The Big Butter and Egg Man!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s toy post represents the culmination of a toy chase which came to fruition in a very satisfying way recently. This really splendid toy was first spotted by Kim and I knew I wanted him – the chase was on.

Kim was the one who introduced me to the term, the big butter and egg man which was so evocative it quickly found a place in my personal lexicon. Big spender salesman traveling and from out of town. One dictionary puts it fairly succinctly as, A prosperous dairy farmer (other wealthy rural citizen), seen as coming into the big city and ostentatiously living it up.

From a film version of the play made in 1928.

The term was coined by George S. Kaufman as the name of a play which debuted in 1925 about a rich man who came to New York with plans to liberally and exuberantly spend his money on wine, women, and song according to Wikipedia. In ’26 Percy Venable cemented the popularity of the term when he penned a jazz tune under this moniker – and which in turn became a Louis Armstrong favorite and it immediately enters the annals of jazz slang. (The Armstrong version can be heard here as of the writing of this post and is a pretty joyful rendition if you have a moment.)

Some of the lyrics are below, talking about a gold digging woman who is looking for that particular sugar daddy:

Now she wants, a butter an egg man
From way out in the west
She wants somebody, who’s workin’ all day
So she’s got money, when she wants to play

Now pretty clothes, they’ll never be mine
But what she told me the other day
I hope she don’t change her mind
Now she wants, a butter an egg man
A great big butter and egg man
From way down south

Having done some justice to the origin of the expression, let’s consider this rather grand toy. He embodies his role perfectly and has a button which declares the butter and egg man on the front and across his back. His case offers, fresh country butter contained within and he has an impossibly large and endearing duck (more on this in a moment) clutched (with white gloves) in his other hand and who offers eggs laid to order.

He sports a bright yellow plaid double-breasted suit and tie, topped off striped trousers and wingtip shoes. His mustachioed expression says it all – he’s up for trouble and he’s got cash to burn. As mentioned above, he is a product of the Marx toy company, manufactured in the 1930’s. When wound his legs move furiously, but with somewhat less forward motion.

Once I spotted it, I held out for the toy complete with box because it too is great. As you can see below, he is faithfully rendered (although he is given a hat in these pics) and makes declarations such as, He walks! and He’s a salesman! I like the top and bottom with somewhat awkwardly drawn hands displaying his wares and assuring us that he is selling, Grade A Butter. He is is leaving the farm behind and is on his traveling route which will lead him to the big city where he’ll get into all kinds of trouble no doubt.

Butter and Egg Man Box in the Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The predecessor of this toy is a Joe Penner toy made with the exact same mold. For those or you not in the know, Penner was a slapstick comedian who had a meteoric rise from vaudeville to radio. He developed a catch phrase, Wanna buy a duck? for which he became best known. He died of a heart attack in his sleep at age 36 and was therefore saved the ultimately indignity of an inevitable career decline, which was likely where he was headed. (A quick but good sample of his work can be found on a brief Youtube clip here.)

This from Morphy’s auction, but great to really see them side-by-side!

The Penner toy has charm although it is the rare case of my preferring a later version of a toy, another blog post (devoted to Joe Penner collectibles) notes that this earlier version was released in 1934. The Joe Penner version was a part of a line of toys developed by Marx depicting famous folks of the day. (I wrote about my Chaplin one in a post that can be found here.)

The notable difference between the Penner version and mine is that the earlier one sported a hat which bounced along in a jolly way as he walked and Joe also smokes a cigar. As noted above, the duck remained (his duck named Goo Goo) and so my butter and egg man appears to be selling duck eggs.

While the motion of the hat and the addition of the cigar are great, I prefer the Butter and Egg Man version. This Joe Penner version is not in the Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Over time the ever resourceful Marx company form morphs slightly to accommodate the likes of others such as this Popeye toy below. The major adjustment is the lost of the duck replaced by cases on both sides.

Popeye is not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Our fellow winds up admirably and we took him for a few runs, one of which is shown below featuring our laundry bag and Kim helping with the action. His action is worth seeing.

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