Tuesday, November 18, 2014


by Connie Cortright

Or maybe I should say Mickey Mouse. Since the official first appearance of Mickey Mouse was November 18, 1928, that is considered his "birthday", thus this is a great week to celebrate this cartoon character. He was originally named Mortimer Mouse by his creator Walt Disney. However, Disney's wife Lillian convinced him to change the name and suggested the substitute name of Mickey, which stuck with him.

Mickey Mouse isn't Disney's first cartoon character, but came into existence when Disney's contract was up for negotiations on the first character he created (stay tuned for next week's blog to find out about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit). Universal Studios retained the rights to his first idea and insisted that Disney take a pay cut in his new contract to stay with them. Disney refused since he felt that they needed him to continue their successful cartoon shorts with Oswald. Disney left Universal Studios, taking with him his one remaining partner Ub Iwerks. They formed a new company - Disney Brothers Studio - and came up with the character of Mickey Mouse.

Walt Disney turned his business and new character into a success story by using his marketing skills. The first successful short cartoon starring Mickey Mouse was named "Steamboat Willie'' in 1928. This became an instant hit because it synchronized the soundtrack of music and other sound effects with the animated movie. For the first time movie goers watched a cartoon character's actions exactly match the accompanying soundtrack. Disney used this instant success and added to the popularity by releasing Mickey Mouse merchandising for children. This included watches and alarm clocks using the arms of Mickey to point to the time on the clock. Also a big hit with children were the plush Mickey Mouse toys sold every Christmas since then.

Within two years of Mickey's debut, Walt Disney also started the Mickey Mouse Club, a fan club for children. This club became even more popular in the 50s with the use of television across the land. I know that was a favorite for me when I was growing up.

Walt Disney added other characters in the adventures that Mickey Mouse encountered. By 1930 Minnie Mouse was added to the cast with their pet, Pluto following shorty thereafter. Mickey's friends Goofy (1932) and Donald Duck (1934) joined him before too long.

The appearance of Mickey Mouse has changed over the years, but the artists consistently maintained the look of his two rounded black ears throughout his long history. By being consistent with that look, his ears now have become a brand that is recognized around the globe as the ears of Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney certainly gave the world something to remember him by for years to come. I wonder if Universal Studios ever regretted not renewing Walt Disney's contract in 1928 after Disney and Mickey Mouse became such so successful.

I hope you enjoy celebrating his 86th birthday with him. Share this with your children/grandchildren so the joy Walt Disney wanted to pass on continues down through the generations.

Information taken from Mickey Mouse - Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Playing Kat and Mouse

by Connie Cortright

For the past twenty years this antique has rested on my husband's dresser. The wooden toy, in the shape of a mouse, is held together by elastic strings allowing it's arms and legs to move in any direction. He told me his father played with this toy when he was a boy, which means that it is from the 1930s. I recently learned that this is Ignatz Mouse, a cartoon character from the 20s and 30s.

Krazy Kat and his sidekick Ignatz Mouse were created by George Herriman around the year 1910 after he had an accident, leaving him unable to continue his job as a house painter. Switching careers, he tried his hand at cartooning and became successful with the creation of Krazy Kat, drawing 3,000 cartoon strips over the next thirty years.

The basic plot of Krazy Kat was rather elemental. A simple-minded, innocent Krazy Kat was in love with Ignatz Mouse, trying to show her love to Ignatz in many ways. However, the mouse would have none of it. During most cartoon strips, Ignatz Mouse ended up throwing a brick at the head of Krazy Kat to try to knock some sense into the cat. Krazy took this brick-throwing as a sign of returned love by Ignatz so did not try to escape the thrown brick.

Herriman added another character to come to the rescue of Krazy Kat. Offissa Pup often arrested Ignatz Mouse, leading him off to jail by the end of the strip. In the latter years of the strip, Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse became more friendly, even ganging up against Offissa Pupp to keep him off their track.

Krazy Kat cartoon strip was first published in the William Randolph Hearst papers in 1913 and ran continuously until the mid-40s. In the last couple years, the cartoon was published in the Sunday edition in full color.

The comic strip was animated several times in shorts starting in 1916. During the 1930s another animator worked with Krazy Kat cartoons changing them significantly from Herriman's original plot line and mimicking the Mickey Mouse plot that had also started about that time. When Herriman died in 1944, Hearst also stopped the newspaper comic strip to honor the original creator.

I now have more respect for the little toy mouse sitting on my husband's dresser. I'll watch my back when I walk past him just in case he tries to throw a brick at my head.

Information taken from Wikipedia: Krazy Kat

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Put It on My Tab

Long gone are the days of using cash to make all your purchases. Today most young people never have cash in their pocket, not even to go get lunch at McDonald's, or so I'm told by my son. Credit cards are used for everything - even a hamburger.

That's a far cry from department stores in the 20s-30s that we heard about last week where all purchases were done with cash. How did things change from one extreme to the other? It was a long slow process that had many twists and turns in it.

Credit card purchases at department stores actually started with charge coins, a metallic round object issued by a specific store. The customer number was embossed on the charge coins along with the store name. The charge coins were attached to key rings for easy use when needed. They were also issued by hotels for frequent users. An imprint of the coin was printed on the sales slip for an easy and fast way to get the account number on the invoice, which prevented error by handwriting the information. These were used by wealthy shoppers to keep a running tab at the store, which was paid up at the end of every month.

By 1928, Charga-Plates, an aluminum rectangle about the size of a dog tag, started to replace the charge coins. These items did contain the name and address of the customers They were sometimes kept at the department store itself and pulled out to use when the customer was purchasing an item. An imprinter was run across the embossed side with an inked ribbon, leaving the customer information on the sales slip. These were always issued by the store and used only in the one location to add the new purchases to the tab of a good paying customer. They were used up until the early 1950s in some stores.

Other companies started using this idea for frequent customers and issued charge cards printed on paper card stock. By 1940s, oil as well as airline companies, started using these for returning customers. However, the customer had to have a different charge card for every company that was used. Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara founded the Diners Club card in 1950 trying to consolidate the many different cards under one name. Since this was before computer data, all the purchases from these cards had to be made in duplicate and sent to the central office to be processed onto one invoice. These charge cards required every invoice to be paid off in its entirety each month. No balances could be carried over to the next month.

Revolving credit cards, using a third-party bank to fund the balance of the purchases, were not utilized until Bank of America started the BankAmericard in 1958. Years later this card was changed into VISA when other banks joined Bank of America. MasterCard got it's start in 1966 when a different group of banks including Citibank joined together to give competition to BankAmericard. The development of the computer helped to make these credit cards companies into the enormous businesses that they are today.

And the rest is pretty much history... I, for one, am glad that I don't have to carry around cash or checks to purchase groceries, etc anymore. Credit cards are so convenient.

Information taken from Credit Card - Wikipedia