Post War Comic book Advertising

 The post war period in America brought on radical changes in the availability of all consumer goods and the way they were marketed. This was just as true in the bicycling world. As stated in another article, the primary bicycle market had shifted toward kids’ and juvenile bikes many years before the second world war. Now that the war was over production swiftly ramped up and competition became fierce amongst the large bicycle manufacturers. Company’s like Schwinn, Murray, Huffy and Westfield Mfg. all turned to a very popular reading source for kids, comic books to market their bikes.


 The Marketing community found that comic strip like ads inserted in comic books would get the interest of kids, their primary market. Further, the kids would be encouraged to send away for a free catalog, often in the shape of a poster that could be hung on their wall. For free of for a few cents would even get the child a cool premium such as the whistle seen in  some of the 1948 advertisements. The Christmas ads were of course the culmination of the years’ bombardment on the kids. “Dad, buy me a new Columbia for Christmas” was the hoped for cry by children every ware for the Columbia advertisers.

 Please scroll down and check out some of the comic book advertising from this period. Besides send-a-ways there is plenty of contests, celebrities, and  cross advertising. Enjoy!

 This ad from 1947 encourages kids to learn bicycle and road safety. For 10cents they could send for a “rotating-dial” GUIDE TO CYCLING RULES OF THE ROAD featuring of course a Columbia bike.




 A contest in conjunction with the breakfast cereal Wheaties was held in 1948, the winner to be announced on the Jack Armstrong radio show.



 1948 brought one of my favorite Columbia ad campaigns, “DAYDREAM MIKE and his WONDERFUL BIKE!”  In 1948 a great little whistle could be had for a mere 15 cents. Mike always saved the day (in his mind) on his Columbia bike.





 Christmas of 48’ takes a break from Mike to give Santa a chance to make his sales pitch.


 1949 offers a chance to promote the new “Floating Action Spring Fork“. I think that bird feels a little uncomfortable sharing his cloud with a cowboy.


 Daydream Mike continued his imagined exploits in 1949. They always encouraged the youngsters to send for the free poster catalog of Columbia bikes.





 Santa is back for Christmas of 49’. This time with the new spring fork.


 1950 Brings the new Mid-Century line of Columbia bikes.



 1951 Has yet another contest with bikes and cash prizes.





 1952 was a big year for Columbia. This was their 75th Anniversary.  Promotion of their exclusive features like the FLOATING ACTION SPRING FORK, BUILT-IN KICK STAND, and PROTECTO-LOCK continued to be in the ads. The new “lifetime Guarantee” was now promoted.




 1954 had Columbia teamed up with Popsicle in this dual advertising contest. Abbott and Costello arrive just in time to give the kids the confidence they need to enter.


 1957 and Snow Crop Lemon-aid teamed up for a Columbia Fire-Arrow give-away.


  By the late 50’s all the contests all the celebrities seem to be gone. Just send for a free catalog. 





  This 1962 ad announces 50 “EXCITING MODELS”. The advertising by the 60’s seems less exciting than in the past though.


 Columbia continued to advertise in comic books through the 60’s but less frequently. Ten-Speeds and Light Weight models were featured in this 1964 ad.


 1965 brings in something new for Columbia, The muscle bike. This type of bike was a radical departure from what kids rode previously. 20 inch wheels, the “Banana Seat” and high rise handlebars were now all the rage. Schwinn of course came out with theirs’ first but it did not take Columbia long to follow. The first  Columbia muscle bike was called the “PLAYBOY”.  The adult magazine quickly sued and the name was changed to “PLAYBIKE” the following year.


 By the late 60’s the muscle bike wars continued to produce some radical designs as is seen in this 1969 mod MACH ad.



 1971 shows that Columbia Bikes are RIGHT ON! POW! WHAM! ZAP! BOOM! I wonder what TV Show this was stolen from?



 There continued to be sporadic comic book advertising by Columbia in the 70’s and by the early 80’s BMX bikes would be featured. The BMX bike and Columbia’s part in that sport is a subject for another page.


Below we see the November 1981 issue of Dennis the Mennice featuring a Grand Prize Givaway for a new Columbia Bike.



 I hope you enjoyed this retrospective of Columbia’s part in comic book advertising. I know I had a blast going over the old ads. It made me appreciate where some of the premiums like the Columbia whistles came from and the excitement  a kid must have felt waiting for it to arrive in the mail. I don’t think I want to grow up!



     Kenneth  A  Kowal

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