This unique Al Capp (Li’l Abner) designed Shmoo certificate was issued in conjunction with the United States Treasury Savings Bond Division. It was used as a reward for any youngster that purchased a savings bond, therefore becoming a shareholder in the United States of America. This brightly colored item is fully illustrated with countless Shmoos named after various attributes like thrift, loyalty, trust, duty, truth, and common cents. Back when patriotism was at a fever pitch, this certificate was sure to thrill any youngster.
The Schmoo first appeared in Capp’s comic strip Li'l Abner on August 31, 1948, and quickly became a postwar national craze in the USA. In a sequence beginning in late August 1948, Li'l Abner discovers the shmoos when he ventures into the forbidden "Valley of the Shmoon," following the mysterious and musical sound they make, (from which their name derives). Abner is thrown off a cliff and into the valley below by a primitive "large gal" (as he addresses her), whose job is to guard the valley. (This character is never seen again.) There, against the frantic protestations of a naked, heavily bearded old man who shepherds the shmoos, Abner befriends the strange and charming creatures. "Shmoos," the old man warns, "is the greatest menace to hoomanity th' world has evah known!" "Thass becuz they is so bad, huh?" asks Li'l Abner. "No, stupid", answers the man—and then encapsulates one of life's profound paradoxes: "It's because they's so good!!"
Having discovered their value ("Wif these around, nobody won't nevah havta work no more!!"), Abner leads the shmoos out of the valley—where they become a sensation in Dogpatchand, quickly, the rest of the world.
An unexpected—and virtually unprecedented—postwar merchandising phenomenon followed Capp's introduction of the Shmoo in Li'l Abner. As in the strip, shmoos suddenly appeared to be everywhere in 1949 and 1950—including a Time
cover story. They also garnered nearly a full page of coverage (under "Economics") in Time
's International section. Major articles also ran in Newsweek
, The New Republic
and countless other publications and newspapers. Virtually overnight, as a Life
headline put it, "The U.S. Becomes Shmoo-Struck!"
The Shmoo was so popular it even replaced Walt Disney
's Mickey Mouse as the face of the Children's Savings Bond, issued by the U.S. Treasury Department in 1949. The document (featured here) was colorfully illustrated with Capp's character, and promoted by the Federal Government of the United States with a $16 million advertising campaign budget. According to one article at the time, the Shmoo showed "Thrift, loyalty, trust, duty, truth and common cents add up to aid to his nation." Al Capp accompanied President Harry S. Truman at the bond's unveiling ceremony.Certificate:
Savings Bond Certificate, unissued/uncanceled, late 1940’sPrinter:
Not indicated Dimensions:
8 1/2” (h) x 10 1/2” (w)State: DC-District of Columbia Subject Matter: Government Bonds or Issues
| Unissued Pieces Vignette Topic(s): Cartoon Characters
| Multi-Color Condition:
No fold lines or cancels, and some toning from age.