Streeter Blair and the Superman-Tim Club

Streeter Blair (June 1932)
Streeter Blair (June 1932)

Elwin Streeter Blair was a marketing executive who later became a prominent folk painter in the American Primitivism movement. In June 1914, he left his job as principal of Junction City High School in Kansas and opened "The Quality" Streeter Blair Clothes Shop.

To promote the latest arrivals, Blair created newspaper ads with a cartoon dog named Pup. Unbeknownst to Blair at the time, a "pup" was retail jargon for an unpopular item. "The Quality Pup" first appeared in The Junction City Daily Union on August 3, 1914.

The Quality Pup, Streeter Blair, The Junction City Sentinel, August 6, 1914

On September 4, 1915, "The Quality" reopened in Fort Scott. A metal Pup sign hung over the entrance on South Main Street. Blair would cut and copy an image of Pup saying something unrelated to clothing for newspapers ads. The campaign drew criticisms from The Clothier and Furnisher. The comic began as a hobby for Blair, but the mascot proved to be effective with local boys.

In August 1921, Streeter Blair was hired by Blach's in Birmingham, Alabama, to produce a series of Pup clothing ads. That winter, he met Herb Woolf of Woolf Brothers in Kansas City, Missouri. Woolf hired Blair as director of advertising and mail-order operations. Blair asked Woolf Brothers artist George L. Cartlich to draw the face of a twelve-year old boy that he named Tim.

Tim by George Cartlich (1922)

A prototype Tim and Pup booklet was sent to The Boys' Outfitter. The editor expressed interest, but Blair rejected the offer, opting to create an in-house magazine for Woolf. On February 28, 1922, Tim and Tim's Pup first appeared in The Kansas City Star. The ad attracted 200 subscriptions within two days.

The Knicker, The Boys' Outfitter, May 1922, p. 20

The first issue of The Knicker was released to Woolf Brothers customers on March 1, 1922. The black and white pamphlet features cartoons by Cartlich and clothing advertisements for the boy spring line. According to Blair, the early mimeographed booklets were "not much larger than a little postcard size, eight pages on cheap paper." By fall of 1922, The Knicker was being distributed in Wichita and Lawrence as Woolf Brothers expanded operations.

Blair created a targeted mailing list from customer data already on file. Every boys suit sold at Woolf Brothers included an alteration tag with a name and address. Blair installed an addressograph and soon built a list of 20,000 men and boys classified by age, purchase history, and occupation. Each Woolf Brothers booklet included a personalized letter from Tim. For many boys, Tim letters were the first piece of mail they had ever received.

In October 1922, The Knicker was released to Peckham's in Lawrence, followed by Degen's in Pittsburg, Kansas, in March 1923. The price was two cents per issue. Blair decided to leave Woolf Brothers and syndicate his "Pup-licity" campaign nationwide. Blair hired George Cartlich to provide the illustrations and printer Raymond M. Havens.

In July 1924, the Havens-Blair-Cartlich Company relaunched The Knicker: The Boy's Own Magazine. The one-color booklets are eight pages including covers, and each measure 3.875 x 6.75 inches. The monthly releases do not contain numbering or volume information. The early issues of The Knicker were printed at the Graphic Arts Building in Kansas City.

The Knicker, The Boy's Own Magazine, October 1927 The Knicker, The Boy's Own Magazine, August 1928

To bolster the mailing list, Blair created Tim's Pie Eaters Club in January 1925. According to Blair, members would grow up to become professional leaders. Instead of being cake eaters, they were "Pie Eaters." Early issues of The Knicker include biographies of prominent businessmen in Kansas City. The Pie Eaters Club distributed membership buttons, code books, coins, and premium items through contests and regional promotions.

On May 5, 1928, over 500 members of Tim’s Pie Eaters Club arrived for an official photograph in front of the A.W. Barkley clothing store in Aberdeen, Washington. The total club membership for the location was reported to be around 1,200 boys. Each member received a free birthday pie from A.W. Barkley.

Tim's Store for Boys, Third Degree Knicker Pie Eater's Club Coin, c. 1927

In February 1927, the Havens-Blair-Cartlich Company opened a second office in New York City. Blair created a second Tim magazine for high schoolers titled Style Coach. Tim retailers distributed Style Coach magazines from October 1927 to December 1929.


In March 1929, Blair partnered with a hat salesman named Herman Samuel Kominetzky, better known as Kay Kamen. In July, The Knicker was subtitled "Official for Pie Eaters." Blair and Kamen worked with Our Gang creator Hal Roach to promote "The Little Rascals" film series. The team toured the United States in a Chrysler REO Flying Cloud that read "Tim's Flagship" on the spare wheel cover.

Kay Kamen, Camille Blair, Streeter Blair (c. 1929)
Kay Kamen, Camille Blair, Streeter Blair (c. 1929)

By December 1929, The Knicker was being distributed to around 500,000 members in over 200 cities. Blair later boasted that some retailers had built entire departments around Tim's Official Store. In January 1930, The Knicker was expanded to 12 pages. Blair and Kamen moved to California and more of Tim's Stores began appearing throughout the state.

In August 1930, Kamen-Blair, Inc. released a new magazine for young girls titled Ruffles and Betz. Ruffles the Ragdoll was created by Streeter's wife, Camille Blair, and Betz was named after their daughter Betsy. Ruffles' Club for Girls appeared in department stores nationwide and giant ragdolls were made to display in storefront windows. The booklet was retitled Ruffles and China Cat in June 1934, and Ruffles and Chaulkey in July 1934.

Kamen-Blair, Inc. - Tim's Official Redback, Five (1932)

In May 1932, Tim Stores began distributing premium coupons in the form of play money. Tim's Official Redbacks were printed in denominations of one, five and ten. Redbacks could be redeemed for various premiums in Tim's catalogue: "Guaranteed to be good for something." Tim's Official Redbacks measure 2 x 5 inches. The first series of Redbacks from 1932–1933 are copyrighted "K B" by Kamen-Blair, Inc. The second series of Tim Redbacks was distributed from 1933–1944 with no copyright information.

L–R: Gunther Lessing, Harry Hammond Beall, Walt Disney, Kay Kamen, Streeter Blair, Roy O. Disney (1932)
L–R: Gunther Lessing, Harry Hammond Beall, Walt Disney, Kay Kamen, Streeter Blair, Roy O. Disney (June 1932)

On June 29, 1932, Kamen and Blair signed a contract with Roy O. Disney that granted exclusive merchandising rights for Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony characters. The same marketing strategies used for Tim were applied to Mickey. The first printing of Mickey Mouse Dollars were copyrighted "K-B INC" in 1932. The most popular license from Kamen-Blair was the first Mickey Mouse wristwatch by Ingersoll-Waterbury.

Tim interviewed Mickey in the August 1932 issue of The Knicker, and Ruffles interviewed Minnie in the November 1932 issue of Ruffles. Mickey appears in the December 1932 issue of The Knicker and Tim says, "When Kay Kaman arrived in New York to take care of 'Mickey Mouse,' a good man KAM-EN." The March 1933 issue of The Knicker features Mickey announcing new Kaynee clothing arrivals at Tim's Store.

Tim Interviews Mickey Mouse, The Knicker, August 1932, p. 11 Kamen-Blair, Mickey Mouse, Motion Picture Herald, Oct-Dec 1932

Kamen-Blair published the first three issues of Mickey Mouse Magazine from January–March 1933. The 16-page digest format of comics and stories was modeled after The Knicker, although Blair had no editorial input. The first issue features Ruffles the Ragdoll on the cover and a two-page Ruffles story. The entire booklet was later reprinted in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #601 (February 1996).

Kay Kamen, Walt Disney, Streeter Blair (June 1932)
Kay Kamen, Walt Disney, Streeter Blair (June 1932)

Kamen used the advance royalties to open new offices in Paris and New York. Blair was not interested in Mickey and Kamen was no longer selling Tim magazines. Blair offered to trade his half of the Disney deal for $5,000 and full ownership of the Tim brand. Blair told Kamen, "If you ever get hungry, you can come to me." Kay Kamen served as the sole merchandising agent for Walt Disney over the next 17 years, establishing Mickey Mouse as a global icon.

Tim's Official Rancho Handbook Guide, 1933

In April 1934, The Knicker was retitled Tim's Official Magazine. Tim appeared in radio syndication from August 1936 until 1939 in Tim's Rancho Adventures. The 26-part serial was written by Streeter Blair based on his own ranch experiences in California. The show was produced by Samson R. Diamond of Frankel-Kay-Diamond, Inc. and the 15-minute episodes were recorded at Associated Cinema Studios in Hollywood. Transcription discs were distributed to radio stations nationwide. The stories are set on a spooky ranch with Tim and his older friend Scotty. Desmond's built a corral in the boys department to promote the series.


Tim's Franco Club was sponsored by Frankenberger's in Charleston, West Virginia. In August 1937, Carlos Ashley joined Tim's Franco Club and was promised a free birthday pie for life. In 1943, Ashley left to serve in World War II and the pies stopped coming. Ashley rediscovered the membership letter 40 years later and decided to contact the store. On May 4, 1983, Frankenberger's delivered 40 pies to Ashley, baked by secretary and controller Maria Curry. Ashley shared the pies with coworkers and a local home for boys.


The Joan and Ginger Club for Girls was launched in September 1939 to replace Ruffles. Joan and Ginger's Magazine was published by Samson R. Diamond and Diamond Sales Corp. Clare McCanna served as chief artist and art director. The early booklets were edited by Natalie Morgan. Author and illustrator Rosalind Welcher later joined as editor.

Superman-Tim logo by Ira Schnapp

In October 1939, Detective Comics owners Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz established Superman, Inc. Following the success of "Superman Day" with Macy's and other department store tie-ins, Superman and Tim teamed up to advertise boys clothing. Tim Promotions, Inc. began marketing the Superman-Tim Club in July 1942. The first issue of Superman-Tim magazine is dated August 1942.

Superman-Tim (August 1942)Superman-Tim (August 1942)

The debut features a promotional image from the animated Superman series by Fleischer Studios and Paramount Pictures. The first issue includes a two-page preview from Action Comics #53 (October 1942). "The Man Who Put out the Sun!" is signed as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The art was penciled by John Sikela and inked by George Roussos. Various issues included comic book previews or original Superman-Tim stories. The Superman-Tim logo was designed by Ira Schnapp.

Superman-Tim (July 1943) Superman-Tim (February 1947)

Each member received a monthly magazine, a button pin, and an official membership card. The membership cards contain a secret code used to decipher club messages. Unlike the Supermen of America Club, a new card and code was issued to Superman-Tim Club members every September. Various retailers mailed a Superman-Tim birthday postcard and Christmas card each year. Some participating stores offered a free birthday pie.

Superman publications were spared from government paper rationing. Superman and Tim encouraged children to purchase War Bonds and salvage scrap material for the defense effort. Wartime storylines featured an international Nazi spy known as Brown Scorpion, as well as Japanese saboteurs.

Superman Redbacks were distributed from 1944–1950 in denominations of one, five, and ten. Superman Redbacks measure 2.5 x 5.5 inches. The coupons could be redeemed for premiums such as a Superman-Tim Secret Code ring.

Superman-Tim Redbacks, One (1944–1949)

In 1948, Snellenburg's of Philadelphia reported "28,770 boys registered in the Superman Tim Club and 23,772 girls in the Joan and Ginger organization. Superman-Tim comic stories were also printed in various issues of Joan and Ginger's Magazine.

In Direct Comments: Comic Creators In Their Own Words by Paul Kupperberg, writer and editor Dennis O'Neil recalled, "I won a short story contest sponsored by the Superman-Tim Club. I wonder if that didn’t doom me to a life of comic book writing.” The March 1950 issue of Superman-Tim lists O'Neil as a November 1949 contest winner.

Dennis O'Neil, Superman-Tim, March 1950

Superman-Tim distributed eight different sets of collectible "Poster Stamps" from September 1942 to September 1949. The stamps contain messages that are deciphered with yearly code cards. A new stamp was included with each monthly issue.

April–May 1947, Superman-Tim Club Poster Stamps

There are 94 issues of Superman-Tim. All issues are at least 16 pages, including the covers. Months that feature a Superman-Tim comic are 24–36 pages. Superman does not appear in the final two issues dated April and May 1950. Superman-Tim birthday postcards were mailed to members as late as October 1950.

In 2008, an official reproduction of the March 1949 issue of Superman-Tim was included with The DC Vault: A Museum-in-a-Book featuring Rare Collectibles from the DC Universe.

The magazine was retitled Tim from June to December 1950, and stories focused on baseball players. Tim code cards continued to be distributed each September. Beginning in 1950, a fourth series of Redbacks were distributed featuring an updated image of Tim. The fourth series of Redbacks retained the same design and pentagonal emblem.

Tim Store Redback, One (1950–1967)

The sales campaign briefly rebranded as Gene Autry-Tim, and the series was retitled Gene Autry Champions Magazine from December 1950 to July 1951. "The Singing Cowboy" Gene Autry made guest appearances at Tim retailers during a 37-city tour from January 13 to February 18, 1951. The event displays included a corral and over 250 cowboy figurines.

In August 1951, the magazine was relaunched as Tim Tomorrow. The Space Age theme placed Tim in the secret city of X-L4. The final run of the series was titled Tim Magazine for Boys from 1958–1967. The black-and-white format showcased celebrities from film and television. The November 1966 issue features a rare cover appearance of Bruce Lee demonstrating a kick.

Streeter Blair, Sári Heller Gallery, 1965

As the Superman-Tim partnership came to an end, Streeter Blair devoted his time to antiques, baking bread, and oil painting. His primitive folk style of rural Americana scenes quickly became popular around the world. Blair completed over 369 different works. In 1958, six Blair paintings were selected for the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition in Europe. In June 1964, actor Vincent Price purchased an entire Blair exhibit for Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Streeter Blair, Spring landscape (1965)

Streeter Blair passed away in Beverley Hills on November 3, 1966, at the age of 78. The final issue of Tim Magazine for Boys is dated March 1967, 45 years after the first appearance of Tim. The copyright was not renewed and Tim has mostly been forgotten by time.

An article about Streeter Blair painting late in life was published in the March 21, 1969, issue of TIME magazine. "Streeter Blair's America, 1888–1966: A Retrospective Exhibition" was shown at the Sari-Heller Gallery in Beverley Hills from February 26 to March 30, 1974.


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