Saturday, August 20, 2016

"Professor" Damrel's Wolf Cart

"Prof. J.A. Damrel & Five Timber Wolves pulled wagon for
"CREAM of RYE", Minneapolis Cereal Co, Minnesota, 1912"

This is a promotion wagon and card 
for "Cream of Rye" cereal from 1912.

The Minneapolis Cereal Company (now called General Mills) employed "Professor" J.A. Damrel and his team of canids, sometimes listed as "five timber wolves," to go "coast to coast" advertising their product.

The story has a few holes, however, as Mace Loftus notes over at The Wolf Crossing.

For one thing, there is no evidence this team of five wolves ever got out of the orbit of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois, much less traveled from Seattle, Washington, as trumpeted in the few remaining advertising circulars of the era.

The real story appears that Professor Damrel and his wife started on the road on May 15, 1912 from their general store in Ashland, Wisconsin, and by July 30th they had reached Racine, a distance of about 374 miles in 76 days at an average speed of about 5 miles a day.

On October 17th, The Decatur Review reported that J.R. Damrel and wife drove a team of wolves into Decatur, Illinois, and that the team "is composed of three Siberian wolves, one husky, one large Alaskan dog and one timber wolf". Though Mr. Damrel said he expected to reach New York City by the middle of December, and that his dog team averaged 40 miles a day, the actual distance between Racine, Wisconsin, and Decatur, Illinois is just 277 miles, a distance traversed in 79 days at a speed of about 3.5 miles a day.

So what's the real story?

It appears Mr. Damrel dug out a litter of wolf pups near Cayuga, Wisconsin, raised them up for a year or two, trained them to pull a wagon with perhaps the addition of one or two wolf-like Alaskan sled dogs. He then sold the folks at the Minneapolis Cereal Company on a promotion for their new rye cereal, danced up a fancy story to help grease the promotion circuit (and perhaps get a free room on the way), and made a 700-mile trip of it over five months, never once tripping over his own tail in an era of weak reporting and poor long-distance communication.


No comments: