Injun-uity Cards

Shredded Wheat

Straight Arrow was a fictional American Indian character. He was portrayed as a Comanche indian orphan raised by whites as "Steve Adams" (same initials as "Straight Arrow"). Each Straight Arrow tale had Steve reverting to his true "secret Indian identity" in order to right some wrong, often committed against the indians. In these efforts Steve was assisted by his golden palomino horse, Fury, and his grizzled side-kick, Packy McCloud.

Straight Arrow first made his first appearances almost simultaneously on a radio program and on "Injun-uity cards". These two projects were tightly coordinated projects backed by the National Biscuit Company and its advertising agency, McCann-Erickson. After a six month test-run on a local radio station in California, the radio series and the publication of the Injun-uity cards ran parallel with each other from 1949 to 1952. Nabisco was the sole advertiser on all the radio programs.

Shredded Wheat was an American breakfast cereal made by the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco). Each portion of Shredded Wheat was a loosely-woven, pillow-shaped biscuit about 10x6x3 cm in size. A package of Shredded Wheat contained 12 such biscuits, packed in four layers with 3 biscuits in each layer. Separating these layers were three gray cardboard dividers. Starting in 1949, "Straight Arrow's secrets of indian lore and know-how" were printed on these cardboard dividers in an effort to increase the popularity of Shredded Wheat among children. Fred L. Meagher of Magazine Enterprises was the illustrator of all these cards. These cards were dubbed "Injun-uity Cards." The word, "injun-uity" is a play on words, combining the word, "injun," (a slangy, uneducated pronunciation of the word, "indian") and the word "ingenuity" meaning the ability to do things in clever ways. One topic of this "indian lore and know-how" was dealt with on each card - either making indian-style artifacts or showing correct ways of doing various outdoor activities. The cards were published in 4 series called "books." Cards from each individual Book were included in Shredded Wheat packages for a period of about 9 months. Books 1 and 2 were printed with blue ink and books 3 and 4 were printed in green. Each book consisted of 36 Injun-uity cards. All the cards of the first two books were published as an single "Injun-uity Manual" with a stapled binding in 1951. This manual was available through the mail from the National Biscuit Company for 15 cents and a Shredded Wheat box top (advertisement for manual).

In addition to the Injun-uity cards and the radio program, Straight Arrow appeared in narrative form in a comic book and a newspaper comic strip. Magazine Enterprises was the company behind all the graphic representations of Straight Arrow, the injun-uity cards, the comic book and the newspaper series, although with different constellations of writers and artists in each publication category. Fred L. Meagher was illustrator of all the injun-uity cards. Publication of the comic book and the newspaper series were somewhat out of phase with the coordinated double-whammy mutual marketing support campaigns of the radio program and Injun-uity cards. Both the comic book and the newspaper series started up about a year after the radio and Injun-uity card versions in an attempt to cash in on Nabisco's million dollar investment during the first year. But the newspaper series lasted only about a year, ending in late summer 1951. The comic book was more long-lasting, published from 1950 all the way up until 1956, a good five years longer than Straight Arrow's other incarnations.

Straight Arrow also gave rise to a great number of what at the time were called "novelties." Nabisco sold the rights to use its Straight Arrow figure on products like toys and clothing. While such things had previously occurred on a lesser scale, the enormity of the phenomenon in connection with Straight Arrow can surely rank it as an early major example of modern "merchandising."

Below are images of all the Injun-uity cards. Books 1 and 2 are pictured as they were republished as a bound manual in 1951. The black-on-white printing in the manual provides better legibility than do the original blue-on-gray cards themselves. The images of the of the Injun-uity cards from Books 3 and 4 have been scanned in from the original cards.

The images of card 7 in Book 3 and card 22 from Book 4 have been provided by Leslie Andrus, LCDR USN (Ret.) of San Diego, California. Larry Francis in Virginia has provided images of cards 20, 29 and 31 from Book 3. Bill Townsley,, Col, USAF (Ret), of Yorktown, Virginia has contributed images of cards 2 and 8 from Book 4.

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