Burns and Allen mug before the NBC microphone
Hormel promoted its Spam processed meat product over The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
Female production line employees put the finishing touches on cases of SPAM (1939)
This 1939 advertising supplement by Hormel touted both the loyalty of Hormel employees to their plants and Hormel's loyalty to and importance to their various plants' communities. In 1939 fully a quarter of the population of Austin, Minnesota, the company's headquarters, was employed by Hormel. Even more noteworthy given current events, is the highlighted employee's ownership of a two-story home for his family on the wages of a ham-boner--a factory ham-boner, not a commercial butcher.
Hormel Spam ad featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen from November 1st 1940
Hormel also promoted its Hormel Chili Con Carne over The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
During World War II Hormel instituted two-color packaging for domestic SPAM tins as an economy measure.
During the mid-1940s forward, a group of 44-60 female ex-GIs toured the U.S. as The Hormel Girls. They also appeared over Radio in several series' of their own.
Premiere spot ad for The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show for Hormel and Spam from July 1st 1940
Artie Shaw and his orchestra replaced Ray Noble for The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
The three Smoothies--Rosalind 'Babs' Stuart and brothers Charlie and Little Ryan--served as the vocalists for The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
Popular West Coast announcer 'Bud' Hiestand was the spokesperson and announcer for The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
Announcer Jimmy Wallington replaced Bud Hiestand for the last eight weeks of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show when it moved the production to New York
George Burns and Gracie Allen's five seasons over CBS launched a Burns & Allen franchise over Radio, in Film and on Television spanning twenty-six years. Burns & Allen's Radio programs spanned eighteen of those years:
Needless to say, as George Burns and Gracie Allen's fame and popularity continued to rise there were no end of sponsors willing to promote their goods with Burns & Allen as their headliners.
The George Armour Hormel Company sponsors Burns and Allen's ninth Radio program
Though not a newcomer to network Radio, the George A Hormel Company managed to coax George Burns and Gracie Allen away from both Lehn & Fink and CBS for Burns and Allen's ninth outing over Radio. Thus Burns and Allen returned yet again to the National Broadcasting Company's NBC-Red network for The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show for Hormal and Spam.
The promotional film, 'This Is Hormel' documents a plant tour of the Hormel company of the mid-1960s. iPad, iPhone and iPod users can view it here.
Panoramic view of one of the larger Hormel plants of 1939
George Armour Hormel's dynasty as a meatpacker of predominately canned meat products began in 1891 as the George A. Hormel and Company. Initially a conventional meatpacking company based in Austin, Minnesota, by 1927 under the leadership of his son Jay, the company expanded into canned ham and beef stew. In 1937 Hormel introduced its iconic 'SPAM' brand, a combination of canned ham and pork shoulder meat. In addition to its various promotional campaigns in Print and Radio, SPAM grew even greater acceptance--or revulsion, as personal tastes reflected--as a staple component of G.I. rations throughout World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam era. Indeed during at least 1943, when the U.S. Mint issued its famous pressing of steel pennies--'steelies'--Hormel produced its SPAM tins in a monocolor theme a wartime economy measure.
In researching George A. Hormel's history we encountered several ambiguities regarding Hormel's birth date, actual age, and actual middle name. All of the biographies we encountered gave Hormel's middle name as 'Albert.' But when we began retrieving specific contemporary news articles from the era we enountered this article from the December 5th 1908 edition of the Austin [Minnesota] Daily Herald:
Celebrates Birthday of
George A. Hormel with Large Gathering
One of the most enjoyable meetings the Birthday club has ever held was that given at the home of A.L. Eberhard Friday evening when Mr. and Mrs. G.F. Baird and Mr. and Mrs. A.L. Eberhard entertained the club. All members excepting two were present, and Mrs. E.S. Selby, Mrs. Walter Waldron and Bert Sherwood were guests of the club.
At seven o'clock dinner was served the entire company sitting down to one long table which was extended through living room, hall and den. Two little roast pigs, brown as berries, and looking as comfortable as in their pens, with ears of corn in their mouths, whetted the appetites of the guests, and abundant justice was done to the elegant dinner served. A birthday cake bearing forty-eight lighted candles was placed before Mr. Hormel to remind him of his birthday.
A delightful evening of music and fun followed.
After dinner when cigars were passed, the following biography of Mr. Hormel was read:
GEORGE A. HORMEL
George Armour Hormel was born in Buffalo, N.Y., Dec. 4, 1860, and his mother was greatly pleased when it was announced that she had a son of the 'dairy brand." Georgie was a most precocious boy and there is reason to believe that his prenatal request was "Put me off at Buffalo." This made him a Buffalo at a very early age, later he joined the Elks. Those who saw him in his babyhood say he was a beautiful child. He was large for his age and soon outgrew his crib, and his little pink toes extended beyond the bottom railing and were much admired by the girls of the neighborhood who came daily to play with Georgie's little toes, and to repeat the old rhyme, "This little pig went to market, this little pig stayed at home." Whenever this was said little Georgie would yell with delight. And here we have one of those striking illustrations of the truism, "As the twig is bent, the trees inclined." The constant repetition of the little pig story found lodgment in the infantile mind and the idea was then conceived of sending little pigs to market, and marking them with Hormel brand before they went. We find in the life of the child a remarkable series of incidents that all pointed to the life work of the man. He built packing houses with his child's blocks and vociferiously called for more when he had his toy house as big as he could make it with the blocks at hand. When given a Noah's Ark he threw them all over the fence except the pigs. These he cherished with especial care and cornered all the toy pigs of his companions. If he had had them he would have traded a dozen teddy bears for one little pig.
Nor was the trait peculiar to his infancy. When he went to school the first piece he ever spoke was Lamb's Dessertation on a Roast Pig. When he studied literature he preferred Bacon to Shakespeare and Hogg to Hawthorne. In Sunday school it is recounted that he shed tears when he was told of the herd of swine that were driven into the sea. He considered that a wicked waste of good pork. But that had happened before there were government inspectors to say how much devil was detrimental in food stuff. He astounded the church elders by his argument against the Mosaic law which declared the pig an unclean animal. In his old composition books we discovered some of his early poems, showing that Georgie was not always the matter-of-fact business man he is to-day. Here is one:
"There's music in the moaning pines,
There's music in the leaves,
There's music in the church bell chimes,
There's music in the trees,
There's music in great nature's harp
That stirs the hearts that feel
But nothing stirs my heart so deep,
As when a pig doth squeal".
Here is another headed, "Thanksgiving":
"Come let us raise a joyful sound,
A sound to beat the band,
And all unite to sound the praise
Of Hormel's Dairy Brand."
But to the man whose ear was attuned to the music of the pines and the leaves, the thunderings of Niagara were disturbing. He longed to get away from their noisy demonstration. At that time Horace Greeley was proclaiming "Go west young man, go west." George listened to the call and obeyed its summons. He came to Minnesota. For a time he did not recognize the golden opportunity about him. His first demonstration of rare ability was exhibited when he married an Austin Belle. It takes a good head to pick out a good wife. There are a lot of men in Austin with good heads. It often seems that the men make better selections than their wives do. But this is not a history of the Birthday club but a biography. From the time of George's marriage his success began to be marked. He built a packing house one year, added to it the next, then added to it the next year, and the next and the next and the next and he is still adding. This year he built an office. It is the story of the playing blocks all over again. He still wants more blocks and he still wants more pigs. Mr. Hormel's politics is best expressed by a little poem found on his desk during the last campaign:
"I care not if a candidate,
Eats pie with a knife or fork,
But I never vote for any man
Who won't eat pork."
Mr. Hormel has had the honor of being a member of our city council, but it is not true that he learned his business methods while on that board. He made a splendid alderman and was never re-elected. But he was later chosen a member of the light and power board. The council thought that a man who could make money out of pig squeals could perhaps make a municipal plant pay and he did.
Personally Mr. Hormel is blessed with a sunny, amiable temper. His associates all testify to that strong characteristic of the man. Things may go wrong, machinery break, orders not be filled, the markets may go cris cros, but you can count on his smile at the buffets of fortune and his song, "Keep Sweet," rising above the din of the packing house. None but the most confirmed optimist can take trouble and vexations with so light a heart as George Armour Hormel.
While not a society man or a huge success as a parlor gladiator, he has taken a deep interest in the Birthday club. In an unpublished interview he gave the following as his reason: "You have succeeded in getting members into that club with such marvelous appetites, that I am always reminded of the raw material at the packing house, and so it never takes my mind off from business when I go to the Birthday club. I think it is a club which should be encouraged for I know of no more splendid body of consumers of the face of the earth."
Such then is the man at 48, in the prime of life. What the coming years will bring him and make of him can only be conjectured. That he may prosper and improve and live to celebrate 48 more birthdays is the wish of every member in this club which so gladly does him honor to-night.
Given the typically florid newspaper prose of the era, we were left wondering whether George A Hormel's birthday celebration was more in the vein of a tongue-in-cheek roast as opposed to a conventional birthday observances. "Dairy Brand" referred to in the article was George A Hormel and Company's first registered patent and trademark. Historically intriguing is the author's account of Hormel's middle name as "Armour," which would certainly beg the question as to a possible association with the 'Armour and Company' dynasty of Philip Danforth Armour.
By 1939 Hormel produced 315 distinct products ranging from traditional fresh picnic hams to fertilizer and other production plant by-products. Consistently one of America's most socially and evironmentally conscious Fortune 500 companies, Hormel has remained uncharacteristically loyal to its employees, its hundreds of supporting communities, and the environment. Among its many extraordinary practices over its history, Hormel has:
- Provided as much as 52 weeks' notice of discharge or layoff to employees during periods of austerity.
- During World War I Hormel employees bought Liberty bonds and donated an hour's wages per day to the Red Cross. It also began employing females for the first time in the industry.
- In response to a major labor strike during 1933 Jay C. Hormel instituted numerous innovative labor initiatives such as profit-sharing, the above mentioned 52 weeks' severance notice, merit pay, and a pension plan.
- Employed 'green' methods of dealing with waste water and waste by-products throughout its hundreds of plants (from as early as 1921).
- Given back millions of dollars to the communities which have supported its plants in the form of The Hormel Foundation, municipal parks, museums, scholarships and Social Services grants.
From the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s Hormel sponsored several popular variety programs during Radio's Golden Age:
- 1936 Hormel Chili Beaners
- 1936 Saturday Night Swing Club
- 1936 Swing with the Strings
- 1939-1950 It Happened in Hollywood
- 1940 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
- 1949 Girls' Corps
- 1949 Hormel Girl's Band
- 1949 Music With the Hormel Girls
Burns and Allen 'swing' back to NBC for Hormel
Burns and Allen never lacked for great Music talent for their programs over the years. For The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show for Hormel and Spam it was the legendary Swing clarinetist Artie Shaw and his 22-piece orchestra that served up the instrumentals for the new NBC program.
From the March 11th 1941 edition of the Joplin Globe:
NEW YORK DAY BY DAY
BY CHARLES B. DRISCOLL
New York.A pleasant lunch, long protracted, at the Algonquin with George Burns and Gracie Allen leaves me with a happy feeling.
Once more I have been mistaken in an unfair snap judgment and prejudice against people whom I didn't know.
While I have laughed at Burns and Allen many times, hearing their persistent funny patter on the air and on the stage, I have always thought I didn't like them personally. Just one of those silly prejudices some of us get about people much in the public eye.
I couldn't give any reason for not liking these two people, I just didn't like them. Personally, they would be extremely obnoxious to me, I was sure.
How unfair and cruel such judgments can be! Not that Burns and Gracie give a hoot what I thought about them. Not that I could damage their great popularity by what I thought about them, or even said.
But it is unfair to oneself to harbor unfounded prejudices.
Anyway, I've spent two and a half hours talking with two of the most unassuming and charming show people I've ever met, George Burns and his red-headed, bright, intelligent little wife, Gracie Allen.
The chief impression I carry away from this fortunate luncheon is the modesty and earnest endeavor of the two successful showfolk.
There is no cockiness about either one of them. They are as anxious about their jobs as though they were just starting out in life. They want to please the public; they work hard on their acts, and they have a genuine artist's haunting fear that maybe it won't go over the next time.
I have seldom met a real artist of any kind who was satisfied with his work, who boasted about his perfection, who went about telling the world how good he was. That kind of fellow usually has a ghost doing his work. He is strutting somebody else's stuff. He isn't an artist, a creator, at all.
George M. Cohan is one of the most successful theatrical men in all history.
He is so modest about his work that you might gather from a conversation with him a feeling that he has no faith in himself. That isn't the case. He knows what he can do; but he also knows that show business is tricky, and that tomorrow's venture may hang upon one genuine handicap. You'll never hear Cohan talking about how good he is. But it is easy to get him to talk about the flops he has been in.
Gracie Allen has made millions laugh by her professional dumb-bell character on the stage and on the air.
I hate to disillusion you, but she is one of the most intelligent actresses it has been my good fortune to meet.
They told me about an experience they had at the White House, when they entertained the president. I don't know whether they're pro-Roosevelt or anti. But they had a good time out of their White House appearance.
George admitted that they were both scared to death. He said they hated to flop in such distinguished company. Well, the little audience was friendly and the president laughed immoderately at the gags. The show was a success.
But then, they didn't know how they should act when Mrs. Roosevelt greeted them after the entertainment, to thank them for coming.
Even as you and I, these two troupers were embarrassed, befuddled, not knowing what one says to a president's wife.
So Gracie said, "I saw you once, Mrs. Roosevelt, at So-and-so's dress shop, in New York."
"Oh, do you buy your clothes there, too?" asked the lady.
Then they went into a huddle about clothes. Just two women, going over the old subject again. George is proud of Gracie for that.
George told me how he happened to fire his chauffeur. He never had had a chauffeur before, but he was feeling rich, and he didn't like to drive.
This one was too obsequious. George hated the moment when the chauffeur would jump out and open the door for him. George had always opened his own doors, and felt like a sissy when the English chauffeur did it for him, bowing ever so slightly. There was always a race to see who could open the door first.
And George always had the car stopped some distance from the destination, because he didn't want his friends to see him being waited upon by a full-grown man.
But one day, while walking along Fifty-second street, Manhattan, with a friend, George mentioned the fact that he wanted a cigar and had left his supply in the car.
The English chauffeur popped right up from the rear, where he had been following, and opened before the astounded George and his frienda humidor filled with choice cigars.
"Go back and put that thing in the car, and drive the car home. And you're fired!" cried the embarrassed
(Released by McNaught syndicate. Inc.)
And from the May 2nd 1941 edition of the Oakland Tribune:
Is SO Silly
Hollywood's No. 1
Has Writer on Run
By JOHN TRUESDELL
Hollywood, May 2.--"Gracie Allen and George Burns, will you please take the stand. Tell me, Miss Allen does -----"
"Oh, just call me Gracie. Everyone does--even the garbage man. If it's good enough for the garbage man, it's good enough for you."
"Now, Gracie, that wasn't a very tactful way to put it."
"Georgie, you hush up. We have a very nice garbage man in Beverly Hills. He's a sort of a rambling wreck from Georgia collect."
"Yes, mmmmmmmm. I see what you mean, Gracie."
"I beg your pardon, Miss Allen, I don't want to break in on your and George's next week's radio routine. I only wanted to -----"
"Oh, you listen to the radio? Isn't that cute! Georgie, he listens to the radio."
"Yes, isn't it."
PLUG FOR HARRIS
"You know, my Uncle Lester listens to the radio and he's just crazy about Phil Harris. Speaking of Phil Harris--gee, he's a brawny, big wonderful fellow. In fact, every time I look at Phil I think--there but for the grace of God goes Georgie."
"Quiet, Gracie, Quiet! This man has identified himself as a newspaper man. What you say he'll print."
" Oh, you're a printer."
"No, no, Gracie, he's a writer."
"I knew a writer once. What a wonderful fellow! He wrote with his toes."
"Wrote with his toes?"
"Sure. He didn't have any arms and he'd draw Edinburgh Castle with his toes on Santa Monica Beach sand and then write with his toes 'Edinburg Castle' right under the picture. He got a lot of money that way. People would throw dimes and quarters at him. Tell me, Mr.----- Mr.----"
"Call me John."
"Well, then, tell me, do you write with your -----"
"No, Gracie, no--don't say it. Now maybe if you have any more questions for Gracie I had better answer them. Gracie gets sort of-----well-----sort of mixed up."
"Thank you, Mr. Burns. There are one or two more. Do you think-----"
GRACIE SLIGHTLY FUDDLED
"Excuse me, Georgie, for breaking in, but there's a question I'd like to ask Mr.-----Mr.-----"
"Call him John."
"Don't be silly. Of course I'll call him John. We are old friends. The only thing I wanted to say was--I read your column and I like it, especially when you have something in it about Gracie Allen. But there are times when I just can't stand it!"
"All right then, tell him, Gracie. Be Frank and tell him what it is that you don't like."
"It's just that sometimes I think his columns are awfully silly."