Friday, April 18, 2014

A Toy Story Legend

Via Silly Putty History

Peter Hodgson, Sr., (1912-1976) who starred in this 1951 Silly Putty TV commercial, was just another ad man down on his luck, writing copy for a small toy store catalog in New Haven, Connecticut when he first launched the idea of marketing a blob of silicone goop as a toy. The plastic goop was actually a failed experiment from General Electric scientists in New Haven who were looking to develop a synthetic rubber. Soon the non-toxic goo became the topic of conversation at a cocktail party where Mr. Hodgson first learned of it. 
     "Everybody kept saying there was no earthly use for the stuff, but I watched them as they fooled with it. I couldn't help noticing how people with busy schedules wasted as much as 15 minutes at a shot just fondling and stretching it" Hodgson later recalled. 
     After placing his first ad in the 1949 toy catalog, Hodgson borrowed $147 to package and fill orders. Silly Putty soon became an overnight success. Sales of the seemingly useless goo packaged in a plastic egg quickly expanded into 22 other countries, reaching over $5 million in annual sales. Mr. Hodgson was living the dream. 

Via Click Americana

"The Real Solid Liquid" as Silly Putty came to be known, was an American toy story legend simply because Mr. Hodgson viewed the useless silicone blob through a new set of eyes. From trash to treasure—he didn't see it as a failed experiment—he saw it as "fun for the whole family." It's all just context. With a logo of putty-like lettering, and packaging of a faux wood-grained television set, Silly Putty was ready for prime time. 
     For many of us, it was also our first introduction to printmaking. Who couldn't resist pulling impressions of favorite comic characters and stretching them until they snapped? This toy was magic—it could do anything!

Via 4|CP

Though seemingly was not. I'm sure I wasn't alone to find I was the victim of another bad haircut after falling asleep with Silly Putty—only to wake up with it embedded in my hair. Or to leave it to rest on a desk in the sun, and return later to find it in a melted puddle of putty on the floor. 

Via Flickr

If you find yourself off to an Easter egg hunt this weekend, I hope you find a brightly-colored plastic egg with a blob of goop inside. Just don't eat it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

20th C Italian Pen Nib Packaging

Most of these small pen nib packages are printed boxes not much larger than a matchbox. Others are labels attached to small boxes. There are many standouts here, but this last particular design really does send me into orbit. 
Via: Kallipos 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Velveteen Rabbit

For sale 

Velveteen rabbit. Needs good home. Ears permanently flopped and has obvious signs of being well-loved. Smartly attired, yet missing red buttons and one torn suspender. Reads at four year-old level, and comes with own book. Inquire within.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Selling 20th Century Design

A 1959 Czechoslovak How to Paint brochure designed in a very modern tone by an anonymous designer. 
Source: 108 Buddhas

Brochure of Képes Könyv design examples by Hungarian designer, Johann Tábor. Published in a 1930 issue of Gebrauschsgraphik.
Source: From the collection of David Levine.

The Chamber of Commerce of Czechoslovokia published this 1954 foreign trade guide in English. It was designed by Milan Hegar. 
Source: 108 Buddhas

A colorful Dutch brochure designed by Willem Hendrik Tweehuysen (1921-1981), for De Gouden Spin. Undated, but most likely from the 1960s. The text written in english playfully becomes part of the woven fabric. This is part of a much larger collection of Tweehuysen's 1950s and 60s design work which will be at auction on May 13th, 2014. 
Source: Burgersdijk & Niermans

These two cover designs from the early 1930s, advertising BMW Motorcycles, each sport a spare Bauhaus style of design and typography typical of this era. More on "selling speed" and the art of motorcycle marketing can be found at The Vintagent. It's a great read.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pranks and Pratfalls

With April Fools Day today, I have to parade my old fake pencil and spilled ink pratfall once again. I never tire of it. The "Pirate Pencil" is from The Lovely and Strange Etsy shop, where you can find an eclectic collection of dime store novelties from the 1950s. "Lucky Tat-oos", Re-lighting Candles, and my favorite, the Hindu Magic Book are all there! I've already dropped some coins on all of these. Half the fun is the old toy, but the packaging artwork, lettering/type and printing, with the liberal interpretation of registration alignment is the best. My fake joke rubber pencil I once owned as a child is long lost, but the "Pirate Pencil" covers for it nicely. To accompany it, I dragged my "trick ink" bottle down from the Letterology attic again. It always makes me smile ; )


Monday, March 31, 2014

The First Wearable Advertising

Pinback buttons are most closely associated with political campaigns to promote a candidate or a cause, and were considered the best advertising medium of all in the late 19th century. They were first developed in 1896 by the job printer, Whitehead & Hoag in New Jersey, after securing several important patents allowing them to print reverse designs onto celluloid. With the 1896 presidential election that same year, the buttons became an overnight success. Once advertisers saw it as an opportunity for promotion, W&H were steadily producing buttons at the rate of one million per day. Soon a new printing plant was built in Newark to accommodate their 50 new modern presses, a photo engraving plant, a complete art department and machinery plant. According to collector Ted Hake, several of the artists employed by W&H over the early years included Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and Harrison Fisher. 
     The pinbacks displayed here are all part of various collections for sale on the Hake site. The circa 1910 "penmanship" pin with Lady Liberty shown above is considered rare and was presumably used as a reward to the student of good handwriting. I predict this pin will be considered even more prized now that penmanship has been relegated to an archaic pursuit by the common core standards educational initiative. Replacing it with texting dexterity perhaps... Below are many more early 20th century advertising pins for your viewing pleasure.