pressman Toys, Lynn Pressman developed a toy that made a fortune and still sells in stores to this day. She developed the children’s toy doctor bag as a way to ease the fear that children felt when visiting the doctor.
It came with toy versions of doctor’s tools (stethoscope, thermometer and a syringe) and a small bottle of candy pills. The doctor’s bag was a runaway success, leading to variations such as a nurse bag and even versions for Ken and Barbie.
Her husband’s health made it necessary for Lynn Pressman to take an even more active role running Pressman Toys and upon his passing in 1959, she assumed control. She was, at the time, one of the very few women executives running a large company.
This led to issues getting credit, even from the bank her husband had done business with for years, but she eventually secured credit and overcame all obstacles to become one of the more powerful women executives in the United States.
She was a pioneer in licensing the rights to popular television and movie characters for use in creating toys, creating games based on Disney characters along with Superman and the Lone Ranger. She was also known for licensing athletes and creating games using their likenesses on the packaging.
When she took over Pressman Toys, she made one major change to the company policy that undoubtedly impacted the bottom line. Lynn Pressman stated that her company would no longer manufacture, market or sell any toy guns or rifles to children.
Keep in mind that this was the early 1960s and toy guns and rifles were big sellers, but from that moment on, her company followed this principle.
Lynn Pressman, an outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam, worked together with peace organizations in the late ’60s to encourage other companies to refrain from making “toys that symbolize destruction.”
Through her relationship with UNICEF, she developed a line of Pen Pal Dolls, based on Walt Disney’s Small World attraction at the World’s Fair. Each doll came with a pen and paper and information about the doll’s country.
Later in life, she enjoyed a second career and a bit of enjoyable notoriety through her son, Edward Pressman, a noted film producer. In fact, Lynn Pressman is listed in the credits as a co-producer in of one of her son’s early films, the cult classic “Phantom of the Paradise,” directed by Brian De Palma.
Edward Pressman has put together a long impressive list of producing credits including “Conan the Barbarian,” “The Crow,” “American Psycho” and the Oscar-winning “Wall Street.” And Lynn Pressman served as an extra in several of her son’s films.
Lynn Pressman remained active until her passing in 2002 at the age of 97, appearing as a model in an ad for Juicy Couture at the age of 94. Today, the Pressman Toy Corporation is still going strong (it celebrates its 100th birthday in three years) and their product listing are full of fun and educational games and toys (and not a gun or a rifle in sight).
So the next time you see a children’s doctor bag, think of the woman who was born in Woodhaven, a pioneer in many ways, who led a remarkable life.