Big Little Book® Premiums

From mid-1933 to mid-1935, Whitman produced less expensive, softcover versions of some BLB titles and developed a few new titles. These books were designed to be giveaways that could promote various products. Although gasoline and toothpaste companies made use of the premiums, the R.B. Davis Company, producers of Cocomalt the choclolate flavored food drink, utilized them more than any other company.
Mickey Mouse Premium
There are 18 collectable titles, not counting two known variations--The Big Little Book of Magic and Mickey Mouse For Treasure Island. Twelve of the titles were shortened versions of BLBs of the same or similar titles. The artwork from the BLBs was sometimes altered slightly, and in the case of The Western Outlaw Billy The Kid it was completely redrawn, copying the original with many mirror image illustrations. The remaining titles are new. These might have been undeveloped BLBs.

Most books were 200 pages long, but they ranged from 192 to 288 pages. There were slight variations in outside dimensions, although most were about 3 1/2" x 4 1/4" x 7/8". Each contained an advertisement and was distributed as a premium by the sponsor. For example, Cocomalt was the sponsor of the Buck Rogers radio program, thus Buck Rogers titles were a few of the large number of premiums offered by the program.

Karmetz, Perkins, and Similar Premiums

In 1935, Whitman switched from publishing the 200 page softcover premiums to producing smaller premium books. These appeared in three versions. The first was a set of eight titles for Karmetz, a distributing agency. The second was a set of eight for Perkins, a similar agency. The method of distribution for the third set is unknown. The distrubutors, in turn, sold the premiums to various businesses for use as promotional giveaways, much like the comics produced for Red Goose Shoes and Poll Parrot Shoes.

The original printing by Whitman contained no advertising. Such books are rarely found. Each was 48 pages in length, the covers were of heavy paper imprinted with a four-color illustration, and the pages were held together by to heavy staples fastened through the covers at one side. The books in the Karmetz set were 48 pages long and were 5 5/8" x 4 1/8" x 3/16". The books in the Perkins set were 5 3/4" x 3 1/2" x 3/16" and 48 pages long. The third set came out near the of the Golden Age. The books were 64 pages long and 3 1/4" x 3 1/2" x 3/16". The number of books in this set is, currently, unknown.

The contents of the premiums were taken directly from Big Little Books of the same titles. The text was placed on each page with the right hand page being shared with a BLB illustration that was cropped on all four sides to accomodate the smaller space. Basically the books were rewritten versions of a portion of the Big Little Book titles. The rewritng shortened and altered the stories to give them continuity. Between the Karmetz and Perkins sets, the two storylines are identical--Chester Gump Finds the Hidden Treasure and Dick Tracy and Dick Tracy, Jr. The Perkins stories were altered drastically, eliminating details to accomodate the very small and short format.

According to Whitman's records, Karmetz and Perkins distributed the books and imprinted them with advertising for various businesses. Collectors have found titles imprinted with ads for Sears & Roebuck, Pan-Am Gas, shoe stores, grocery stores, the Lily-Tulip Corporation (the business that sold Tarzan Ice Cream), and Lemix-Korlix (the Kool-Aid Company). The extent to which these books were imprinted with advertisements--which titles and which companies--may never be known.

The business that is most remembered for giving away these books is the Kool-Aid Company. This company added numbers to the Perkins titles (e.g., Tailspin Tommy was #6, Men of the Mounted was #7, and Ella Cinders was #8). Occasionally both sets have been identified as the Kool-Aid Big Little Books or the Lemix-Korlix Big Little Books.

For two consecutive years Whitman printed Mickey Mouse premiums for Macy's Department Stores. The premiums, distributed at Christmas time, were 3 7/16" x 3 9/16" and 144 pages long. Mickey Mouse and Minnie at Macy's was published in 1934, and Mickey Mouse and Minnie March to Macy's was published in 1935.

In 1935, Mickey Mouse and the Magic Carpet was printed by Whitman and distributed through K. Kamen for Stewart's Toyland. Similar to the second set of Ice Cream Premiums, this book was 3 1/2" x 4" and 144 pages in length.

Ice Cream Premiums
Tarzan Premium
In the mid-1930s, the Lily-Tulip Corporation contracted with Whitman to publish small premium books containing stories using characters from popular BLBs. The purpose of the books was to promote Tarzan Ice Cream.

The first 12 books were copyrighted in 1934 and 1936. The were numbered, had black and white illustrations, were a square 3 1/2" x 3 1/2", and contained 128 pages. Each premium could be acquired by saving and trading in 12 Tarzan Ice Cream cup lids. A coupon was printed on the back cover of each book, and if 12 coupons were collected, they could be turned in for a "Grand Prize." Among the choices of prizes were such items as: "Tarzan and the Lion Man," a hardcover book; a four-blade scout knife with Tarzan's picture on both sides of a pearl handle.

Because of the emphasis upon the product, these small books are often referred to as the Tarzan Cup Lid Premiums.


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