From a distance, they don't look like much -- a small stack of gray cardboard rectangles with blue designs.
On closer inspection, they proved to be cereal prizes from the late 1930s. The left side of each card reads:
Tony Sarg's Animal Circus
In every package of National Biscuit Shredded Wheat are 3 Animal Cards. After coloring them with crayons, show them to your Mother or Teacher. Punch holes through circles and tie together. Ask Mother to get more "National Biscuit Shredded Wheat," the original Niagara Falls product, so you can get all 35 cards.
This child (whoever he or she was) had collected and saved seven of the cards. In the center of each is the cartoon animal picture you're supposed to color with crayons. And on the right is a poem and what would later be called a "factoid" about the real animal.
|Billy Goat on Ball|
|Seal with Ball|
These are busy animals, entertaining and educating us while we eat breakfast.
So who was Tony Sarg, the creator of these talented critters? A few minutes' online searching told me that Sarg was a renowned puppeteer and illustrator in the first half of the 20th century. He is well-known for designing the first helium-filled animal balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1928, and for designing Macy's animated storefront windows in the 1930s and '40s.
Certain life lessons are common to many children, including the quest for that special box of breakfast cereal with the prize inside. The stuffing of the small hand (and forearm) inside the box. Feeling carefully among the cereal bits for the prize itself. Removing the small treasure, and then realizing that your parents expect you to eat the cereal, too, whether you like it or not.
Shredded Wheat has certainly stood the test of time, although it's not being actively marketed to kids anymore. I'm glad the child who had to eat those boxes of cereal back in the 1930s, saved the prizes inside so we could see them now, and learn about Tony Sarg.
Here's what a box of Shredded Wheat looked like in the late 1930s: http://www.thestrong.org/online-collections/nmop/5/18/95.399
Here is a 1922 animated short film by Tony Sarg:
Here is a 1929 video of Tony Sarg's marionettes:
And here's a short piece of rare footage of one of Sarg's inflatable creatures, from 1937:
Here's Tony's Sarg's bio at the Internet Movie Database:
Here's a website that provides a short biography of Tony Sarg and lots of pictures of his work: