For nearly 10 years, Transogram held a KFS license to produce Popeye Bubble Sets, one of the most popular Popeye items ever sold. The company, which started out selling sewing transfer patterns before moving into toys, also marketed a POPEYE BOAT FLEET. Based on its rarity today, this attractive toy likely did not sell very well during the Depression.
Shown at top, the H.N. Barnum Company of Cleveland OH brought out a PLAY HOCKEY FUN game with Popeye and Wimpy for a very short time in 1936. Only two examples of this toy have been observed.
1934 POPEYE IN PLUNDERLAND puzzle-for-one and game-for-two was a Einson-Freeman product who also sold the Popeye Shipwreck Game in '33. Company founder Morris Einson was widely recognized as America's Picture Puzzle King.
They came in all shapes, sizes, colors and prices. They came in paper, tin, wood, celluloid, chalk, porcelain, cloth, plastic, vinyl, glass and sometimes they were even edible. They came from the dime store, the grocery, cereal boxes, the newsstand, book stores, Christmas catalogs, mail order, and, of course, the funny papers. They just came and came and came. The first wave came after Popeye entered the Thimble Theatre Sunday page on March 2, 1930 and then the tidal wave hit after the sailor's silver screen debut on July 14, 1933.
Popeye was a license to sell. Toys. Puzzles. Cookies. Paint Sets. Big Little Books. Halloween Costumes. Christmas Lights. Games. Figurines. Dolls. Coloring Books. Hankies. Toothbrushes. Fly Swatters. Pinbacks. Sheet Music. Story Books. Comics. Promotional Items. Records. Lollipops. Greeting Cards. Bubble Gum. Soap Figures. Marble Bags. Popcorn. Piggy Banks. Caps and Beanies. Pea Coats. The great merchandising bonanza was on! And KFS and Segar didn't miss a dollar.
The production of 100's of products in the 30s alone created a nightmare for those of us trying to get our hands on Segar-era collectibles today. It's like a trip to Plunder Island on a never-ending hunt for the Sea Hag's treasure. One minute you feel Disgustipated. Down-right Flabbergasket! But the next minute when another treasure is acquired, the feeling is just like being back in front of the Philco watching those black and white cartoons or reading Segar's comic strip for the very first time. Blow me down, what a swell feeling that is!
- Bruce Shults, eBay Addict, North Texas, 7/14/99
Dozens of different premium PINBACK BUTTONS were given away by newspapers, movie theatres, retailers, and others in the 1930s and 40s. Top row: Paramount Popeye Cartoon Club, Saturday Chicago American Wimpy, NY Evening Journal Castor Oyl Contest, Philadelphia Evening Ledger Wimpy and Popeye, Penney's Back to School Days. Bottom row: Australian Frew Comics Popeye Club, Popeye Pep Cereal, I Yam Strong for King Comics, Toledo News-Bee Popeye, Chicago American Popeye, Duncan (Oklahoma) Daily Banner Popeye, Olive Oyl Pep Cereal.
Hall Brothers, later Hallmark, of Kansas City MO licensed Popeye to help kids celebrate Christmas, Valentines, Birthdays and other occasions throughout the 1930s with numerous amusing and attractive POPEYE GREETING CARDS.
This 3 inch diameter POPEYE RUBBER BALL is lucky to have survived from the 1930s. Manufacturing of early rubber and latex toys had not yet been perfected in the days when this ball was produced. The maker was Seiberling Latex Products Company of Akron OH.
1944-45 PARAMOUNT FAMOUS STUDIOS LETTERHEAD with exhibitor information for the cartoon Shape Ahoy.
Perhaps the earliest Popeye toy produced, the THIMBLE THEATRE POPEYE PORCELAIN CHARACTER craft set was made by the Davidson Porcelain Co. of East Liverpool OH circa 1931.
The POPEYE FELT BEANIE above was one of at least three versions of the popular boy's 30s headgear made by the Edward Zuckerman Co. The NYC company also made dressy hats and caps, such as the corduroy cap below with the Popeye imprint inside.
In 1923, Hi-Flier of Decatur IL patented the design of an inexpensive paper kite which dominated the children's kite market from the 20s to the 60s. This POPEYE HI-FLIER KITE (copyright 1929) was manufactured from the mid 30s thru the war years.
The rare 1939 THIMBLE THEATRE MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE was a heavy cardboard stage with three extremely fragile wood composition walkers of Popeye, Olive and Wimpy. With a purchase of $2.50 or more at select retailers, kids could mail order the playhouse only available thru this special promotion for $1.25 from Harding Products Inc. of Philadelphia.
Beginning in 1932, J. Chein and Louis Marx both manufactured a wide variety of Popeye tin litho windup toys. More than 20 different mechanical tin windups were sold by the two companies in the 30s alone. The Marx POPEYE THE CHAMP tin and celluloid boxing ring is not the rarest of all those produced but was certainly one of the most fun to operate. Turn the key and Popeye takes on another celluloid figure, which vaguely resembles Bluto, in an all-out fight to the death and destruction of this toy's celluloid figurines fragile construction.
In 1936, Eugene the Jeep debuted in Thimble Theatre and spawned merchandise galore. The American Crayon Company of Sandusky OH revised it's POPEYE MODELING CLAY box to include an image of the Jeep and boost sales.
1930s LUCKY JEEP SPINNER on the original card. Northwestern Products of St. Louis is the probable manufacturer.
As early as 1932, Jaymar Specialty Company was making a wood jointed Popeye figure. In 1936, they brought out the MAKE YOUR OWN POPEYE FAMILY with Wood Parts including figures of Popeye, Olive, Wimpy and Eugene the Jeep.
Wood jointed Jeep by the Jaymar Specialty Company, a firm started by Louis Marx for his father Jacob Marx in 1925 and later taken over by Jacob's son-in-law. Jaymar also produced Popeye puzzles and bifbats/feather-bounce toys.
The IGA chain of food markets gave away POPEYE MAGIC TRANSFER PICTURES to enhance sales of their store brand of oatmeal. Small tattoos of Popeye, Olive, Wimpy and an anchor were prized by hot breakfast eaters in 1935.
In 1935 Idealite Inc. and King Features Syndicate released a cast pot metal lamp with Popeye leaning on a lamppost. The lamp came with one of two shade versions, one with Popeye and Bluto about to do battle aboard a ship while Olive Oyl and Wimpy watch from the sidelines and the other of Wimpy fleeing Popeye and Olive as he makes off with a duck.
For a short time only in King Comics #22 David McKay Publishers and King Features Syndicate offered this full color, 13 x 17 inch, muslin FIRST FLAG OF THE COMICS to young readers for only 10 cents. The best of KFS comic strip characters each have a panel on the flag -- Tillie the Toiler, Bringing Up Father, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Toots and Casper, Popeye and Olive Oyl, Little Annie Rooney, Flash Gordon, Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse, and the Katzenjammer Kids.
Starting in 1945 Classic Comics and then into the early 50s Classics Illustrated offered free COMIC STRIP TATTOOS with a 10 issue subscription to their publications. Popeye, Olive, Wimpy and Swee'pea highlighted the tattoos given away. Other characters included Barney Google, Blondie and Dagwood, Flash Gordon, the Katzenjammer Kids, Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom and others.
Popeye was and is enormously popular in pre and post war Japan. The production dates of Japanese collectibles is difficult to pin down. This PAPER MASK was copyright 1929 and was probably made in the 30s. A version of the mask was also sold or used as a premium in Britain.
This Japanese POPEYE FAN featured moving eyes when the fan was jiggled. There were also versions of this unlicensed fan that featured Mickey Mouse and one with both Mickey and Popeye.
Many ceramic dishes, egg cups, tea sets and other items featuring Popeye were produced before and after WWII. This colorful set of POPEYE & OLIVE SALT and PEPPER SHAKERS were probably manufactured in 1940s Occupied Japan.
In the early 30s, Kay Kamen conceived the Tim's Official Store concept to promote sales of boy's clothing within department stores and issued monthly newsletters for young consumers called the KNICKER (in the 40s becoming Superman-Tim booklets). In 1933, boys who were lucky enough to convince their Depression-weary parents to spend six bucks on a Popeye corduroy pea jacket and pants suit received a free POPEYE NAVY ADMIRAL brass badge.
First in a series of hand watercolored and signed by the artist comic character portraits given to newspaper editors by PUCK THE COMIC WEEKLY in the 30s to promote syndication of KFS strips.
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