Barrel of Monkeys

Barrel of Monkeys is a toy game released by Lakeside Toys in 1965. It was created by Leonard Marks and Milton Dinhofer in 1961, and in 1964, Herman Kesler partnered to sell it to Lakeside Toys. Lakeside Toys released it in 1965 and today it is produced by the Milton Bradley Company within the Hasbro corporation. Milton Bradley's editions consist of a toy barrel in either blue, yellow, red, purple, orange, gray or green. The barrel contains 12 monkeys but can hold 24, their color usually corresponding to the barrel's color. The instructions state, "Dump monkeys onto table. Pick up one monkey by an arm. Hook other arm through a second monkey's arm. Continue making a chain. Your turn is over when a monkey is dropped." In addition to these basic instructions, the barrel also contains instructions for playing alone or with two or more players.

Time magazine ranked Barrel of Monkeys at #53 on their 2011 All-Time 100 Greatest Toys list.[1]


In 1961, a greeting cards salesman, Leonard Marks, was in a small mom-and-pop shop to sell his line of cards. As he waited for Robert Gilbert, the shop owner, he fiddled with an open box of snow tire replacement chain links. Marks was so interested in playing, he hadn’t realized so much time had passed. When he told Gilbert that the links would make a great toy, Gilbert referred Marks to a successful local toy inventor, Milton Dinhofer. Marks already knew Dinhofer from his high school days and immediately reached out to his old friend. Dinhofer asked Marks to bring him a plastic sample of the hooks to their meeting.

At the time, Milton Dinhofer was a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a successful importer. Prior to meeting with Marks, Dinhofer already had two major toy achievements to his credit. He created the first full-size wearable toy space helmet. The helmet made the covers of both The Saturday Evening Post (November 8, 1952) and Collier’s magazine (April 18, 1953). He also designed and brought to market Sip-n-See. Sip-n-See was the first plastic drinking straw on the market and the first twisted straw, selling over 5 million pieces. The straws had different characters on them, and it was the cowboy character’s s-shaped arms that would inspire the shape of the monkeys.

When Marks met Dinhofer at his home in Roslyn, New York, he brought a pile of red s-shaped 1/4” rod plastic hooks. Dinhofer immediately imagined monkeys and envisioned them with arms like those on his cowboy straw. Marks and Dinhofer agreed to form a partnership that night. It was decided that Dinhofer would design the toy, and Marks would sell it. It then took Dinhofer three months to go from sketch to functional monkey. He made a sketch for a face and one for a body. The biggest challenge was the monkeys' balance. Once that was achieved, Dinhofer hired A. Santore of A. S. Plastic Model Company to carve a sample under his supervision. Dinhofer took Santore's sample to a company that could make a beryllium mold of it. Finding a mold maker was quite a challenge and very expensive, as working with plastic was still relatively new. The initial run of monkeys were in many assorted colors, but their shape was just like those that Lakeside would release in 1965. (Lakeside would eventually add a little more hair to the bodies.)

Barrel of Monkeys (game)

Marks and Dinhofer named their game Chimp to Chimp and chose three colors for their monkeys - four were yellow, four were green and four were red. Twelve total monkeys allowed three to twelve year old children to link them without needing to stand on stools. The Chimp to Chimp prototype came in a flat expensive-to-make packaging, which the Woolworth chain offered to carry in their stores. Woolworths stipulated that Marks and Dinhofer must provide 13 weeks of television advertising. Neither Dinhofer nor Marks could afford a television advertising campaign, and there were no other buyers found. It seemed the game would never come to market. Then in 1964, Herman Kesler agreed to join the partnership and pitch Barrel of Monkeys to Lakeside Toys where he had connections.

In 1964, Kesler called Zelman Levine, the CEO and President of Lakeside Toys for a meeting. They met in November of that year at the Essex House New York City. Also present were Lakeside's vice president, James R. Becker, who would eventually become president, and Stanley Harfenist, Lakeside’s future General Manager who was in the process of bringing Gumby to Lakeside. Kesler walked into Levine’s room, dropped the monkeys on the table, and began to link them together. Becker said the phrase, “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” was brought up at that meeting by Becker himself. Levine immediately approved the toy and took all the samples back with him to his headquarters in Minneapolis. Barrel of Monkeys was quickly released in 1965 as a Lakeside toy allowing Marks, Dinhofer and Kesler to receive ongoing royalties. Barrel of Monkeys initially came in a cardboard tube with a plastic monkey attached to the lid. This tube packaging was similar to Lakeside’s already successful Pick-Up-Sticks,[2][3][4] In April 1967, Barrel of Monkeys in a plastic barrel was #2 on Toy and Hobby World’s Toy Hit Parade chart.[5]

Initially sold in a cardboard tube, Lakeside quickly produced a two-piece plastic barrel that completely replaced the cardboard version by 1966. Unlike the later mono-colored Giant Barrel of Monkeys, this original version included 12 plastic monkeys in three colors; four each in red, blue and yellow.[6]

Lakeside Toys was eventually sold to Leisure Dynamics, Inc. in 1969.[7] Leisure was sold to Coleco Industries in 1985,[8] and Coleco was sold to Hasbro Inc. in 1988[9]

The current Hasbro version is sold with ten monkeys in the barrel.

Use in models

These Monkeys have also been used for modeling of polyhedral structures, including virus particles and other protein structures [10] In brief, a pair of monkeys can hook around each other in more than eighty different ways, forming quite stable links. The links may be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. Repetition of an asymmetric link generates a helix. A symmetric link is self-limiting, so that the structure cannot grow further unless a new link is used to join symmetric pairs. It is possible to generate structures with point, line, 2D or 3D symmetry by choosing two or three different links (from the 80 or more possibilities) and repeating them systematically. An enormous number of compatible combinations can be found by trial and error. Many are shown in the sources quoted above.

Any repeating unit can in principle be assembled in this way. The only unusual characteristic of the monkey is that its arms, legs, hands and feet are able to twist around each other to form many stable links. In this, they resemble protein molecules which can also link together in many ways. The resulting assemblies simulate biologically important structures, but their symmetry follows general geometric principles. The monkeys provide a 'hands on' approach to understanding these principles. Barrel of Monkeys is also called as BANDAR KEELA and is very famous in south Asian countries.

Other uses

In popular culture


  1. Townsend, Allie (2011-02-16). "All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys - TIME". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  2. Leshay, Tracy (February 2015). "A Tale More Fun Than A Barrel Of Monkeys". The Toy Book. 31 (1): 250–252.
  3. "Monkey Business". Rensselaer Alumni Magazine: 12–13. Spring 2015.
  4. Leshay, Tracy (December 24, 2014). "An American Classic, Barrel Of Monkeys Opens Up About Turning 50". LiveAuctioneers.
  5. "Toy Hit Parade". Toy & Hobby World. April 3, 1967.
  6. Rich, Mark (May 2007). "The Games We Played: Barrel of Monkeys". Knucklebones. 2 (3): 66–67.
  7. "Leisure Dynamics has Very Rich Friends". Business Week: 60. November 15, 1969.
  8. "Coleco Will Purchase Leisure Dynamics Inc.". Schenectady Gazette. December 19, 1985. p. 67.
  9. "COMPANY NEWS; Hasbro's Purchase Of Coleco's Assets". The New York Times. 1989-07-13. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  10. Green, N. Michael. "Monkeys Ape Molecules". Nature (London) Vol.217. Archived from the original on 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
  11. Brady Carlson, "For Dartmouth Student, Record-Setting Chain More Fun Than (Yep) A Barrel of Monkeys", All Things Considered, May 14, 2012 (audio).
  12. Meghan Pierce, "He's monkeying with a lifelong goal", New Hampshire Union Leader, May 10, 2012.
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