Obscurity of the Day: The Brown Family

Perhaps the most historically intriguing of Melvin Tapley’s strips is this one, The Brown Family. It was an ad strip for Brown Bomber Bread, produced by a 100% black owned and operated bakery in New York City. The bakery named its flagship product after boxing hero Joe Louis, nicknamed the Brown Bomber, though they seemed never to have gotten him to actually endorse the product.

The bakery seems to have started up in the late 30’s, and by 1940 they had marketed their bread so effectively to the black consumer market that housewives would reportedly go into a grocery store, order all their groceries,  then, as the last item on the list, request a loaf of Brown Bomber bread. If the grocer could not provide it they would walk out of the store, leaving all their groceries behind. Inspiring such fervor for their bread was no wonder with advertising lines like “11 cents spent for Brown Bomber gives you double value…a loaf of tempting delicious bread plus part payment of some Negro’s salary.”

In 1942 Brown Bomber began a new comic strip marketing campaign in conjunction with Mel Tapley of the Amsterdam News. The Brown Family ran weekly, extolling the virtues of Brown Bomber bread from January 24 to September 12. Some of the strips tie in to other Brown Bomber marketing gimmicks, like the ‘Inquiring Fotog’ referenced in the final strip above.

What I’d like to know is whatever happened to Brown Bomber bread? The product was so skillfully marketed I can’t imagine that the bakery went out of business, but I see no references to the brand past the early 40s. What happened? Did Joe Louis finally object to them trading on his nickname?

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