Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Kit Carson?

Because there was a television show, that’s why:

The Adventures of Kit Carson was a relatively popular program from the earliest days of the Western television boom; over 100 half hour episodes were produced from 1951 through 1955, and ran in syndication for several years afterward. It was popular enough to merit a Coca-Cola sponsorship:

Just about the only thing the television show shared in common with the real-life frontiersman Kit Carson was the name. The real-life Kit was a rancher, trapper, soldier, Indian guide, explorer - a veritable 19th century superhero. On television, Kit and his Mexican sidekick "El Toro" spent most of their time like any other "White Hat" Westerners - righting wrongs and fighting crime on the frontier.

It’s quite obvious to me that Breyer’s Kit Carson is based on the character from the television show, and not the historical figure. The Breyer set replicates Kit’s signature look from the show - clean shaven, a fringed buckskin shirt, neckerchief and cowboy hat.

The show did have some merchandise associated with it - comic books, neckerchiefs, possibly a cap gun - a modest line up from a time just before the great Western TV merchandising boom. It doesn’t appear that Breyer actually pursued a licensing agreement with the show, however. The production of new episodes had ended by the end of 1955 anyway, so it could be that they weren’t pursuing any new licensees by that time.

Kit Carson was also just as much a public domain character as Davy Crockett, so maybe they didn’t feel it was necessary to arrange one. The mold had already paid for itself, several times over, and it’s doubtful that a license would have been worth the effort to acquire.

All of the Horse and Rider Sets were discontinued by 1960, at the latest: they’re nowhere to be found in the 1960 Dealer’s Catalog. It’s possible that they could have continued production through 1959, but I don’t have any company catalogs or pricelists from that year to confirm or deny.

By that time it was clear that Breyer was moving more towards a critter-only lineup; it’d be nearly twenty years before they’d bring rider figurines back, in a slightly more kid- and hobbyist-friendly form.

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