Buster Brown & Mary Jane

Lovable characters live on with a host of items

“I’m Buster Brown. I live in a shoe.

That’s’ my dog Tige. Look for him there to.”

Mr. Richard F. Outcault was the artist and writer of the stories about Buster Brown, his sister Mary Jane, and his dog Tige.  For more than 20 years there seemed to be no end to the mischief the 10-year-old kid, could get into. People of all ages enjoyed reading about the mischief. They laughed and cried and identified with the boy’s behavior.

Buster Brown first appeared in the New York Times newspaper in 1902. Subscribers were reading about President Theodore Roosevelt one, minute and the Buster Brown comic the next.

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 products. In fact, many companies purchased the rights to both Buster brown and Mary Jane logos. According to one source, Richard  Outcault had an advertising business of selling the trademark rights  and he sold to more than 100 different companies and the rights sold for as little as $5 or as much as $1,000.

One of the companies that had the rights to Buster Brown was the Brown Shoe Company. Long before Buster Brown became famous, George Warren Brown founded the shoe company. Brown’s mass production of family shoes began in 1878. The Buster Brown shoes were introduced to the public in the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and the brand is still available.

Initially the Buster Brown comic character wore a brown suit and a sailor –hat over his blond bob. His sister had blond, sausage curls, a frilly red dress and knee socks. Both characters had simple black round-toed shoes with and instep strap. The shoes later became known as Mary Jane’s. Boys wore the Mary Jane style shoes as well as the girls, but when oxfords became available the boys preferred them. However the Mary Jane style remained the “Sunday” best for girls.

Stores retailing Buster Brown shoes gave away many advertising gifts such as; postcards of the famous three, Buster Brown, Mary Jane and Tige; the Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Book of Jokes & Jingles. © 1905;  a 3-inch bisque figure of Buster Brown  in a red outfit; whistles and buttons that featured the boy and his dog; and Buster Brown figural shoe trees. Small advertising collectibles were continuously distributed through the years.

A five-inch plastic figural bank, featuring Buster Brown and Tige, was made in two colors, red and green. They were gifts in the 1960s.  The details are indicative of the Outcault cartoons. We see the mischievous kid with a Dutch Boy bob, winking one eye and the dog with a smile that exhibits ugly, intimidating teeth. One of the high- end collectibles are the Brown Company metal signs of early days. The Confident Collector by Dawn Reno©1993, list a Buster Brown sign 40-inches tall with a display of shoes.

Another scarce collectible is the 31 inch composition, dolls from the 1950s, used in store displays. They were models for the Buster Brown clothing. They are modernized versions of Buster Brown, a boy with a short haircut wearing shorts and T-shirt and socks.  The dolls stand on a base with a small dog. The name “Buster Brown” is painted on the bottom of the base and a tiny image of Mary Jane and Tige are painted next the lettering. They appear to be having a struggle over a stocking, an Outcault comedy.