1938 Life Magazine With Article on Horrors of War Gum Cards Inc.


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For Sale a vintage original copy of the 1938 May 9th issue of Life Magazine With the original Article on the classic  Horrors of War Gum Inc. Cards.

In the early 1930s, despite the harsh economic realities of the Great Depression, a Philadelphia bubble gum entrepreneur Warren Bowman had an idea. He could make collector cards showing scenes from the handful of wars going on in China, Spain, and Ethiopia and use them to sell his gum. Bowman figured that children would be attracted to the cards showing battle scenes, but he was also determined to use the cards to alert impressionable minds about the importance of peace rather than the sensationalism of war. He called upon his advertising executive George Moll, a Sunday school teacher, to begin working on his project.

What soon followed was a 240 card series picturing battle scenes and attacks on civilian populations. The “Horrors of War” series was a financial success. Each piece of gum, which sold for one cent, came with a picture card depicting the brutality of war—mostly atrocities committed by the Japanese military. The series, which finally produced 288 cards, grossed over 100 million dollars. Bowman insisted that he was trying to teach peace by exposing the horrors of war—each GUM, Inc. card had printed at the bottom the inscription “To know the HORRORS OF WAR is to want PEACE”—and claimed to have received the full support of the peace organization World Peaceways. Given the strong isolationist sentiment in America and the desire for neutrality Bowman’s rationale for producing the “Horrors of War” gum cards lent credence to the general belief that the ideal of peace carried substantial weight with the public. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the cards as a way to explain the terrors of war to the American people.

However, Bowman’s collector cards did not meet the approval of teachers and parents who considered them too graphic and gruesome in detail. In the United States, many parents tried to prevent their children from purchasing the one-cent gum, or confiscated the cards. Japanese-Americans were also offended by the series and feared a nativist backlash reminiscent of the late 1800s and early 1900s. In Japan, moreover, the cards became a bone of diplomatic contention because some of the atrocities committed by the Japanese army in Manchuria and China were highlighted in the cards. In 1938, Japanese Embassy officials in Washington, D.C., presented a formal protest to the American State Department, insisting that Bowman withdraw his cards and gum from sale. The State Department refused to bow to Japanese protests, especially in light of the fact that the Japanese had sunk a U.S. gunboat, The Panay, on the Yangtze River, one of the events depicted in the card series. The Japanese then declared Bowman “an enemy of Japan” and ordered him to close his gum factories in their country.

Regardless of whether Bowman’s intentions were purely financial or altruistic, the “Horrors of War” series remains one of the most popular items for collectors and card buffs today.

Condition: Excellent wit htight spine ,staples intact, clean pages with bold print. Great vintage issue showcasing one of the most controversial and sought after gum card series of our times.


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