Friday, February 04, 2011


News of Yore 1929: Marketing with Cartoons

Advertising Linked with "Hambone" Cartoon in Memphis Daily

New Hand-Coloring Stunt Sold FULL Page for Thirty Weeks in Commercial Appeal -- Prizes Offered -- Originated by Jim Alley and Hugh J. Mooney
Editor & Publisher, 3/23/29

Something new in the hookup of a cartoon character with advertising has been worked out by Jim Alley, cartoonist for the Memphis Commerical Appeal and his manager, Hugh J. Mooney, son of the late C.P.J. Mooney.

The plan, already under way in Memphis and several other cities where the comic character "Hambone" is used editorially, has a contest angle and presents advertising selling talk through the subtle and philosophical utterances of the darkey. Advertisements, of which there may be a dozen or 50, and six cartoons are packed in a page, to be run weekly for 30 weeks by the newspaper using the series.

It is proposed to offer the advertising plan first to those newspapers using the "Hambone" cartoon editorially, Mooney says.

A series, the first, began in the Commercial Appeal March 7, 39 advertisments being on the page in addition to the six cartoons.

Under the plan, each advertiser is represented in a cartoon one or more times during the series, depending on his position and space on the page.

A hand-coloring contest in which weekly prizes and a grand prize are given is a part of the general advertising stunt. Readers are asked to color the cartoons with crayon or other materials, mailing them with self-addressed envelope to the newspaper office. One of the rules of the contest is that cartoons must not be cut out of the page. Entrants are required to give their name, age and address.

"It is through this hand-coloring feature and the plan under which it is managed that great value comes to the advertiser," Mooney explains. "There are color crayons or water colors in every home. It is inevitable that someone in the family will attempt to color Hambone's clothes, shoes and lips and the background in the cartoons.

"Soon the whole family is crowded around, offering suggestions, trying to help, and all the time unconsciously absorbing the names of the advertisers and what they have to sell.

"Each week the pages are returned to the entrants after being judged for the weekly prizes. They keep them and submit them again at the close of the contest for the grand prize.

"And since one of the rules of the contest is that cartoons must not be cut out of the page, entrants from week to week are referring back to former pages and so reading and re-reading the advertisements. They are comparing this week's work with that of last week and with that of the week before. The advertiser is continually getting his message read, weekly increasing its pull."

Prizes, in addition to the weekly and grand prize, may be offered every week by advertisers who want entrants and others to visit their places of business, according to the Alley-Mooney plan.

"In a little strip at the bottom of the cartoon layout contestants are told to take their pages to certain advertisers on certain days for judging," Mooney says. "In this way the advertiser makes new contacts and friends and can get some idea of results of his advertising."

According to the contest rules, each entrant must give his age. "The age is important information for the advertiser. As I expected, the vast majority of those entering the contest at Memphis and other cities are adults."

The advertiser is urged to change his copy every week under the plan. "I suggest each advertiser use his space, position of which is unchanged throughout the 30 weeks, for specials. General advertisements are discouraged as much as possible.

"One feature of our page is that no two different advertisers, theough they be in the same line of business, may advertise the same product. For instance, we have two auto concerns on the page. One may advertise a special make of car and the other trucks. An effort is made to keep lines non-competitive wherein it is possible."

The six cartoons may be placed at the top of the page or equidistant from one another and the border, as advertisers desire, Mooney explains. And the number of cartoons our advertiser may receive in the series depends on space and position he buys.

One product is named in each cartoon. For instance, in the upper left cartoon of the page advertisement in the Commercial Appeal March 7, Hambone is seen in front of a window, below which "Southern Motor Car Company, 1107 Union Avenue, Cadillac -- LaSalle" is printed. "Hambone", towel on his arm, is giving vent to the following, printed in the balloon:

"Shucks! W'en you buys one dem good cyars you jes' natcherly gits hoss power and mule endurance." Trade names are not mentioned in the balloons. Cartoons are changed each week, advertisers remain the same, but advertisements may change, though space and position do not.

The idea, plans and cartoons are copyrighted by Alley.

"We will lease the method and Hambone commercial cartoons to papers at so much an inch over the regular rate, with a minimum guarantee, both as to amount and number of weeks to run," Mooney says.

"The papers are to sell the same to advertisers, using their regular advertising staffs."

"Neither Mr. Alley nor myself feel he is prostituting his talents in any way.

"He is open to suggestions from advertisers at all times, but reserves the right to express himself in a way he desires and believes best expressive."

Jim Alley, 44 years old, has been on the staff of the Commercial Appeal 13 years, joining that paper in 1915 when the late C.P.J. Mooney was editor. It was Editor Mooney who discovered Alley's talent when the artist was plugging away at a desk in the Bluff City Engraving Company.

For many years it was Editor Mooney who furnished a great many of the ideas for Alley's cartoons, especially those of a political nature. Alley gained prominence in the South the time Ed Crump, boss of Shelby County's political organization, was ousted as mayor in 1915.

Mooney, the son of the late editor, has made an extensive study of advertising and promotion. For the last five years he has maintained a laboratory in Memphis in the Western Newspaper Union building and at the present is working on television and its adaptability to advertising. He believes he is the first person to receive television more than 1000 miles.


"--He believes he is the first person to recieve television more than 1000 miles." In early 1929? In Memphis? -------------Another "Hambone" advertising item is commonly-found at flea markets. It's a small cardboard sign for "J.P.Alley's Hambone Cigar", showing the politically incorrect character flying an airplane. ----Cole J.
Is Jim Alley any relation to Cal Alley?
Cal Alley (1915-1970) was the son of James Pinckney Alley, who died in 1934.

For a visual list of the various fake Hambone cigar boxes and other fake Hambone items, go here.
"'--He believes he is the first person to recieve television more than 1000 miles.' In early 1929? In Memphis?"

Not entirely out of the question. In this period you'd be talking about mechanical rather than electronic television. Mechanical television used a system of spinning discs to capture and receive images. Two things are worth noting: first,there were about 18 mechanical TV stations licensed and in operation in the United States in 1929 including a number in the Chicago area; second, most of these stations operated in the Medium Wave band (530 kHz to 1600 kHz) or the low Shortwave band (between 2 and 3 mHz). Propagation at these frequencies is usually quite good; I've heard AM stations from Saskatoon as far away as San Antonio Texas. So TV signals at those frequencies and a less crowded spectrum than today is quite possible.
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