October 27, 2004

Lurchi Needs A New Pair Of Shoes

lurchi.jpg

Compared to Lurchi the salamander, even America's oldest corporate cartoon characters are like punk kids (M-I-C, Copyrights are forever... K-E-Y, Why? Because Congress does what we want...)

Lurchi's the mascot of the 100-year old Salamander shoe company started in Germany in 1904, and he's the star of some of the best of the old childrens' books scanned in at Kinderblick. Never mind that these books are the 1920's equivalent of "Everyone in Squarepants" child-targeted marketing. [Check out the vintage photo of happy little Kinder reading Lurchi's book--and not-so-casually showing off their new rubber-soled shoes.]

Kinderblick's got other books as well, but if you want to save the guy's bandwidth, why not drop by Lurchi.de, where Lurchi himself will share his book with you--and possibly interest you in a pair of shoes?

Alt Kinderbuchen at Kinderblick [via travelersdiagram]
Lurchi the Salamander, pimping German shoes since...

[Update: Garrett from Daddyzine emailed a very interesting bit of background. Turns out it's all Buster Brown's fault. Read his discoveries below.]

Largely because I've been cataloguing a collection of midget photographs [Relax, it's his job. Rare books and stuff. -dt], the Lurchi entry made me think of Buster Brown and how maybe we can blame old R F Outcault for the pandemic corporate tie-in mess we're faced with -- after the success of Outcault's Yellow Kid (the rights to whom he did not own) he started the Buster Brown strip in 1902; by 1904 he had gotten on board with Brown shoes out of St Louis.

AMERICAN NAT'L BIOGRAPHY notes that at some point Outcault turned over control of the daily strip to a team of assistants and concentrated his energies on merchandising, to the point where he started his own advertising agency in Chicago. Besides books, Buster Brown products included "musical instruments, cigars [?], cooking stoves, clothing, raisins, and shoes" (ANB).
The midgets made me think of all this b/c I have a nice cabinet photo of Major Willie Ray, who after touring with the Sells Bros. circus eventually became the first of what may have been several midgets who did service in the early 20th c. touring as Buster Brown in support of the shoes.

Major Ray links:
Steven Bolin's Freaks
Roadside America

The history of Brown Shoes
Outcault & Buster on NPR

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