Deke's Collection: Whitman Premium BLBs

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Big Little Books Premiums Etc., Whitman Publishing, 1930s

"The story of the Big Little Books premium and offshoot editions is a convoluted one. Many of the premium variants ans special publications are known under a variety of names, but here is a general overview. From 1933-35, Whitman published a series of softcover BLBs - including two variations titled The Big Little Book of Magic and Mickey Mouse for Treasure Island - that were designed as giveaways for products like Cocomalt chocolate drink, toothpaste, and even gasoline. These variants had a distinctive three-color cover that featured different illustrations than the regular hardcover editions of the same titles. While some were shortened reprints of standard format BLBs, often featuring altered or completely redrawn artwork, others were entirely new in content. These softcover variants were 192 to 288 pages each.

Following this short-lived softcover run, Whitman next provided smaller premium titles in sets of eight to distributors Karmetz and Perkins for use by companies as promotional items. Sears & Roebuck, Pan-Am Gas, Kool-Aid (Lemix-Korlix), Tarzan Ice Cream (Lily-Tulip Co.), and many other stores and manufacturers used the books as giveaways. A third set was handled by an unknown distributor and had an as yet indeterminate number of titles. The 48-page books in the first two sets were not bound but had heavy paper color covers and were stapled together. The books in the third set were similarly assembled but were 64 pages long. In all cases, these premium books used BLB content that was severely edited and rewritten to accommodate the smaller page count and size.

Whitman published three Mickey Mouse Christmas-time premium books in a similar style, two for Macy's Department Stores in 1934 and 1935 (Mickey Mouse and Minnie at Macy's and Mickey Mouse nad Minnie March to Macy's) and one for Stewart's Toyland in 1935 (Mickey Mouse and the Magic Carpet). All three were 144 pages each.

From 1934-36, Whitman contracted with Lily-Tulip, the Tarzan Ice Cream company, to publish numbered 132-page premium books available to consumers by trading in 12 ice cream cup lids for each book. The books in turn featured coupons on the back covers that could be collected in sets of 12 for a "Grand Prize."

One offshoot dubbed Top-Line Comics came boxed in sets of three books. The proportions were also quite different, with comic strip-based stories presented in a perfectly square format.

Other such premium, variant softcover, and offshoot Whitman BLBs are known by many other names, such as Wee Little Books (which also came boxed, but in sets of six rather than three), Top Ten Books, Chubby Little Books, Penny Books, Buddy Books, and Nickel Books."

Source: Blumberg, A. (2004). The Big Little Book Book. Timonium, MD: Gemstone Publishing.