Dolls from the 50s getting more difficult to find
Mr. Richard R. Outcault was the artist and writer of the stories about Buster Brown and his sister Mary Jane. Buster Brown first appeared in the New York Herald newspaper in 1902. For over 20 years there seemed to be no end to the mischief the 10-year old boy, Buster Brown, could get into. People of all ages loved to read about Buster, his sister and his dog Tige. The followers of the Buster Brown stories laughed and cried, and identified with the boys behavior.
With the popularity of Buster Brown, it is not surprising that the commercial world would want to latch onto the comic character and use the image to promote their products. According to one source, Richard F. Outcault had an advertising business of selling the trademark rights of Buster Brown and Mary Jane Brown logos. He sold to more than 100 companies representing many different products and the rights were sold for as little as $5 or as much as $1000. Some of the products with the Buster Brown name were soap, bread, cigars, flour, cameras, paper dolls, china, and children’s clothing.
One of the companies that had the rights to Buster Brown was the Buster Brown Shoe Company. Long before Buster Brown became famous, George Warren Brown founded the Brown Shoe Company. Brown’s mass production of family shoes began in 1878. John A. Bush, a young sales executive for Brown’s Shoe Company in the early 1900s was the instigator in getting the rights to use the Buster Brown comic character as a trademark for children’s shoes. To make a long story short, the Buster Brown brand of shoes was introduced to the public at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
Initially the buster Brown comic character wore a sailor hat and a brown suit. Mary Jane had blond sausage curls, a frilly dress and knee socks. Both characters wore simple black, round toed shoes with an instep strap. The shoes later became known as Mary Jane shoes. The boys wore the Mary Jane style as well as the girls. Eventually boys preferred Oxfords. However, the Mary Jane style remained the “Sunday best” for little girls.
Stores retailing Buster Brown shoes gave away many advertising gifts such as postcards, Bust Brown figures three-inches tall; Whistles and buttons featuring Buster Brown and Tige; ink blotters from the 1930s; Buster Brown Banks made of plastic in the 1960s, and several other small items.
Collectors of the Ad World especially enjoy dolls used to advertising Buster Brown clothing and placed in store windows. One such doll from the 1950s is 31 –inches tall, including the base and wears a Buster Brown brand play suit with blue knit t-shirt and red knit shorts, white shoes and socks. The doll stands on a base with the name, “Buster Brown” and the image of the boy and dog logo.
Good luck finding the ad doll from the 1950s. I was lucky to find one to photograph at the “Gold Rush” in Rochester, Minn., several years ago. One doll, with different clothes, was listed for $114 on www.ebay.com today. There were also lots of small Buster Brown items.