Chewing gum kicked off a long-lasting icon
The Topps Company was founded in 1938 as the Topps Chewing Gum Company. However it was not until 1947 that they offered Bazooka Bubble Gum to consumers. Initially, the symbol of the product was the Atom Bubble Boy. A few year later the Topp’s Company updated their symbol and Bazooka Joe was created. Bazooka Joe was named after the funnel and Tube musical instrument invented by Bob Burns an entertainer of the same era. The young boy with the baseball cap and eye patch was modeled after the cartoonist, Wesley Morse’s son, Talley. The seven year old Talley was also the inspiration for the cartoons in the bubble gum wrapper.
For example, if Talley was learning tricks on his bike and crashing into a tree, Bazooka Joe appear in the cartoon trying to ride the bike. “Look no hands!”…”Look no feet! … And ultimately Bazooka Joe crashed into the tree and in the last blurb a little girls says, “Look no Bike!”
There is one exception. Talley did not wear a patch over his right eye and Bazooka Joe had no reason to wear the patch. He was a trickster and the leader of his gang. The Patch was only a part of his comic book persona.
Bazooka Joe bubble gum proved to be a success and the Topp’s Company offered premiums for years. Small premiums were in the package. Kids would get stickers, rings and the highly collectible trading cards.
Trading cards were first included in the 1950s. Hopalong Cassidy, the TV and movie tar personality was the first trading card. Later the modern baseball cards were prizes. Each card exhibited the player’s names and image, team logo, vital statistics and full playing record.
Three-dimensional premiums offered included the Bazooka Joe dolls. Advertising Dolls by Joleen Robinson and Kay Sellers features an 18-nch Bazooka Joe doll. The doll was offered in 1973 in the new product, Sugarless Bazooka Bubble Gum. The stuffed cotton doll, with lithographed features and clothing. “BAZOOA JOE” is printed on the front of the white T-shirt.
A premium doll offered by the Topp’s Company in 2004 was a 7-inch, vinyl Bazooka Joe, bobble head doll. They were marketed in a colorful red, white and blue window box. Two side of the box have Bazooka Joe comics printed on them. The bobble head dolls are well marked with “Bazooka Joe” printed on the boy’s shirt and again on the base. The dolls were offered in exchange for $11.99 plus 25 comics from the Bazooka Bubble gum wrappers. Funko, Inc., Licensed by the Topp’s Company, created the Bobble Head dolls and they retailed the doll also.
Today the Bazooka Joe Bobble head dolls are found on the internet stores and auctions and are sell for $15 to $20.