Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tape Measure Job

I picked up an opened penny pack of circa 1950 Bazooka last month in large part due to the fact the bubble gum was still intact and not broken like one would expect after seventy five years in captivity. And yes, I know this is not normal behavior! So I thought a measured look at this prize was in order and am happy to report my findings.

The first packs of one cent Bazooka came out in the late summer/early fall of 1949 and included two series of comics: Spalding Sports Show and Historical Almanac.  These came in a foil wrapper that's pretty close to the one I am diving into here but has clear differences marking it as the ur-penny pack of Bazooka. Based upon the sheer amount of known subjects (over 120 at last count), Historical Almanac seems to have run for some time, whereas Willard Mullin's SSS was a licensing deal that looks to have concluded after its first run. My theory is that Historical Almanac was then printed along with a set of comics called either Sports Oddities and/or Know Your Sports, noting the former of those titles was bestowed by the American Card Catalog. Whatever you call it, these comics had the look of Spalding Sports Show to a degree but with no Willard Mullin art.  This came foil-wrapped like so in penny form:

I note that the white background behind "young America's favorite" was added after the debut run of Bazooka; if that motto is just printed on plain foil with no background it's from the first run 1949 packs, at least that's how I view it: This wrapper measures 2" x 2 13/16" if you're scoring at home.  Since there's no titles on the one cent version of the comics called Know Your Sports in nickel form, this may be a Sports Oddities example in terms of nomenclature but it's hard to tell as these are scarce little suckers overall and there could also be two very similar sets, or one with different styles:

That RBI mark has long since fallen BTW, and is currently held by Fernando Tatis who clocked two grand slams in one inning in 1999! Fred Merkle was the first to notch the feat in 1911, followed by Bob Johnson in 1937 before Tom McBride did it in 1945.  It was again reached in late 1950 and then several times thereafter until Tatis slugged his way to immortality.

The Bazooka proper came loosely protected (lengthwise it seems) in this little advert glassine strip, measuring 1 1/8" x 2 7/8":

The bubble gum resembled the Topps Gum of the era, which Bazooka was rapidly forcing out of the limelight:

7/8" x 1 3/8" on that gum tab folks, plus it's 3/16" high, but note it was a double stack, so 3/8" high as packed as these two long-fused pieces show:

None of the production marks or packaging rips known with Topps Gum and pretty much every small tattoo issue from the company through the 1970's can be seen, so it's pretty clear Bazooka had a discrete production line.

I really dig the pre-Bazooka Joe comics and little inserts Topps marketed as they tried to find their way with what was once the world's most famous bubble gum.  Hopefully more foil-wrapped items turn up every now and then for further examination!

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