One the most popular collections at the American Heritage Center is the papers of William Boyd, who played cowboy Hopalong Cassidy for many years on radio, television, and film. Hopalong Cassidy was originally created by author Clarence E. Mulford in 1904 in a series of short stories and novels. William Boyd first brought Hoppy to life in a 1934 film adaptation of Mulford’s story. He portrayed Hoppy in many more films, on a television series beginning in 1949, and voiced Hoppy in a radio show. The character became enormously popular and Boyd acquired all rights to the Hopalong character in 1948. He consolidated all Hopalong enterprises and began a highly profitable business through promotion of the character. Boyd donated some of his profits to children’s hospitals and homes. Boyd married actress Grace Bradley in 1937. He retired in 1953, and died in 1972.
The William Boyd collection contains a wide variety of materials; everyone is sure to find something in the collection that would pique their interest. The collection has materials concerning Boyd’s portrayal of Hopalong Cassidy and his many related promotional and business ventures. It contains correspondence, legal files, financial files, newspaper clippings, promotional and publicity materials, and other business records. In the collection, you can also find Hopalong Cassidy scripts and comics, sheet music, phonograph records, and photographs of William Boyd. There are also a large number of artifacts, including Hopalong Cassidy costume items, toys, and other merchandise. A small amount of William Boyd’s personal files are also present.
Due to Hopalong Cassidy’s immense popularity, he had merchandising and tie-in deals with a wide range of brands and products. Interestingly, three products he most heavily seemed to promote were bread, tuna, and dairy products (especially ice cream). This is due, in part, to his popularity with children. Of course little Timmy wants his sandwiches to be made with Hoppy’s favorite bread and tuna! Not only does the collection contain correspondence and other business files pertaining to his merchandising and promotional deals, but you can also find examples of the original packaging used for various products. Hopalong Cassidy games, toys, and children’s cowboy clothes (sanctioned by Hopalong Cassidy, of course!) are also contained in the collection.
There are numerous scripts in the collection for his radio, television, and film productions, as well as contracts and copyright agreements for the stories. In the 1950s, a Hopalong Cassidy comic strip was produced by King Features Syndicate. The collection contains a nearly complete run of these comics, which are a blast to read though. Would you like to see Hopalong Cassidy’s saddle, boots, hats, and other apparel? The collection has these, too! How about his holster and six-shooters? Yep, these can also be found at the AHC! Do you want to learn how to play all the old Hopalong Cassidy songs? Well, we’ve got the sheet music just for you! Did you write a fan letter to Hoppy as a child? Maybe you can find it in the fan mail folder!
There are also a large number of scrapbooks filled with newspaper and magazine clippings detailing William Boyd’s activities as Hopalong Cassidy, as well as a large number of photographs. The photographs include movie stills from his various productions, publicity photographs of William Boyd at various events, and a number of photographs with him and his wife, Grace Bradley Boyd. Whether you’re looking to do serious research or just experience a blast from the past by looking at old toys, games, and original Hoppy apparel, this collection has it all.
–Emily Christopherson, Processing Archivist
IN THE LATE 1950s MY PARENTS WERE TOURING EUROPE AND ON THE ISLE OF CAPRI WERE NEXT TO WILLIAM BOYD AND HIS WIFE GRACE BRADLEY ONE EVENING AT DINNER … KNOWING HOPPY WAS MY FAVOURITE COWBOY STAR MY MOTHER BEGAN TALKING WITH THEM … SHE SAID HOPPY WAS PLEASED TO KNOW HE HAD A YOUNG CANADIAN FAN AND SAID TO GIVE HIM MY NAME, ADDRESS AND MY SIZE … WHEN MY PARENTS RETURNED SHE SAID TO EXPECT SOMETHING FROM HOPPY … WAS THINKING IT MIGHT BE A T-SHIRT, WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN SUPER … MONTHS LATER A VERY LARGE BOX, PROBABLY 3′ x 2′ WAS DELIVERED … WHEN I GOT HOME FROM SCHOOL MY MOTHER HAD SPREAD EVERYTHING OUT ON BED … HAT / SHIRT / PANTS / GUNBELT / GUNS /
BADGE / GLOVES / EVERYTHING !!!!! … EVERYONE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD SAW ME RIDING MY BIKE FULLY RIGGED OUT FOR WEEKS THAT SUMMER … STILL HAVE EVERYTHING BACK IN ORIGINAL BOX AND HAVE BROUGHT IT OUT A FEW TIMES FOR MEMORABILIA SHOWS … I WAS A MOST FORTUNATE FELLOW.
That’s such a great story! William Boyd really did a lot for Hoppy’s fans
I am 73 and watch Hopalong on Sat. morn. on Direct Tv. How I wish we have someone such as Hoppy today for our youth to follow. God Bless
Thanks for sharing your comment Jacqueline. What fun Saturday mornings you have!
What were the names of the sponsors for Hopalong’s TV shows in the fifties?
Thanks for the question Stephen. I’ll research this and send you an answer. Please note that it generally takes 30-60 days to receive an answer.
Stephen, thanks for your patience on receiving an answer. Unfortunately, the contracts and business records in the William Boyd papers do not provide information about who the show sponsors were in the 1950s. I’m sending you an email to the address associated with your WordPress account with a sample scan of the business records so that you can see the information we do have available here.
Hoppy was my hero in the 1950’s and when he parated riding
his beautiful white horse Topper In Witchita,Kansas his train stopped In Lost Springs,Kansas. And thats where I got to meet and shake hands with my hero Hopalong. I now watch his movies on tubi
Where was the parade shot taken, and what year? Thanks, Harry…Hopalong Cassidy on parade, Box 115, Negative Number 27916. William Boyd Papers, #8038. UW American Heritage Center.
more ideas on the Hoppy parade shot location (Neg. Number 27916), either Wichita Kansas or Winchester, VA. …….if you look in the lower left corner, there’s a boy with a complete Hoppy outfit, looks like the one I had in 1950 at 8 yrs. old. Thanks, Harry…..hoping you have the answer.
FYI-I found out where this parade with Hoppy was….Douglas Avenue in Wichita Kansas, early to mid 50’s……I found old photos of the Hotel Pacific & Hyde Park Dairies which was a local dairy in Wichita……hopefully you already have this info. thanks again, Harry
Thank you for your question and your assistance filling in some information Harry! It looks like we downloaded that photo from our digital collections for this blog post, so I am going to check the original negative and photo (if we have a print copy). I’ll let you know what information I find there about the photo and add any additional information that you have found. I’ll leave a reply here and send you an email to the address associated with your WordPress account. Please note that it can take 2-3 weeks for the research to be done. Thank you, American Heritage Center
Hi Again Harry, I was able to locate a print of that photo. The back of the photo says that it was taken by a photographer in Wichita, KS but we did not have a year associated with the photo. I added a note with the photo that contains the information that you found and provided to us. Thank you for finding that information and sharing it with us! I am also sending you an email with the back caption of the photo.