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Buster Brown Visits Dublin

By Frank Chamberlain

In 1909*, a throng of Dublinites gathered downtown to see the famous Buster Brown and his dog Tige. Brown addressed the crowd as part of a promotional appearance for the Hamilton Brown shoe company. This cartoon character was the well-known mascot for that company, and also appeared in a widely circulated series of newspaper comic strips. This mischievous little boy and his talking bulldog (whose speech could not be heard by adults and often served as quasi-conscience for his owner) became one of the most famous merchandising gimmicks in the world. The popularity of this character was demonstrated by the emergence of Buster Brown suits and the prevalence of the distinctive Buster Brown haircuts for children. (These smock-like suits, knicker-like trousers, and sailor-like hats can still be seen in the “Our Gang” television comedies of the day. The hairstyle, which has thankfully gone out of style, consisted of cropped Dutch boy bangs with long hair around the ears and over the neck.) His comic strip lasted from 1902 until the early 1920s, but the Buster Brown character remains a successful advertising icon.

The real-life person who portrayed Brown at public events was, ironically, not a child at all. Rather, the character was played by a middle-aged midget named William “Major” Price. Evidently, the owners of the Hamilton Brown company felt it more appropriate to have a grown up portray their youthful character instead of a real-life child. As a readily identifiable cultural icon, his appearances drew quite a crowd, as evidenced by the photo in this collection. In this image, the miniature pitchman and his pet can be seen atop the awning of the Farmer’s Union Clearing House building on the left-hand side of the picture.

* Readers may notice that this picture is dated Feb. 6, 1911. However, the Comanche Chief newspaper article says that Brown visited in 1909. The author was unable to find confirmation about the actual date of the visit except that it occurred at around the beginning of the second decade of the century.

Hatley, J., “50 Years Ago,” The Comanche Chief. 1909.

Website: www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/MOHORbuster.html