• Steven Heller

The Spearmen are Dear Men, Buy Gum

Before the Doublemint Twins put Wrigley’s gum in America’s mouths and minds of gum-chewing millions, the trade characters that most stuck as effective mnemonics were the Spearmen. These green arrow-point heads with human faces, arms and legs sticking through, were turn-of-the-century Gumbys, as popular as the Brownies and cute as the Kewpies.

Chewing gum was viewed in social circles as rude (like chewing tobacco), and advertising agents were hired to alter perception. Instead of a vice, it was promoted as pick-me-up, a veritable snack for relief from stress. Even doctors lauded the benefits of chewing gum, going so far as to prescribe it for soothing throats and mouths, helping digestion, and quenching thirst. Wrigley’s admonished customers to chew after every meal.

William Wrigley took his advertising promises to a level beyond the medicine. His Spearmen, used between the 1910s and 1920s, based on the spear or arrow introduced in 1893 on the Spearmint wrapper, were frolicking mascots who dispensed advice, entertained the senses and reminded the customers any time is a good time for a chew.

The pages featuring this gaggle of Spearmen, are from a modern-day, gummed up Mother Goose, filled with fractured rhymes and silly ripostes: “When is a tie a cravat? When it costs more than 99 cents.”

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For more Steven Heller, check out The Education of an Illustrator‚ one of the many Heller titles available at MyDesignShop.com.

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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 →