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More Little Golden Books

Author Rita Smith
Air Date 10/8/2002

More Little Golden Books Transcript

The “Little Golden Book” series of children’s books, introduced in 1942 by the publisher Simon and Schuster, were an immediate and phenomenal success. Within the first ten years they had sold 182,615,000 copies, jumping to 300,000,000 two years later. Some of the most successful Little Golden Book titles were tied to promotional campaigns. The first of these was the campaign for U.S. War Stamps. On the dust jacket of a Little Golden Book entitled Bedtime Stories, for example, which included the tale Chicken Licken, was this story: One day Chicken Little strutted through the woods. Behind her strutted Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky and Goosey Loosey. On the way they met Turkey Lurkey. “Where are you going?” asked Turkey Lurkey. “We are all going to buy War Savings Stamps, just as we do every week!” said Chicken Little. So Turkey Lurkey joined them and they all hurried off to buy War Savings Stamps. And so should you!”1

After the war, the promotions turned to endorsements of commercial products. The first, Dr. Dan, the Bandage Man, issued in January 1951, was the result of an agreement between Simon and Schuster and Johnson & Johnson, makers of Band-Aids. The book explained the rudiments of first aid for pre-school children and each copy came with six Band-Aids. The first printing of 1,600,000 was the largest first edition of a Little Golden Book produced up to that time, profiting from what was probably the most extensive advertising and promotional campaign ever staged for a book costing $ .25.2

The Simon and Schuster company was soon to outdo even itself with the largest promotional campaign ever mounted for Little Lulu and Her Magic Tricks. Released on May 1, 1954, this book had a first printing of 2, 250,000 copies, possibly the largest initial printing for any book ever published in the country. The book contained a packet of Kleenex, with instructions for making a doll, a carnation, and a bunny out of the tissues. Full-page ads ran in popular magazines like Life and Woman’s Day, and a demonstration of the tricks from the book was presented on the “Arthur Godfrey Show,” reaching an estimated 7,500,000 families.3

Sales figures of the Little Golden Books had always been impressive, but with the support of the U.S. government, and particularly with the advertising revenues from Johnson & Johnson, and Kleenex, the sales figures of these particular Little Golden Book titles reached unprecedented high numbers.

1 Santi, p. 4.
2 Jones, p. xvi.
3 Ibid, p. xvii.

Jones, Dolores Blythe. Bibliography of the “Little Golden Books.” New York: Greenwood Press, 1987.

Santi, Steve. Collecting “Little Golden Books”: A Collector’s Identification & Value Guide, 2nd edition.

Posted in Literature