Merry Christmas, Mickey Mouse! A 1934 Disney Merchandise Promotional Book

Front board of in process item

Front board of Cotsen in process item 7210213

Cotsen is lucky enough to have acquired a rare Christmas promotion book from 1934 (New York: Kay Kamen Incorporated, 1934). The book, spiral-bound with sheets tipped on card stock meant for tearing out, was designed by Kay Kamen Incorporated and distributed to department stores around the country. The promotional book outlines specific Mickey- and Disney-themed product displays, meticulously describes events and product placement, and offers a catalog of promotional Disney material.

Page [1], foreward

Page [1]: foreword

The foreword pictured above, outlines what the book seeks to capitalize on: “Bearing in mind the knowledge of the Public’s Mickey Mouse consciousness and with a combination of ideas from the leading Publicity and Display Executives of America, we present this Store-wide Mickey Mouse Christmas Promotion”.

The early 1930’s saw an explosion of popularity and “Mickey Mouse consciousness” for Walt Disney’s character. First appearing to a general public with the release of Steamboat Willie on November 18, 1928, Mickey Mouse would become one of the most recognizable cartoon characters ever in just a few short years. Early Mickey cartoons, directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, impressed audiences with innovative use of sound for comedic effect by synchronizing the actions of the character with the music and audio (talkies had just begun to gain commercial viability and popular appeal).

But it was Mickey’s appearance in merchandise and Disney’s ability to proliferate this image that would make the white-gloved mouse a household name. And it was especially designed department store promotions, like the one pictured here, that allowed the Disney image to become ubiquitously American. But without Kay Kamen, Disney merchandise might never have had the ballooning success it enjoyed in the 30s and beyond.

In the words of Charles Solomon, an historian of animation:

In 1932, Herman “Kay” Kamen, a former hat salesman who had built a successful advertising business in Kansas City, called Disney about developing character merchandise. Walt and Roy had been unhappy with the quality of some of the earlier merchandise and were interested in Kamen’s offer. He came to Los Angeles, a deal was struck, and the number of products bearing Mickey’s likeness expanded rapidly. Mickey appeared on everything from a Cartier diamond bracelet ($1,250.) to tin toys that sold for less than $1. In 1933 alone, 900,000 Mickey Mouse watches and clocks were sold, along with ten million Mickey Mouse ice cream cones. By 1934, Disney was earning more than $600,000 a year in profits from films and merchandise.1

This Christmas Promotion 1934 catalog remains a rare artifact of the aggressive and ingenious promotional advertising that Kay Kamen used to fuel the then fledgling Disney name into the omnipresent empire that we all know today. And as the book shows, Disney cornered the toy and merchandise market by inundating 1930’s consumers with  the Disneyana atmosphere:

Pages [2-3] offer meticulous plans for the town parade that should correspond to the opening of the toy department in your town. Descriptions of the individual floats are provided and promotional products are available to advertise by your store!

Page [6]: The Mickey Mouse Post Office allowed department stores an easy way of obtaining mailing addresses, contact with parents, and “would probably make this link in your Promotional Campaign one of merit and profit.”


Page [7]: Remember that “all children love buttons!”


Page 12: an example of a promotional parade poster that was supposed to point consumers to the right place.


Page [18]: One of several promotional panels available for store decoration.

Page [25]: Mickey Mouse, The Goof, and Horace Horsecollar Christmas-themed mail decorations.

Spread [30-31]: life-sized Minnie and Mickey dolls were also available, as well as life-sized hollow laminate heads.


Page [32]: A tipped-in Mickey mask designed as a promotional hand-out.


Page [38]: More examples of give-aways, including an image of the buttons mentioned on page [7] above.

Pages [40-41]: The left page lists approved companies for ordering supplies like Micky Mouse stationary, drapery material, and balloons. The right page is the first page of a priced Kay Kamen Inc. catalog.


Page [44]: fold-out “blue prints” for the Mickey Mouse House to be constructed in a department store toy department.


Page [45]: The copyright notice at the back of the book, probably dutifully reinforced with a blue pencil by a store manager.

Disneyana promotional material, toys, merchandise, and ephemera are adored by collectors. The unique opportunity this book affords us is a look into the past with respect to the use and distribution of some of these products and their original costs. cost. This Christmas Promotion 1934 catalog allows us a unique look at the tools and machinations of a nascent merchandise giant and how it shapes children’s (and adults’) culture, and spaces. Advertising, after all, is what Christmas and childhood is really all about…

Happy holidays, everyone!

  1. The Golden Age of Mickey Mouse, by Charles Solomon

Happy Hanukkah! Some Jewish Children’s Picture Books

Seeing as the “Festival of Lights” is upon us (tonight will be the sixth night after all) we thought we might showcase some children’s books about Hanukkah. As you will see, authors and illustrators approach the story and its traditions in many different ways.

american covers

Cotsen: 7385, 11832, 43355 respectively

The first Hanukkah book, Happy Hanukah Everybody (New York: United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, 1955), is notable as an early example of Maurice Sendak’s illustrations. Written by Rabbi Hyman Chanover and his wife Alice Chanover, this book tells the story of one family’s typical first night and Hanukkah traditions.


Spread [1-2], 7385

A very Sendakian orange lion decoration. spread [5-6], 7385


A very didactic inclusion of sheet music and transliterated lyrics for the Hanukkah berakhah (blessing). page [11], 7385


What first night of Hanukkah would be complete without a new kitten? page [22], 7385

The next book, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (New York : Holiday House, c1989) was a Caldecott winner written by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. The story centers around a wanderer named Hershel of Ostropol (based on the historical folk-hero prankster) who outsmarts a group of goblins haunting a synagogue and preventing the locals from celebrating Hanukkah.

page [3], 11832


Hershel tricks a goblin by tweaking the rules of the dreidel game spread [14-15], 11832


spread [18-19], 11832


Hershel facing down the Goblin King. page [23], 11832

The next book is . . . interesting. I chose to include it in this post because of its singular focus and peculiarities. The KvetchiT : a Hanukkah tale, was written by Larry Butchins  and illustrated by Celia Yitzchak (St. Helier, Jersey : Pitspopany, c1994). Published on the English channel island of Jersey, the story centers around the miraculous birth of a creature who feeds on kvetches (gripes and complaints). The KvetchiT has been around ever since the Maccabees complained that there wasn’t a lot of oil in the Holy Temple to light the menorah (though it miraculously burned for eight days). For better or worse, we do not have the cassette tape of the The 20 greatest kvetches ever told! indicated on the front cover of the book.


page [2], 43355


page [5], 43355


page [6], 43355


page [12], 43355


page [22], 43355


spread [25-26], 43355

The Cotsen collection boasts hundreds of books, pamphlets, toys, and games about or related to the Jewish culture and people, mostly from the 20th century. We hold over 700 titles in Hebrew and Yiddish (in Hebrew script), but many of our books related to Judaism are also in English and German.

Only one of these Hebrew language books, however, seems to be related to Hanukkah. La-sevivon (translating to the dreidel, which is actually a Yiddish word), by Salman Schneur, is a story about a silver dreidel who goes on an adventure to gather Hanukkah gelt (and in this case real gold coins) and meets a sapient goat along the way (Frankfurt am Main: Hotz’at Omonut; 1922):

front wrapper, 50019

front wrapper, 50019


page [5], 50019


Here our studious goat is distracted from studying the Chumash (book form of the Torah) by our dreidel hero. page [7], 50019

page [9], 50019

page [9], 50019

Notably, our holdings of Hanukkah books are mostly English language and published in the US. We have around twenty American books related to Hanukkah, while I could locate only one Hanukkah book in Hebrew (though it has been a very long time since I went to Hebrew school). This collections bias might reflect the importance of the holiday as a particularly Jewish-American tradition (there were simply more American books about Hanukkah for Mr. Cotsen to collect). As a seasonal companion to Christmas, and the very American culture of. . . gift giving. . . surrounding the winter holidays, Hanukkah enjoys a lot of attention in the US. But like the typical American Christmas, the holiday is mostly observed at home and with the family. Since most Jewish families don’t huddle around a fire and read Maccabees 1-2 (these books are actually non-canonical in Judaism), children’s books about Hanukkah provide a useful vehicle for transmitting the story and passing on the holiday traditions.

In locating books for this blog post I also noticed one tradition that my family shares with the Cotsen family: the tradition of giving books!

Cotsen Family Bookplate, free endpaper verso, 10320

Cotsen Family bookplate, free endpaper verso, 10320

Happy Holidays everyone!

To learn more about the book La Sevivon and the history and odyssian migration of the Hebrew language publisher Omonut, check out this blog post from the Library of Congress: From Russia With Love: Illustrated Children’s Books in Hebrew