Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Ancient and Supreme Order of Quaddies

Here is a story in a 1919 issue of Little Folks: The children's magazine.

Peter Rabbit has convinced his fellow quadrupeds to join a society--the Ancient and Supreme Order of Quaddies. The basis for the society: a mutual security pact--each member promises to alert the others to any signs of danger. (WWI looms large here).

Please notice something on page 113, however.

On the left side, an ad for a "Quaddy" playset (really a premium offer for Little Folks subscribers). On the right side, a full list of Burgess storybooks, under the trademarked name, "Burgess Quaddies." A coincidence? Of course not. A nice example of story-based brand value, in a magazine full of kid-oriented advertising. (Of local interest: Little Folks was published in Salem, MA, by S.E. Cassino, who lived in a prominent house on Lafayette Street.)

The Quaddy stories actually date from 1915 (reprinted in Little Folks apparently as means to reinvigorate the brand). Burgess trademarked "Quaddy" as a way of promoting his full line of books but also used it as an entrance into the lucrative business of character licensing. (Curiously, he fails to discuss his "Quaddy" venture at all in his autobiography).

A story in Publishers Weekly in 1916 provides some relevant details.
"Quaddy," meaning little quadruped, came before the public first as the name of a series of bedtime stories for children syndicated through the press and in book form, but so popular did the little "beasties" prove that it is now used on some half dozen different articles of child ware and the Quaddy Playthings Manufacturing Co., of Kansas City, Mo., manufacturers of "Quaddy" toys, games, etc., have just announced an extensive "Quaddy" advertising campaign to be carried on throughout the balance of the year in the newspapers of some thirty cities. In addition to the Kansas City firm, and, of course, Little, Brown & Co., publishers of the "Quaddy" books, the name is also used on jewelry manufactured by the Paye & Baker Company of North Attleboro, Mass.; children's comforters and piece goods for children's bed clothing made by French & Ward of New York City; juvenile stationery put out by the Whiting Company, of New York City; animal crackers manufactured by the Loose-Wilese Biscuit Company, and Little Stories for Bedtime, to be told in the author's own voice on records to be prepared by the Columbia Phonography Company.

Of particular interest, an early social media tactic. Burgess character postcards were printed inviting children to join the Quaddy club. An example below--Sammy Jay.

On the back, the following text: "This card entitles ____ to membership in the Quaddy Club the newest and best club for the love and protection of the Little Children of the Forest." SAMMY JAY says: If you'd be a real, true QUADDY, Send a card to everybody." Children could not only play out the animals' induction ceremony on a papercraft playset, but could themselves "join" by entering into the society's mutual security pact. And buy more postcards and Quaddy goods.

While many of Burgess's books are still in print, the Quaddy enterprise did not prove to be an "evergreen" property and Quaddy goods eventually faded from the marketplace. Today Quaddy goods are highly desired by collectors. Indeed, they are one of Burgess's most visible legacies on the internet. I've provided a collage of some of the many items below.

And here's a hand-made quaddy (Bobby Coon) from my childhood, a Christmas present from the 1970s--thanks, Mom!)

Burgess was not a pioneer in the area of character licensing (Palmer Cox probably deserves that honor) but he does provide a pre-Disney model of this practice in the American child-oriented marketplace.

Tomorrow: Burgess names the animals.

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