Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, April 27, 2009
      ( 4/27/2009 08:21:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"DO YOU WANT SPENDING MONEY?" Spent part of the weekend going over some scanned copies of the Quality Comics' forties comic book series, The Barker and discovered an intriguing balck-and-white ad on the inside front cover of the Spring '49 issue (number eleven). The advert was for Stephen Credit Sales, which was promoting a line of "Popular Patriotic and Religious Mottoes" for young would-be door-to-door salesmen. The young entrepeneur was shipped a package of forty "beautiful glittering mottoes" that he or she was expected to sell for 35 cents apiece. "If you sell, 25, you keep $2.50," the ad promised. "If you sell all 40, you keep $4.00." The ad was none-too-surprisingly vague on the specifics of the financial transaction, though it assured the reader that "No money is needed in advance" and "You do not pay shipping costs or split your commission."

Four mottoes were on display -- all of a religious theme (e.g., "Love One Another As I Have Loved You," "A Child's Prayer") -- so we're not shown any of the patriotic pieces. (Unless, of course, the idea is that to be devoutly Christian is to automatically be a Good American.) I can see kids across the post-war country, writing to Stephen for their first pack of forty, wandering around the neighborhood, trying to sell these cheesy little cards or perhaps taking 'em to a Sunday family dinner and trying to wheedle their grandparents into buying the lot. I'm betting Stephen got a goodly amount of returns.

What first caught my eye in this ad, incidentally, was the mailing address for Stephen Credit Sales: Normal, Illinois, my hometown for close to forty years. Googled the company name and the only ref I found to it was on a link to one of Scott Shaw!'s "Oddball Comics" pages for a 1958 issue of Action Comics. The ad ran for at least nine years, but by the time I got to Normal in the late sixties, the company does not appear to have still been around. Those "glittering" religious and patriotic mottoes just weren't selling the way they useta, I guess . . .
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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