CSotD: And you thought Taylor Swift was everywhere

Yesterday, Tom Heintjes, known to comics historians for the magazine Hogan’s Alley, posted on Blue Sky that it was the anniversary of the first “Davy Crockett, Frontiersman” strip in 1955, which set me to pondering.

First thing I pondered was that Jim McArdle’s version of Davy Crockett looked about as much like Fess Parker as I did, but I realized that wasn’t true.

If I’d have been a little taller, I’d have looked exactly like Fess Parker, and we all know that Fess Parker looked exactly like Davy Crockett.

However, poking around a bit brought me to Strippers Guide, where I learned that the art on the strip improved markedly after they brought in an uncredited ghost-artist by the name of Jack Kirby, whose brief association with the strip was expanded upon at both this blog and at this Kirby-centric blog.

As for looking like Fess Parker, there was a reason the fellow in the comic strip didn’t, which is that it was being produced independent of Disney, who could copyright their version of Davy but couldn’t copyright the historic figure. I don’t know if Disney had yet established their reputation for sharp lawyering, but it was easy enough to let them help build the brand, which they certainly did, with things like this syndicated series of sermonettes.

Ol’ Davy, in one form or another, was everywhere.

A trip through the June, 1955 files at newspapers.com yielded far more Davy Crockett material than I needed to prove the point, like this ad from a department store in Eureka, California, which not only celebrated the gear but promoted a contest and, by doggies, demonstrated the down-home cornpone countrified language every advertising copywriter picked up on.

Note, too, that they were selling gear for Molly Crocketts, too, though I don’t know who she was, given that Davy’s wife was named “Polly,” both in the Disneyland version and in real-life untrademarkable history.

And speaking of the vague line between Disneyland and real history, we all knew that Davy kilt him a bar when he was only three, which seems like about the right age for this chenille Davy Crockett Bear Rug, available in five colors and with a pillow that can be removed from the plump, jolly head for washing.

It’s enough to make you grin!

Any shirt could become a Davy Crockett shirt if you just sent 25 cents to your local paper for these transfers. These sewing pattern/bird house/fishing map offers are called “PI’s for “per inquiry” and are run as space fillers for which the newspaper takes a cut of moneys raised.

Or you could buy a package of Neuhoff’s Preferred Frankfurters and get a Davy Crockett emblem, which you could then print on your T-shirt, cap or neckerchief!

Collect all five!

And for all the kids like me who dressed up like Davy Crockett, there were some “real, sure-’nuff Davy Crocketts” as this pair of photos attests and I sure hope Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Crockett of Kinsley, Kansas, never showed that photo of little Davy in his coonskin cap, cowboy boots and diaper to his girlfriends or there sure as shootin’ never would be any Davy Crockett Jrs gathered around their hearth.

But the photos kept coming in, and the Washington Daily News in Washington, NC, not only ran a contest but had Senator Estes Kefauver judging the photos of under-12 Davys, which must have been a nice break from busting organized crime. While he was from Tennessee, picking photos of little North Carolina Davys fit in with his ambitions at the time to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Note that the contest was also sponsored by Cindy Lou at WTTG TV and before you ask “Cindy Lou Who?” here she is.

The Washington Daily News is owned by Boone Newspapers, though I reckon it weren’t back in them thar days. But it’s worth mentioning. (No, wrong Washington Daily News — see comments)

“Davy Crockett, Frontiersman” wasn’t the only Disney-dodging comic strip, though In the Days of Davy Crockett seems to have avoided Crockett hissownself in favor of profiling other historic figures in his circle. Its origins are more interesting than the strip, which ain’t sayin’ too dadburn much, but Brick Bradford fans might want to take a look.

Juxtaposition of the Day

There were also at least two Davy Crockett quasi-biographies floating around, neither of these bearing a whole lot of resemblance to anything in Crockett’s actual life, though, like most Early American heroes, he was as much myth as history to start with.

Presumably the Classics Illustrated story of his life, which came out in the Fall of 1955, was a little closer to the mark.

I saw variations of this ad in a couple of papers, heralding the showing of “Davy Crockett: Indian Scout” and I’d say “Not to be confused with …” but in fact it was precisely intended to be confused with.

Three original Davy Crockett tales had debuted on Disneyland, and were then cobbled together into a theatrical release. However, while Disney’s “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier” was released in May, it took awhile in those days for prints of films to circulate from one theater to another.

Fact is, kids, it wasn’t here at last.

What kids got in the meantime was Davy Crockett: Indian Scout, a re-release of a 1950 B-movie starring George Montgomery as Davy’s nephew, also named Davy.

Plus whateverthehell this is:

And while the theater card may have been in full color, the Western was black-and-white.

Which might not have seemed jarring to kids, given that, although the Disney TV series was broadcast in color, not many homes had color TVs then.

Still, if you couldn’t tell George Montgomery from Fess Parker, you sure knew the difference between a coonskin cap and a cowboy hat.

Even Charlie Brown didn’t go around as a Davy fan without putting on a coonskin cap.

As far as all that Injun-fightin’ went, one historical thing Disney got right was that, while Crockett fought under Andrew Jackson in the Creek War, he split with him — and consequently lost his seat in Congress — over the Indian Removal Act:

I concluded my speech by telling them that I was done with politics for the present, and they might all go to hell, and I would go to Texas.

12 thoughts on “CSotD: And you thought Taylor Swift was everywhere

  1. Yep, Davy Crocket, until I discovered later in life that he was fighting in Texas to preserve slavery. The whole reason the war was fat. Pretty sad.

    1. I’d like to see a source on that. It’s true that the Texians were hoping for a slave territory and it’s also true that Crockett — who had been an indentured servant in his own youth — had some household slaves, which was not unusual for people in his economic sphere. But he apparently never spoke on the issue one way or the other, as far as I was able to determine. It was an ugly part of a broad period of our history, but you need to pin down more before you state where any particular person stood. AFAIK, his motivation in going to Texas was the land grants promised by Houston. What have you found that I missed??

  2. NGL this is a pretty neat look at a fascinating time before Superheroes dominated American culture.

  3. Boone Papers might have owned a paper in Washington, NC but the ad for the contest and Cindy Lou is for Washington, DC. WTTG is channel 5 in DC and the Hecht Co was a Washington/Baltimore clothing store.

    1. And, FWIW, WTTG was the first licensed commercial TV station in DC, part of the DuMont network.

  4. I like your “flintlock” in the first picture. I had one very much like it.

  5. I know in 1978 Walt Disney re-released the Davy Crockett adventures as part of the Mickey’s Birthday Party Show children’s weekend matinee feature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwIARoeUQBg

    Another thing: Remember when Fess Parker, the original TV Davy Crockett, played Daniel Boone in the 1960’s?

  6. Mike, another commentary that starts in the comics and reaches into Americana, history and nostalgia the way columnist and author Bob Greene does. This certainly resonates with readers! You mentioned writing a novel earlier. Fiction or nonfiction, you have the storytelling skills, curiosity and perspective. Book editor myself after a career in newspapers, comics syndication, media and publishing. Get it on paper!

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