by Art Chantry ( email@example.com)
dorothy stimson bullit was the daughter of northwest lumber and real-estate magnate c.d.stimson and the widow of kentucky politico (and FDR pal), a. scott bullit. in the mid 1940’s, the newly single heiress/tycoon looked around at the estate she possessed and at the all-male business climate surrounding her and went to work. in 1947 she purchased radio stations and managed to obtain the call letters KING. legend has it the call-letters were originally licensed to a shipping vessel and she rowed out to the ship in a rowboat (with a bottle of champaign) to sweet talk and buy the call letters from the captain (who simply asked for a donation to his church in payment).
in 1948, the fledgling king broadcasting network bought the staggeringly small 5-yr-old pioneer KRSC television station (the very first television station in the northwest) and rechristened it “KING-TV”. the reason “KING” was a such a desirable call name is that seattle, it’s largest market, was situated in KING county in washington state. thus, KING-TV to this very day uses the slogan “first in the northwest!” with great and honest pride. dorothy bullitt was a tough and innovative and daring businesswoman.
please note this old promotional advert from a june, 1952, edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (the local seattle morning paper). this ad was paced in a special section dedicated to the wonderful new medium of television. mostly it talked about tv’s magic and described the sports events you could see (television’s primary and original market was live sports). there’s endless adverts for the new model tv’s (many still with small round screens.) one klassy floor unit even had real baseball bats for legs! amazing.
but, look and see that really cool little mascot that KING-TV had. his name was “king mike” (get it?) and was originally the logo dorothy bullit commissioned for the KING radio station. in fact, she also had another mascot created at the same time for her other radio station in portland to the south. in that case, the little microphone man was dressed up in buckskins and was nicknamed “pioneer mike” (sorry i can’t find one to show you.) when she bought the television station, she simply used her existing character trademark because it was established and because it metaphorically made sense to sell the notion of TV to a ‘Radio world’ by using even a “microphone” metaphor. it was all considered ‘broadcasting’ back then – picture or not. them were the days, eh? so simple, so cute.
but, what i think is particularly worth noting is who actually created this novelty trademark. you see, the bullits and the stimsons are extremely wealthy families with vast cultural and political ties and connections (they still are actively involved in the arts and politics today). they invested and made friends and socialized with the highest echelons of society that was there to offer. being west coasties, they had big connections into california and the business opportunities there as well.
so, dorothy called an old family friend for help when she wanted a logo. she rang up walt disney. this wonderful little character brand was created by walt disney himself for his old friend dorothy bullit. amazing, huh?
me thinks dorothy was not only a ‘bullit’, she was real pistol.
AC: they had revival of the logo when ‘retro’ became cool. frankly, i think they completely forgot about it for decades. then, some design geeks pointed out it was a real disney. after that they began promoting the hell out of it. even animated it….logos changed dramatically in the early 80’s when chuck anderson and the duffy group (combined with all those old ‘collection books’ of old logos from the US and germany and japan) killed off the abstract corporate logo. since then illustrative logos have been all the rage again. character logos are definitely back in the norm….