Although Outcault tried to copyright the kid and may have
profited from some products sold with his likeness, he later
discovered that only the title "The Yellow Kid" and not
his likeness were copyrighted due to an irregularity in the
application. Among the Yellow Kid products, as comic historian Ian Gordon points out, there
were at least two Yellow Kid chewing gums, including the
Outcault-licensed Adams' Yellow Kid Gum and the nonlicensed
Grove's Yellow Kid Gum.1 Other
Yellow Kid products included pins, cigar boxes, sheet music,
dolls, cap bombs, postcards, and a number of spin-off variety
skits and theater productions. Gordon attributes Outcault's abandonment of the character to Outcault' s inability
to effectively profit from the Kid.1
The Yellow Kid also offers an early example of using youth
to market to adults. Stuart Ewen writes: "Beyond the transformation
of the period of childhood and adolescence into a period
of consumption, youth was also a broad cultural symbol of
renewal, of honesty, and of criticism against injustice—the
young have always provided a recurrent rejection of the ancient
virtues of 'the establishment' at times when more mature
citizens consent and sit back."1 The
Kid certainly cast himself as anti-establishment celebrity,
a role appropriate for a yellow journal reporting on the
ills of city life. Ewen notes that using youth ultimately
becomes a language of control to exploit youth for economic
purposes—and earn the parents hard-earned money.1 By
acting as a commercial selling point for yellow journals,
Outcault was in fact part of the establishment and in "control" of his audience.
1 Gordon, Ian. Comic Strips and Consumer Culture, 1890-1945. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998. 32.
2 Gordon 33. Outcault
was more careful in licensing Buster Brown in 1902 for the New
York Herald (37).
3 Ewen, Stuart. Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1976. 139.
4 Ewen 142.