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Monday, December 16, 2019

Propeller Beanies

     In the United States, a beanie is a head-hugging brimless cap, with or without a visor, made from triangular panels of material joined by a button at the crown and seamed together around the sides. Commonly made of cloth or felt material, beanies may also be made from leather or silk. In some U.S. regions and parts of Canada the term "beanie" refers to a knitted cap (often woollen), alternately called a "stocking cap". 
     Early ads during World War II for propeller hats targeted parks, skating rinks and carnivals for prices of $2.50-3.50 per dozen and were probably intended to be given as prizes for the games at county fairs, etc. 
     It is generally accepted that beanie caps originated in Cadillac, Michigan in 1947 by Ray Faraday Nelson. They quickly became a favorite of science fiction fans and a national fad. 
     In the summer of 1947, Nelson was holding a regional science fiction convention in his living room when he and some others dressed up in improvised costumes to take joke photographs simulating the covers of science fiction magazines. 
     That’s when Nelson made the cap for a space hero that was made out of pieces of plastic, a piece of coat-hanger wire, some beads, a propeller from a model airplane; it was held together with staples. Shortly thereafter, it was worn by George Young of Detroit at a world convention, where it was an enormous hit. 

    After that Nelson frequently drew cartoons for science fiction magazine that portrayed science fiction fans wearing the propeller beanies. Artist Guy Pene du Bois even painted “Boy with a propeller beanie” in 1948.
     Beanie caps were further popularized by a television program, Time For Beany, a hugely popular with children. 
     Beany was a propeller beanie-wearing puppet with a sock-puppet friend called Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. Starting in 1949, it ran five times a week for five years. Soem adults, including Albert Einstein, also found the show entertaining. Beany's propeller enabled him to fly.  
     The Beany-Copter hat by Mattel featured a circular, spinning, flying propeller which could be wound up and released from the top of the dome of a plastic hat by pulling on the chinstrap. A paper label on it identified it as “Official” hat for the Beany and Cecil cartoon characters.
     Nelson went on to become a professional writer of novels and short stories. He made no profit from the fad of sales of beanie hats that followed from his idea. 
     By 1958, how the propeller beanie had become established and was even demonstrated as part of the U.S. pavillion exhibit of “How America Lives” at the Brussels Fair. Other gadgets, including glamour sunglasses, drew laughs from the Belgian workers unpacking display shipments. The U.S. pavilion seemed a joke when compared to the Russian pavilion which promoted their progress in education, heavy machinery and space exploration with the satellites. 
      In 2007, a trademark was issued to Schyling for the Copter Cap, which features a baseball style cap with a wind up circular propeller of the same principle as the earlier Mattel toy. 
     These days propeller beanies are rarely seen and are primarily worn for satirical or comedic purposes.

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