Designed for pre-schoolers, Cootie (or Beetle as it was known in the UK, where the word “Cootie” has no meaning whatsoever) hit its mark with fun play, colourful parts, and bugs.
Each Cootie/Beetle box came with enough parts to make 4 complete bugs.
A roll of the die was the only way to build your bug, parcelling out parts depending on the number on the die.
A finished bug had one body (a roll of 1), one head (a roll of 2), one coiled proboscis (5), two antennae (3), two eyes (2) and six legs (6).
Players took turns and the game went on until some lucky soul completed a happy, colourful Beetle/Cootie.
William Herbert (“Herb”) Schaper invented Cootie back in 1948, whittling the parts from wood, with the shape based on a wooden fishing lure Schaper (pronounced Shopper) had whittled in his spare time.
Sidelined during World War II by a ruptured eardrum, he spent his spare time carving and painting wooden animals that he gave to children who visited the Minneapolis store he operated.
According to Cootie lore, Schaper – who filed a patent on 20 March 1950 for “a separable toy figure for a construction game”- hand-crafted some 40,000 Cootie games before the mass-manufacturers took over.