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Cool Item Of the Week: The Pickaninny trade ad

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Added: 02/28/2011

As many of you know, I, Bruce Hershenson, owner of, have collected pressbooks (and related movie paper like studio yearbooks) for over 30 years, and I have the world's foremost collection of such material. I thought I would share one item with you each week, the type of items you almost surely have never seen before, and which might not come up for sale for DECADES!

This week, I have a trade ad for The Pickaninny, the 1921 Hal Roach comedy short, directed by Robert P. Kerr and James Parrott and starring "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison, one full year before he made his first appearance in Our Gang shorts. Note that the only review of this short I have found states that it has no offensive racial stereotypes in it, but this trade ad (directed at theater owners) is sure loaded with them (and Roach was apparently an equal opportunity offender, because just before this one he made "The Chink" and one can only imagine what that trade ad looked like!).

What I find so depressing about this ad is that it shows how a large part of mainstream America thought and talked back in 1921. This was in a national publication, placed by one of the foremost Hollywood producers.

Some people who believe in political correctness might say that ads like this should be burned and never displayed or discussed, but I feel it is vitally important to not try to whitewash the past and discard what makes us uncomfortable. Instead I think we need to look at awful things like this and use the information gained from it to make the present a better place to live in, and to ensure that these kinds of dreadful attitudes never return.

Try and find any posters, lobby cards, or even stills on this movie (we have never had a single item)!

See a larger image of the ad by clicking on this thumbnail:

Each week I will showcase a different pressbook (or related item) from my collection (so in just 25,000 weeks or so, I will have shared the entire collection with you!).

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