Shmoo Plug-Bait Box


Another fishing lure. The Shmoo Plug-Bait. (All photos from Fishing for History)

We’ve alluded to shmoos here at least once before, and we will again. As a creature “who loved to be eaten by humans and tasted like any food desired” Al Capp’s shmoo would seem to be the model for guilt-free consumption. (The product wants to be consumed.) As for the Shmoo fishing lure:

In upstate New York, Richard Balch, director of one of the largest tackle manufacturers in the country, got caught up in Shmoomania like everyone else. Unlike most, however, Balch had an idea, and that idea would morph into one of the neatest fishing lures of the post-World War II era: The Shmoo…

The Shmoo bait was a neat idea. Clearly, like all Shmoo products, H-I paid a royalty for use of the L’il Abner figures directly to Al Capp. Capp himself was one of the pioneers of licensing and merchandising for cartoon figures. In a successful $14 million lawsuit against King Features Syndicate in 1947, he wrested control over his creations and thus benefited financially from its merchandising, unlike so many other less fortunate cartoonists.

Denis Kitchen © 2004
Shmoo (not Schmoo) Facts & Info

(Photo of Shmoo lures, after the fold…)

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Bottle Fish, Can Fish


Left: Canada Dry beverage ad (from Mississippi Pack Ratz); right: vintage Chicken of the Sea ad (from I don’t remember where)

The idea of product packages swimming around in the open sea must have seemed like a cute, whimsical notion in the 1950s. Nowadays, with the negative associations of beach pollution and the floating “garbage patch,“ it’s hard to imagine anyone in advertising floating this concept as a way of promoting consumer packaged goods.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

All the Young Dudes Original Album Cover Art

“Dude ’72” photo by Mick Rock (Camden Town, Summer 1972)

For obvious reasons I really like Mick Rock’s photo of this English boy, outside with his cardboard guitar. (I’m guessing the kayak must have been for Regent’s Canal since I don’t see any other bodies of water on a map of Camden Town.)

We went to the opening of Mick Rock’s Glam! show on Staten Island a couple weeks ago. This photo was there.

The original cover photo for Mott The Hoople’s classic Bowie-produced album “All The Young Dudes” … Why it wasn’t used I can’t remember, nor can Ian Hunter, must have been a chemical shift.

Mick Rock
Glam! An Eyewitness Account

A chemical shift or just a really bad executive/creative decision? The album cover that they ultimately went with—(with a 1940s-style illustration of some English public school chaps in suits)—was so crummy by comparison, it was embarrassing. (I don’t even want to stink up the blog by showing it; you can go here to see it, if you want.)

In my second year at college, I remember going to a Providence record store to buy that album and just cringing when my girlfriend at the time held it up and, from across the store, called out, “Randy, here’s Mott the Hoople!”

I think I might have held my head a little bit higher, if the English boy with the cardboard guitar had been on that album cover instead.

Update: Re: Dude ’72 and his “PIP” brand cardboard guitar

Guitar with Packaging Skin



Originally the idea was that I’d be singing songs about packaging & playing a cigar box guitar on top of the landfill. I had even found an El Producto cigar box on eBay that I thought particularly suitable —(conflating stringed instruments: harp & guitar)—and I planned on commissioning my guitar-builder friend, Ted Crocker to turn this cigar box into a 6-string guitar for me. Unfortunately, The budget would not stretch far enough for that. So I decided instead to just give the Edison Volt a sort of packaging skin. (See: package as skin)

The skin in this case: a corrugated Tropicana shipping case. At first I was thinking of using something more pop and super-graphic. (like an economy size Tide box) But then it occurred to me that that sort of iconic branding could easily overshadow the whole enterprise, making it seem like an event sponsored by that brand. The upside down shipping carton seemed like a way around that, and it happened to coordinate with the brown kraft labels of the DIY CD packaging.

Although box vox had very little to say about last year’s Tropicana branding brouhaha, I could not resist referencing it now in my own small way. (The new orange-shaped cap serves as my tone control knob.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Package-Shaped Transistor Radios


Marlboro & Uniflow radios from Michael Jack’s Transistor Radios Flickr Photostream; PET Evaporated Milk & Folgers Coffee radios from Gasoline Alley Antiques; the others from eBay

I was on the radio last night. I got to sing two packaging songs on Rich Russo’s Anything, Anything on NY station, WRXP. (“Expiration Date” & “This Landfill is Your Landfill”)

We’ve featured a couple package-shaped transistor radios in the past—(here & here)—but now seemed like a good time for a bigger roundup of these advertising radios.

(Another packaging/radio after-thought, after the jump…)

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Trash Tracking & Landfill Packaging

TrashTagging Upper left photo from M.I.T.’s Senseable City Laboratory site; bottom left and right photos by Kevin P. Casey for The New York Times

“… once the product has been used up, and the package is empty, it becomes suddenly visible once more. This time, though, it is trash that must be discarded or recycled. This instant of disposal is the time when people are most aware of packages. It is a negative moment, like the end of a love affair, and what’s left seems to be a horrid waste.”

Thomas Hines, The Total package

The moment of packaging disposal may be a downer for the consumer, but after the garbage and recycling trucks pull away from the curb, those “suddenly visible” packages become invisible once more. What happens next is something that many people wonder about.

Elizabeth Royte, in her book, Garbageland, did the environmental sleuth-work of trying to track down exactly where her family’s garbage came to rest, after it left the curb.

Trash Tracking
Now, in yesterday’s NY Times, I see that researchers have begun using electronic tracking devices attached to individual pieces of trash to learn more about the fate of of what we discard into our municipal waste streams:

Through the project, overseen by M.I.T.’s Senseable City Laboratory, 3,000 common pieces of garbage, mostly from Seattle, are to be tracked through the waste disposal system over the next three months. The researchers will display the routes in real time online and in exhibitions opening at the Architectural League of New York on Thursday and the Seattle Public Library on Saturday…

Brett Stav, a senior planning and development specialist for the Seattle Public Utilities, which collects about 2,100 tons of trash and recyclables a day, said that aside from the help with logistics, he saw “tremendous educational value” in the experiment.

“There is this hidden world of trash, and there are ramifications to the choices that people make,” Mr. Stav said. “People just take their trash and put it on the curb and they forget about it and don’t think about all the time and energy and money put into disposing of it.”

Mireya Navarro
Following Trash and Recyclables on Their Journey
NY Times, September 16, 2009

(Liquid Soap bottle tracking map, landfill packaging song, and more, after the fold…)

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Damnation & Diet Delight


In the 1950s, Diet Delight used an anthro-pack mascot in their advertising. Sort of a counter-intuitive shape for a diet product spokes-model, but I guess this was before the days when tin cans could have waistlines. (See: package as body)

Perhaps she’s meant to represent the “before” concept. Still, she seems to be condemned to her own special brand of hell… her feet stuck to a bathroom scale, perpetually checking her weight for all eternity. (Or all of the 1950s, at any rate.)

Diet-DelightPhotos from Flickr & Ebay. (here, here, here, here & here…)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

IlliteRAT with Alpha-bits

IlliteRAT ©1976 David Wilder (starring my pet rat, Lucky)

Alpha-bitsBox751Not the first time we’ve mentioned rats (or mice) here on box vox and, as previously disclosed, I myself, once had a pet rat. Given to me by another rodent-loving classmate at RISD, “Lucky” played a starring role in my friend, David Wilder’s video, illiteRAT. Hadn’t seen this tape in over 30 years, but I think its conceptual rigor still holds up.

And it was nice for me to see the little feller again, after all this time. (I don’t really remember what the cereal box looked like that Lucky’s Alpha-bits came in. Lets just say, for arguments sake, that it was the one on the left—photo from The Imaginary World—with the mouth-shaped, faux die cut window.)

In my last year at school, I lived in an office building in downtown Providence where I’d let Lucky scamper, dog-like, about the loft. It’s surprising how frisky a rat can be.

I recall eating a lot of ice-cream cones one Summer. (This was before I found out I was diabetic.) I got into a habit of methodically reducing the size of the ice-cream cone—keeping it in classic proportions—until I had formed a miniature, rat-size ice-cream cone. This, I would then present to Lucky and he’d grab it in his hands and eagerly finish it off. (Sort of fractal, now that I think of it…)

Sadly, my free-range policy of giving Lucky the run of the place, ultimately led to his demise. Turned out there were dusty old trays of rat poison under the radiators, that I didn’t know were there.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Klein Bottles


Nested Klein bottles: a bottle containing a bottle containing a bottle… 

This is one of a series of glass Klein bottles made by Alan Bennett in 1995 for the Science Museum, London. It consists of three Klein bottles, one inside another. A Klein bottle is a surface which has no edges, no outside or inside and cannot properly be constructed in three dimensions. In the series Alan Bennett made Klein bottles analogous to Mobius strips with odd numbers of twists greater than one.

from The Science Museum in South Kensington

As I dimly understand the Klein bottle, it’s a sort of 3-dimensional diagram of a 4-dimensional object. In the 4th dimension the bottle would not need to intersect itself. Does the Klein bottle have any practical application in beverage packaging?

Futurama clip via Cocina y Matemáticas

(More Klein bottles by Alan Bennett, after the manifold…)

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