Most of you won’t recall the Hopalong Cassidy film series, which in 1949 became the first TV Western series. William Boyd starred as Hoppy, the Western hero known for all time as “The epitome of gallantry and fair play,” and his favorite drink was sarsparilla. First his films and then the TV show featured his white horse, Topper, as well as the legendary George “Gabby” Hayes as Windy, the wiskered, mumbling ole sidewinder—even George Reeves had a role before becoming TV’s first “man of steel.”
Boyd made over 60 Hopalong films. Hoppy got his name got after being shot in the leg, but he didn’t shoot himself there when he paid over a quarter of a million bucks to buy the rights to his old films. He also invested in TV during the early days: NBC started by editing the old movies for half-hour TV shows that took the country by storm. Boyd retained rights to all the licenses for merchandise, including dinnerware, pillows, roller skates, soap, wristwatches, jackknives, and radios, earning him millions.
As a kid, I daydreamed endlessly about being featured on the show. Like most dreams, it never came to pass. Eventually, the disappointment diminished—until this Christmas, when Seymour Chwast gave me a Hopalong Cassidy Radio (operating instructions below), with its 20 feet of Lariatenna. It’s both a joy and a curse.
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →