The Deputy Dawg Show–a cartoon series from the studio Terrytoons–aired on television during the last years of legal segregation in the early 1960s, and Jim Crow in the South significantly shaped the program. The show’s official advertising agency developed promotional events for the cartoon in segregated venues. A major film company distributed episodes of the series for segregated movie theaters. Also, the program’s main character–a southern deputy as a white, anthropomorphic dog–became an unofficial symbol of southern law enforcement during the Jim Crow era, and skin color influenced how people responded to the figure.
Larz Bourne, a southerner from Tennessee, created the series while at Terrytoons in New York. He had entered the animation business in Florida, when Max Fleischer ran his studio there in the late 1930s and early ’40s. After serving in World War II, he moved to New York to work as a writer at Famous Studios, and while there he set many cartoons in the South. In the mid-’50s he relocated to Terrytoons, and in 1959 the studio began production on his Deputy Dawg series. According to the Sarasota Journal of April 25, 1963, Bourne wanted to create what he called a “Dixie-voiced” character.The program depicts the South in contemporary terms–a rarity for a cartoon. It is not set in antebellum times, unlike parodies of the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, nor does it romanticize Reconstruction as Walt Disney’s film Song of the South does. To an extent the series borrows from Disney’s presentation of southerners as anthropomorphic animals. Deputy Dawg has more social power than the other animals at the swamp–none of whom are white. Muskie Muskrat, who shares the brown skin color of African Americans, is the white dog’s most frequent antagonist. Also, Muskie is prone to stealing eggs from the Sheriff’s hen house, reflecting the ethnic stereotype of African American laborers stealing chickens from slaveholders and employers. On the other hand, Deputy Dawg drives an automobile and uses a telephone. He does not glorify the Confederacy but readily admits that the North won the Civil War in the episode Rabid Rebel. Also, many episodes gently rib regional stereotypes. “Everybody’s friendly here in the South,” says Muskie in the episode The Space Varmint; Deputy Dawg refers to the contraction “y’all” as “fluent South-land” in Welcome Mischa Mouse.
The television network CBS owned Terrytoons at the time but chose to syndicate the program instead of directly airing it. CBS hired the advertising agency Liller, Neal, Battle & Lindsey (LNBL) of Atlanta, Georgia to handle the series, and LNBL relied significantly on southern businesses to support the cartoon. Southerners William W. Neal of North Carolina, C. K. Liller of Atlanta, and James L. Battle of Atlanta founded the agency in 1940 and attracted regional sponsors for radio and television programs for years. For The Deputy Dawg Show, LNBL secured sponsorship from fellow Atlantan Herman W. Lay of Lay’s Potato Chips. Lay’s company had a strong regional consumer base, and the viewers who saw the show in the South could also buy his chips at local stores. His company invested $400,000–almost all of its budget–into sponsoring the cartoon.
CBS also used southerners to reach out to broadcasters in their region. Three of the network’s southern branch managers–James Thrash of Atlanta, George Deiderick of St. Louis, and Carter Ringslop of Dallas–pitched The Deputy Dawg Show at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in early 1960. After two weeks of sales in May 1960, CBS made $600,000 in sales to fifteen major television stations. The network packaged the 104 short cartoons comprising the series as twenty-six half-hour blocks, thus allowing four episodes per block. By the following month LNBL sold the series to forty-five markets in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and five stations outside the Deep South.
The Deputy Dawg Show was an instant success upon its debut that fall. The show topped the ratings in seventeen of the forty-five markets where it aired during November 1960. Of those seventeen cities where the program dominated, only four were not in the South. CBS immediately went to work on a second batch episodes after the reports of high ratings, and it completed another 104 films in the spring of 1961. Also, the program attracted three million viewers in over one million households between 1960 and 1962. As advertisements for Lay’s potato chips aired during the commercial breaks, the company sold fifteen percent more chips during those two years. Lay’s $400,000 gamble yielded a lucrative payoff.
However, some civil rights activists in the South saw Deputy Dawg as a symbol of police enforcement of segregation laws against African Americans. In the summer of 1961, college students integrated some chartered buses and drove through the Deep South to test recent federal desegregation of interstate buses. Officers in Mississippi arrested the “Freedom Riders,” and a judge sent them to the Maximum Security Unit at the state penitentiary. The riders loudly sang songs to keep up their spirits while incarcerated. When a portly prison deputy named G. M. Tyson told them in a thick drawl to stop singing or he would take their mattresses, they sang anyway. In Stokely Carmichael’s autobiography Ready for Revolution, he recalled that he and his fellow student inmates derisively nicknamed Tyson “Deputy Dawg.”
Segregation affected promotional gimmicks for the show. LNBL and Lay’s arranged a “Deputy Dawg Coloring Contest” at a television station in Greensboro, North Carolina in the fall of 1961, but at the time Greensboro was a community of rigid segregation and tense ethnic relations. Student activists had started anti-segregation sit-ins there in February 1960, and since then European Americans grew increasingly hostile to African Americans’ demands for civil rights. Thus, efforts at desegregation in Greensboro met with crushing resistance. The contest took place in this volatile climate, and a costumed Deputy Dawg appeared at the local station to congratulate the contest winners–all European Americans–in person.
Throughout the second season (1961-62), LNBL and Lay’s coordinated a publicity tour for The Deputy Dawg Show. They arranged for a person in costume as Deputy Dawg to greet attendees at various events and to make appearances at stores. As with their marketing to television stations, the agency and company restricted the star’s travels to the South. Consequently, African American children had to suffer Jim Crow’s humiliation in order to see Deputy Dawg in person. This idea was not novel, for such promotions for cartoons had taken place for decades. However, Deputy Dawg’s southern excursion was affected by rapid changes in Jim Crow.
When the tour began in September 1961, it barely missed becoming engulfed in a prolonged civil rights demonstration. That month the live-action Deputy Dawg visited the Midtown Shopping Center in the downtown area of Albany, Georgia. The city was semi-rural and rigidly segregated, and only the most liberal European Americans there referred to African Americans by the respectable term “Negroes.” No African Americans worked in the downtown stores, nor did they serve in the police department or in local government positions. Consequently, only European Americans greeted the star at Midtown. Later that fall the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee brought its year-old sit-in campaign to town, and the activists continued desegregation efforts there through 1963.
From Albany the sit-ins continued to spread throughout the South. Some communities responded by stubbornly holding on to Jim Crow, but others began to slowly desegregate. By the time the costumed Deputy Dawg appeared at a parade in Atlanta, Georgia in the summer of 1962, the city desegregated buses, trolleys, restaurants, movie houses, and some public schools. LNBL and Lay’s had nothing to do with this progress, but they could now claim that their character appeared at an integrated event.
Terrytoons did not produce new episodes of The Deputy Dawg Show for the 1962-63 season. While the first two seasons remained in television syndication, CBS put six old episodes in theatrical circulation via Twentieth Century-Fox. This decision once again placed the character in segregated venues. In Kingsport, Tennessee, the Taylor Drive-In Theater played the cartoons Where There’s Smoke and Nobody’s Ghoul. The character received even greater exposure in the much larger city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for Deputy Dawg episodes appeared in two theaters there. The Dalton Theater presented Big Chief No Treaty in February 1963 and Astronut twelve months later. Meanwhile, the Regina Theater ran Nobody’s Ghoul in July 1963. These facilities either excluded African Americans entirely or exiled them to balcony seats providing poor visibility of the screens.
After one more season of new episodes (1963-64), Terrytoons ceased production of The Deputy Dawg Show. Bourne created series spinoffs Astronut and Possible Possum for the studio, but neither of them generated the same intense popularity as the canine officer had. In addition, the show’s demise coincided with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the summer of 1964, which made segregation illegal. The death of Jim Crow gave Deputy Dawg the distinction as the last new cartoon character shaped by the discriminatory system. Reruns of The Deputy Dawg Show aired in syndicated television for the next two decades, but the days of costumed characters visiting “whites only” venues were over.
I wonder if Larz Bourne wrote the Famous Studios Popeye animated shorts Silly Hillbillies and my favorite Hillbilling and Cooing where scrawny Olive Oyl had rescue Popeye from a muscle bound Mountain Girl named Possum Pearl, and the one shot Possum Pearl spinoff?
I remember Both the Deputy Dawg and its spinoff Possible Possum. Deputy Dawg aired on KNXT TV 2 (Now KCBS TV 2) on Saturday mornings and later Sunday mornings and Possible Possum air on syndication via KCOP TV 13 on the Skip and Woofer Show here in SoCal.
I don’t recall when I first saw Deputy Dawg (perhaps from home video), but I do remember Possible Possum often showing up on CBS affiliate WTOL’s “Patches & Pockets” program during the 1980’s here in Toledo, sometimes those cartoons also showed up as filler after certain movies as well.
My first exposure to Deputy Dawg was in those booths that played a cartoon for a quarter.
(And no, Larz Bourne didn’t write any of those 3 cartoons. “Silly Hillbilly” was written by I. Klein, and both cartoons with Virgy/Possum Pearl were written by Jack Mercer.)
You could say “Deputy Dawg” in the fall of 1960 was to CBS’ cartoon division what “The Andy Griffith Show” was to the network’s prime time line-up that same year — an attempt to use a Southern rural setting as the source for comedy while ignoring what was going on in the South at the same time (and in the case of the latter, doing so though the producers would later be the first to cast an African-American as the lead in a prime-time TV series).
I agree with that parallel. I don’t know why CBS didn’t put Deputy Dawg on network TV. Certainly by the time it had “Andy Griffith,” “Beverly Hillbillies,” and “Petticoat Junction” on at the same time in 1963, CBS couldn’t say it was trying to avoid looking too rural.
This was one of the most informative and, to my eye, one of the most well researched blog posts I’ve read in quite some time. I never thought of Deputy Dawg in ethinic terms, but your explanation makes a whole lot of sense. It also shines a wholly different light on what I’ve always assumed was a fairly amusing cartoon. Thanks for putting not only a new, but also interesting perpective on Deputy Dawg!
Now it’s just going to be painful looking back on those cartoons knowing this!
Thank you very much. I take the research very seriously, and I try to be thorough. I’m glad you enjoyed my post for the month.
This is a puzzling post.
I had thought that Ralph Bakshi created DEPUTY DAWG or at least directed the first season of them. While Muskie Muskrat was the antagonist, along with Vincent Van Gopher, there were episodes in which Deputy Dawg and Muskie joined forces and, when it seemed like Deputy Dawg was going to get himself in trouble with the Sheriff (the only human in the whole series), Muskie, Vince and that alligator (whose name I don’t recall right now) helped absolve him of all blame. Of course, there were also times when, after this took place, they’d go right back to out-witting ol’ Deputy Dawg.
As for Deputy Dawg being used as the “insult” to Southern police and other law-enforcers, Yosemite Sam got that reputation as well. Heck, I’m sure that Foghorn Leghorn also got that treatment in some cases. It was the style of animation that I liked regarding this series. It poked light fun at its regionalism as much as it seemed to pay homage to it, and I felt that a good many of the jokes were built around how cut off from other cultural advances these country folk were – such as when Hollywood visited and totally upset the usual chain of events, whatever those might be, outside of Muskie and Vince out-witting Deputy Dawg or getting him in trouble with the Sheriff. Hey, this was the way I saw the character.
Apparently, according to the credits, Bakshi served as an animator.
Perhaps it was during that final season of the show when he finally got to direct the episodes.
As a black child growing up in the south during that error of segregation it never crossed my mind that the cartoon was somewhat affiliated with that type of history and I really enjoyed watching every episode. I was to young to know the true orgin of its creation, like other cartoons during that period as kids we just loved watching them and as an adult now often remminsesce about our favorite cartoons.
Same here, but from the perspective of a White child growing up in Montgomery. I recall Dr. King shopping in the never segregated drug store where my mother worked.
Outstanding article, filled with stuff I never knew or realized. I am always fascinated by cartoons being put into the context of the time when they were released. This also gives me an opportunity to say how much I enjoyed the book The Colored Cartoon that is on my library shelf. As a kid, the Deputy Dawg cartoons were never my cup of tea but your article has made me want to go back and take another look. Eagerly awaiting future articles from you. Thanks for sharing all of this with us.
Thank you so much! That means a lot, and I’m glad you liked my book. I enjoy reading your postings here, too.
Actually, “The Deputy Dawg Show” aired here in the Los Angeles market on KTTV (11), Thursday nights in the 7:00-7:30 slot. That station loved to run cartoons in that slot on weekday nights. These included, at various times, “Huckleberry Hound'” (after is first season on KNXT), “Quick Draw McGraw”, “The Yogi Bear Show”,”The Woody Woodpecker Show “(after its network run ended), and the “Dick Tracy” and “Mr. Magoo” cartoons.
The show actually contained only two “Deputy Dawg” shorts in the half-hour. Following the pattern of “Mighty Mouse Playhouse” and “The Heckle and Jeckle Cartoon Show”, only the first and fourth cartoons would feature the title character. The other two would be “one-shots” out of the vast library of Terrytoons shorts.
While one could read a civil-rights theme into “Deputy Dawg”, thee’s another likely inspiration: the syndicated “Pogo” comic strip, drawn by Walt Kelly. “Deputy Dawg” didn’t include the political satire that Kelly wold put into his strip.
Looking back over some of the shorts, what strikes this observer as notable is the musical score.
Althogh it is contractually attributed to Philip Scheib, I’d be surprised if he had as much to do with these scores as might be suspected.
The scores are for an interesting small combo of harmonica, accordion, electric guitar and string bass. And they capture the langorous, sultry ‘feel’ of the Deep South to a fare-thee-well.
This was also the last Terrytoons series to use the “dressing-room-door'” logo that had been used on ‘The Farmer Al Falfa Show ‘(syndicated) and on the “Mighty Mouse’ and “Heckle and Jeckle” network shows. But,instead of a descending blast on a pennywhistle, or a bit of music sliced out of a previous cartoon, it used a purpose-written piece of music, long enough to fill the time without any ‘dead air’.
Utterly fascinating. Having been brought up in mid-La., stoopid me (at 8-years old) just thought it was “just another tv cartoon” aired at 5, on Ch. 5 (Alexandria!)
Dag nab it!
“OOOOOOOH!!!! My Foot Bones!!” One of my favorite quotes from Deputy Dawg!
In retrospect, I’m surprised we didn’t see a lot of editorial cartoonists or others latch onto Deputy Dawg as shorthand.
As a kid I remember it playing in the Bay Area; there was a lot of merchandising (as there seemed to be for all television animation — even the not-that-widespread “Dick Tracy”).
At least one of the Dawg cartoons had a beatnik duck; eventually saw him again as sidekick to a W.C. Fields donkey (one shot of series?).
In time nearly all the Terrytoons product seemed to recede into a few obscure UHF slots; “Mighty Heroes” sticks in my mind as a last gasp, with Dawg, Mighty Mouse, Hector Heathcote, Sidney and the rest long off the air (a local station had a half-hour of old theatricals for a while).
I’m surprised too. Deputy Dawg could’ve easily been a stand-in for any white southerner of authority they could use to attack the issues at hand.
Speaking of Dick Tracy, I’m reminded this happened.
These things do eventually fade into obscurity soon enough. CBS got what they wanted from the studio by the time they called it quits and kept those cartoons in circulation as long as possible.
That commercial is so beautifully wrong — even in the UPA toons Tracy was never allowed to be part of the joke. One wonders if Gould ever saw it. Also: Musky nearly becoming roadkill is disturbing on so many levels.
One wonders why they didn’t just make a Deputy Dawg Soaky toy instead, then the ad might’ve made sense if it was him chasing after Muskie on foot as usual.
This was “Duckwood”; his donkey sidekick was called “Donkey Otie”. Both characters starred in three cartoons, all made in 1964: “Short-term Sheriff”, “Oil Thru the Day” and “The Red Tractor”.
Deputy Dawg, the character, was too much of a buffoon to be very threatening as an authority figure, and even if he did put Muskie in the lockup from time to time, it was only so that Muskie could talk his way out. It was a kids’ show after all, with broad slapstick humor, and any topicality was soft-pedaled if it existed at all.
A more problematic romanticization of the Jim Crow era was the animated “Calvin and the Colonel” (1961), which ran in prime time. It was the last gasp of the braintrust behind “Amos and Andy” – sort of a Deep South “Honeymooners” with animal characters talking in dialect and getting themselves into scrapes. If the blustering Colonel’s full name, Montgomery J. Klaxon, seemed too uncomfortably Klannish to be funny, that might be one reason why the show seemed out of its time and did not succeed.
The bottom line for me is that it was a crappily made, unfunny cartoon, like almost all of the post Golden Age Terrytoon product. I was a young kid when it aired and I wasn’t that impressed with Mighty Mouse or Heckle & Jeckle. I was aware of the different studios and only cared for a Mighty Mouse cartoon when it was one of the really early ones, when better animation was the standard. I knew that Hoppity Hooper was Jay Ward, and although not a great series, I trusted it to entertain me with punny jokes, limited animation, but great character voices. Huckleberry Hound has an almost beatnik edge to his persona, and Quick Draw was hilarious. Deputy Dawg was a big disappointment, and a reason to turn that big clunky dial on our Motorola.
I rather disagree since after watching a bunch of Terry-era shorts, Deputy Dawg seem to have more charm and a bit more energy than most of the one shorts and the lesser character stared shorts of the past. Even Scheib’s music felt more energetic.
I agree with your assessment.
Not entertaining to me at all.
Isn’t it a shame that we can’t just accept the cartoon for what is was meant to be? There was no apparent intent to make DEPUTY DAWG some political issue or comment on Jim Crow or any other “racial”/social issues. In fact, producers steered clear of these matters by this time.
There tends to be too much effort to “read” personal issues into things that simply are not there. So what if Muskie was painted “brown?” He was a Muskrat. And muskrats, like foxes and raccoons do invade chicken coops. This is ANIMAL behavior. Incidentally, with regards to the “color” issue, Vince was purple, and Deputy Dawg was not “white,” he was gray. All of this only makes an excuse for hating something that does not deserve hatred especially since its purpose was entertainment. There were no racial stereotypes depicted.
The series was popular in the south and according to OF MICE AND MAGIC ran in Drive-in Theaters. It’s more of a regional appeal issue, so what’s the harm in that? And for the record, 20th Century-Fox was the theatrical distributor, as it had been for Terrytoons for 30 years.
For me, the only bothersome thing was Dalton Allen’s portrayal of DEPUTY DAWG –somewhat like a Frank Fontaine (Crazy Googenheim) impersonation, sometimes went over the top, sounding more “drunk” than dumb.
The fact remains that people committed to social justice saw something about Deputy Dawg in 1961 that associated him with enforcing segregation, despite what CBS-Terrytoons intended or not. It is also a fact Deputy Dawg’s ad agency and main sponsor made the cartoon a social issue by holding promotional events at segregated and “whites only” venues, whether the studio wanted to or not. It is also a fact that 20th Century-Fox distributed the cartoons to theaters that practiced segregation–a consequence of the regional popularity. It is also a fact that cartoons have a history of having anthropomorphic animals perform ethnic human stereotypes; so Deputy Dawg could possibly be part of that history.
Ray Pointer, thank you. Some much needed common sense.
It is Christopher who is displaying common sense here, by pointing out how a cartoon can be read differently by different audiences. Veiling your stereotypes as animal characters gives you plausible deniability, but at the same time these stories don’t exist in a cultural vacuum. You can say that of course, a real muskrat might really steal eggs, but then that’s exactly why they put an anthropomorphic muskrat in the mix – it allows them to use old minstrel show routines about no-good egg-stealing Negroes, ostensibly without offending anyone, but in reality the point could not be missed by a black audience well used to being the target of such conventions.
I don’t want to oversell the point, or suggest that more thought was put into the creation of Deputy Dawg than it deserves; rather that it surfaced at a time when people were starting to notice the subtext of the entertainment presented to it, and ask whether old ways of doing things were useful in a changing society.
Consciously or unconsciously anything created reflects the times
This is just another article by some SJW trying to claim “racism” where there is none. This show isn’t “racist”, just unoriginal. They basically took a skit that was a staple of many classic cartoons (Looney Tunes, Disney, Droopy, Even Tom and Jerry, if you replace the dog with a cat, the gopher/muskrat/mole/etc. for a mouse, and the garden patch for a house), and made it the entire premise of the series! there are many glaring errors with this piece:
1. “They stopped production when the Civil rights act was passed in 1964”
Wrong, the initial run saw it’s last episode on May 25, 1963. This was a whole year before the passage of the bill. Also, additional episodes were aired from 1965-1972, including “Big chief, No Treaty” (1965), astronaut (1971), and Shotgun Shambles (1972). These 3 were given theatrical release long after the original episode run was concluded.
2. “this was mostly aired in the south”
This show aired on stations all over the united states, including in Los Angeles! It was a nationally syndicated and aired show, not just in the south.
3. “muskie shares the same skin color as african americans”
firstly, he is a muskrat, and muskrats are brown in nature, it’s nothing to do with ethnicity. His speech isn’t even depicted like a black stereotype. If anything, all the characters (except Vinnie) have a stereotypical (white) southern accent to the point of comical! And how is a purple Gopher with a beret and Peter Lorre Speech patterns considered “anti-black?”
Also, as far as Deputy Dawg being a racist, in many episodes, he is on friendly terms with Muskie, Vinnie, and Ty, for example, in the episode “Ship Aha Ha”, The sheriff gives Deputy Dawg a boat to patrol the creek. He turns it into a fishing vessel, and He and Muskie go fishing for catfish! “Danganabit, Rabbit!” features Deputy Dawg, Muskie, and Vinnie teaming up to capture a rabbit who is raiding Dawg’s Carrot Patch. “Physical Fatiness” has Dawg trying to lose weight, and the boys help him out. Muskie and Dawg also team up to save a fox from hunters in “Friend Fox” (even if muskie turns on DD at the end) About the only times he really goes after them is when they try to raid his garden, the hen house, or if the sheriff is present, and even then, in the times when he gets one on them, rarely are they actually punished for their misdeeds.
Just because it happens to be set in the south, and the characters have comically southern accents, doesn’t make it a racist show.
In the end, it’s just a cartoon show about a buffoonish dog and some rodent type creatures trying to steal food, and his hilariously bad attempts to stop them. It wasn’t new, it wasn’t original, and it wasn’t racist. Even if it wasn’t original, It still was a fun little show that I used to enjoy as a kid, watching old episodes on VHS.
If anything, the author of this post is grasping at straws on this one, in some deluded worldview that practically everything is “racist” Especially stupid, when you consider there were some old cartoon that actually were outright racist! (“Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs” comes to mind)
I guess he ran out of actual racist material to rant on, and needed to create more rants to justify his SJW positions.
Quite right, I watched it here in the UK in 60s and it was just a funny kids cartoon. Some people just seem hell bent on politicising everything.
Watching these cartoons in a northeastern suburb that had just integrated its elementary schools in a test-case to end “de facto” segregation, I don’t think I or any of my elementary-school classmates saw anything “racial” in any of this; it was just a lot of funny animals who talked “funny.”
Also, we were all watching them on monochrome TV sets, and so had no idea of the “color” of any of the characters other than shades of gray.
The tactic of selling “Dixiefried” shows in the South was nothing new to CBS Film Sales. Just a couple years earlier in 1957, they had syndicated “The Gray Ghost,” a live-action adventure series glorifying the Civil War exploits of Confederate spy Major John Singleton Mosby. While only one season was produced, the show aired in syndication for ten years, with stations in Southern cities its most loyal customers. It’s hard to say if the tumult of the Sixties contributed to its withdrawal from release, as a great many other older shows also vanished from the market around the same time due to the industry-wide move to color broadcasting. And until 1966, CBS Films was still actively syndicating the still-controversial TV version of “Amos ‘n’ Andy.” (While they no longer distribute the show, CBS still owns the copyrights to the films and has prosecuted several home video distributors for copyright infringement.)
Christopher , when I watched Deputy Dawg as a child I saw it as funny, rural slapstick humor. As I got older , I noticed the Southern regionalism , especially with the references to the Civil War. And I got to seeing how some viewers, especially civil rights protestors, would see racial color symbolism in the relationship between Deputy Dawg and Muskie. With the relationship between Deputy Dawg and The Sheriff, I saw funny swipes at workplace hierarchy. Your essay and your reply provides a good , frank, analytical view of the show’s connection with the mood of early ’60s southern America.
Great read. I will following this site for now on.
There is some history in this article. Also speculation and subjectivity. Everybody I know loves Deputy Dawg. It is absurd to suggest humans of African heritage were represented by a muskrat. It’s just a funny concept AND a great character with a silly, ridiculous laugh. Our grandson loves Deputy Dawg and Mister Rogers not necessarily in that order.
I grew up in Decatur Alabama in the 60s. Everything in my little world stopped for Deputy Dawg. Not mentioned in the article was that the raccoon character was named Ty Coon. I loved this show.
The Deputy Dawg Show was well received in Great Britain in the early sixties, the first and fourth cartoon in the show would both be Deputy Dawg, the second cartoon was usually Gandy Goose with Sourpuss and the third would be cartoons featuring non-recurring characters such as Ickle meets Pickle. The show had re-runs into 1969 and single Deputy Dawg cartoons were still shown on Channel Four in the mid-nineties.
I grew up watching Deputy Dawg along with other cartoons that aired on Saturday mornings and during “The Bozo Show”, which included not only the standard Looney Toon and Popeye fare, but also cartoons like Beany and Cecil and Little Audrey. Being raised in the deep South, I greatly enjoyed how Deputy Dawg poked at our culture, as well as the exaggerated Southern accents. To this day, I still mimic Muskie Muskrat saying “It’s possi-byool … it’s possi-byool”
I think a lot of this article, although sounding authoritative, is a result of someone being overly-sensitive and trying to find racism where there is none to be found. For example, in rural areas where people raised their own chickens to provide eggs, muskrats and raccoons were notorious egg thieves, so it made perfect sense to include these characters in a running gag of this sort in a cartoon aimed at rural viewers. This was pretty much the only real antagonism between them and Deputy Dawg – the rest of the time they’re depicted as good buddies. In fact, the premiere episode, “Shotgun Shambles”, Deputy Dawg is posting “Muskrat Hunting Season” signs, but apparently only out of duty because the rest of the episode has him protecting Muskie from the hunter and even going out of his way to torment the hunter. So right from the start, they’re shown to be friends, something that would be unusual in the segregated South. The notion that Deputy Dawg and Muskie are enemies because they’re of different races is absurd.
It is no secret that unfair African-American stereotypes were depicted in various cartoons through the years, in varying ways ranging from Mammy Two-Shoes in Tom and Jerry to “Inky and the Mynah Bird”. Even non-African-American characters were occasionally shown in blackface. These stereotype references were always obvious because it was part of the (sometimes cruel) humor. If the creators of Deputy Dawg wanted to make stereotype references to African-Americans in the South, they would have made them equally obvious, not disguise them to the point that only a professor of ethnic studies could identify them 50 years later.
And, although it was set in the South and targeted mainly to Southern/rural viewers, it was indeed aired and appreciated nation-wide. Plus, African-Americans enjoyed the cartoon as much as “European-Americans” (interesting name). The author even points out that African-American children showed up at events to see the live-action Deputy Dawg. The fact that they were mistreated there is not a reflection on the show as much as it is a reflection on the poor actions of some of the “European-Americans” at that event.
The marketing, on the other hand, was very likely targeted to white viewers. But singling out the marketing of Deputy Dawg in this way is probably also unrealistic. More likely, the marketing was targeting white viewers because they were far more likely to spend money on any products advertised during the show (whether Lays potato chips or whatever). The cartoon creators (and CBS) weren’t creating and distributing the cartoon out of the goodness of their hearts, they were in the business of making money. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the African-American community was not a significant source of revenue for most advertisers, so they were not going to receive the same amount of targeted marketing as the white community. The marketing people were simply going where the money was. Was that unfair? Probably, but it was a sign of the times, and had no bearing on the Deputy Dawg show.
And as for instances of the cartoon being shown in theaters with “colored-only” sections, nearly ALL theaters at the time had “colored-only” sections, even those that were NOT showing Deputy Dawg. It is therefore silly to correlate the showing of Deputy Dawg episodes with the segregation of the venue.
As a professor of ethnic studies, the author of this article apparently needs to learn the difference between learning from actual history and rewriting history to suit a particular narrative. This article is an example of the latter.
Right on, W W!
Watched DD as a youngest in the early and mid 60s in SE PA. Never once then, or now, saw anything other than Southern humor. Quote a stretch here by the author.
Professor Lehman’s blog postings are yet another example of how everything is construed to be “racist,” “sexist,” and every other “ist.”
This was simply a cute kids show, Professor, WITH NO RACIAL STEREOTYPES (e.g. the “Mammy” in “Tom and Jerry”). No ulterior motives.
Unbelievable! So now another one of the cartoon shows I found delightful as a kid is being denigrated as racist? . How/why some modern day observers are so positively determined to find racism in charming kids’ cartoons is the real question. Some type of political statement perhaps? Or simply make work projects as part of a desperate attempt to justify their salaries?
I wouuld pose two questions for the Prof:
1. Did you watch “The Deputy Dawg Show” as a kid, or was your first and only exposure to the show when you turned a jaundiced academic eye in its direction?
2. Do you not have the Dell comics with Deputy Dawg as the cover feature? I suspect that you couldn’t be bothered to track them down. Quite simply, if you had taken more than a cursory glance at Deputy Dawg without any preconceived notions, you would not have noted any dichotomy between a “white” Deputy Dawg and the colour of the other characters in the show. Deputy Dawg you see is actually grey:
I found this site because I have an old copper Deputy Dawg head mold. Cannot find any others like it, and have been researching Deputy Dawg. I’m thinking it may have been used to make the old cloth puppets with the rubber heads(?)
Thanks to the person who reminded us that when these cartoons originally aired, TV was not in color and the cartoon characters were seen in grey tones. And woodland animals are often brown, and most will raid chicken coops if given the opportunity. I never knew that American Blacks were associated with the raiding chicken coops for eggs: surely there were starving white people in the south during and after the destruction that resulted from the Civil War.
When it came to promoting the cartoon, facilities in the South were already segregated- how else could the cartoon be promoted but within the existing social structure of the times.
The author of this article sought to analyze, in fact, pick apart the cartoon in terms of race, discrimination, and segregation: its unfortunate that it cannot simply be appreciated as the simple cartoon that many children enjoyed. The author mentioned that all the other animals were darker than the Dog Sheriff, and of color, when most animals in nature are darker or a shade of brown; few animals are white or Albino in nature as they would not survive.
No one but the creators of the cartoon can know exactly what was their intent. Almost any piece of literature, children’s story, cartoon, or TV program, especially those created years back when authors did not have to worry about political correctness, when a good character could innocently be portrayed as white in color without there having been any intent of prejudice against Blacks- any such creation can be picked apart and accused of having racial overtones where none were intended. Its amazing that so many readers took the above highly opinionated, biased article as fact.
In all likelihood, a white or lighter colored Dog Sheriff, was a visually artistic decision; and even if light color bore some connection to an association of light as representing goodness, truth, as in a law figure, such association has existed in even darker skinned cultures across the centuries, long before racial problems in the US, even before those centuries that Africans enslaved other Africans, and Europeans in ancient times enslaved peoples of their own complexion.