By Linda Hamer Kennett
---- — One of my earliest recollections of shoe shopping – an addiction I’ve never kicked – was a trip to Leader’s Shoe Store on the square in Greensburg.
Mom would take us kids there each August for new school shoes and the only ones I wanted to try on, were Buster Brown’s.
With a confidence in his home town and faith in his dreams, George Warren Brown set out in 1878 to establish St. Louis as the shoe manufacturing capital of the United States.
He found two partners, invested his life savings and started a company that would, in time, change the face of the shoe industry. Today Brown Shoe is a leader in its field, netting more than $2.5 billion last year with global and integrated operations.
The first years were a struggle, but fate intervened in 1904 when Brown met cartoonist Richard F. Outcault. Brown convinced Outcault to sell him the licensing rights to his popular Buster Brown character. The next step Brown took would make advertising history. He assembled a group of actors and dogs, dressed them as Buster Brown and Tige and sent them on a nationwide promotional tour. Tige and his master were an instant success appearing at theaters and department stores where they would sing, dance, and of course, sell shoes.
A 1947 survey shows that 87 out of every 100 homes in America owned a radio, and the number one Saturday morning show was “Smilin’ Ed and His Buster Brown Gang.” Ed McConnell hosted the show with a revolving cast of “special guests” and featuring the weekly adventures of Buster Brown. While each show was uniquely different there was one constant, the opening song; “I got shoes. You got shoes. Everybody gotta have shoes. And the only ones Old Ed wants are Buster Brown Shoes.”
In the early 1950s the “Gang” moved to television where they ran successfully for four years. When Smilin’ Ed’s run came to an end, Buster Brown Shoes became the sponsor for “Captain Kangaroo.” In their first four years sponsoring the “The Captain,” The Brown Shoe Company saw their annual sales increase from $6 million to $30 million.
It was this show that saw the birth of one of the top 10 advertising jingles of the 20th century: “That’s my dog Tige, he lives in a shoe. I’m Buster Brown, look for me in there too.”
Nostalgia is a common denominator among collectors of advertising memorabilia, making Buster Brown a favorite with many Baby-Boomers. Lower-end collectibles include knives, key chains, cameras, blue ribbon show clickers, candy containers and pin back buttons which can be found for well under $100.
Early 1900s cast iron banks are a popular mid-range collectible. Both the “Buster Brown and Tige Good Luck Horseshoe” bank from 1908 (Arcade) and the free standing “Tige and Buster Brown” bank from 1910 (A.C.Williams) are available from $250 to $450.
In this same price range you will find early stuffed animal Tige’s and “Buster Brown’s Book of Jokes and Jingles”, a comic book given free with the each purchase in the early years.
For those with deeper pockets there are some interesting options. A copy of Frederick Stokes’ 1903 book,”Buster Brown and His Resolutions” is bringing from $800 to $1200, depending on condition. Buster Brown mechanical store window dioramas from the 1940s are selling in the $10,000 to $11,000 range. You can own a pair of mechanical Buster and Tige mannequins for $2,000 and if a 1950s Buster Brown helium tank is to your liking, it will set you back $1,250.
Until next time,
Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reaches at 317-429-7887 or email@example.com.