Most collectors of mid-century pottery know that the Town and Country salt and pepper shakers are affectionately called "Shmoos," but how many of you know why?
|etsy.com - Modernismus|
In 1948 Al Capp introduced a little animal called the Shmoo to his satirical comicstrip Li'l Abner. According to a [December 20, 1948] Life magazine article, the Shmoo is "round as a bowling ball, cute as a cross between a penguin and a Kewpie doll." The Shmoo released people from the drudgery of work, because he provided them with all their needs. The Life article went on to say that the shmoo "multiplies like the fruit fly, he dies happily and ready for the cook stove when you look hungrily at him, he lays cheesecake on a platter and gives the finest creamery butter and grade 'A' milk already sealed in a bottle. Broiled, he tastes like steak; fried, he tastes like the yummiest chicken." A Shmoo's eyes made perfect suspender buttons, his whiskers made great toothpicks and his skin made useful materials for the manufacture of clothing and building supplies.
Shmoos became an instant phenomenon. According to research by Denis Kitchen, an expert on the subjects of cartoon art, out of print books and unusual collectibles, almost 100 licensed Shmoo products were produced by 75 different manufacturers in less than a year, some of which sold five million units each.
etsy.com - MaxsAttic
According to Kitchen:
There had never previously been anything like it. Comparisons to contemporary cultural phenomena are inevitable. But modern crazes are almost always due to massive marketing campaigns by large media corporations, and are generally aimed at the youth market. The Shmoo phenomenon arose immediately, spontaneously and solely from cartoonist Al Capp's daily comic strip—and it appealed widely to Americans of all ages. Forty million people read the original 1948 Shmoo story, and Capp's already considerable readership roughly doubled following the overwhelming success of the Shmoo.
So now you have the back story. The next time you hear Zeisel's salt and pepper shakers referred to as "shmoos," you'll know why.
From books.google.com (Life, Dec 20, 1948), deniskitchen.com, britishmuseum.org and essortment.com
(Thanks to blogger friend Antay for mentioning shmoos in his post yesterday, which reminded me that I had been keeping a folder full of shmoo info on the back burner for a while.)