June 06, 2013

FIGURE OF THE WEEK #30: Kilroy Was Here

In honor of the 69th Anniversary of D-Day we feature as our Figure of the Week "Kilroy Was Here by Hartland Plastics of Hartland, Wisconsin who manufactured a variety of products from 1939 until 1978. Their first product was this "Kilroy Was Here" which is 3.625 inches tall, and is cast in acetate based plastic. In 1953 they produced many Western figures that were popular on television. Then in 1957 Hartland began making statues of baseball greats of the time. 

I became familiar with this figure via my father, a 91 year old WWII vet who has one he saved from the 50s. As a kid in the early 60s I remember my dad making Kilroy Was Here logos out of plywood and placing them about the door of his shop, giving them to his friends and such. I still have the one he made for me way back then. 

The Legend of how "Kilroy Was Here" starts is with James J. Kilroy, a shipyard inspector during WWII. He chalked the words on bulkheads to show that he had been there and inspected the riveting in the newly constructed ship. To the troops in those ships, however, it was a complete mystery — all they knew for sure was that he had "been there first." As a joke, they began placing the graffiti wherever they (the US forces) landed or went, claiming it was already there when they arrived. Kilroy became the US super-GI who always got there first — wherever GI's went. It became a challenge to place the logo in the most unlikely places. It was said to be atop Mt. Everest, the Statue of Liberty, the underside of the Arch de Triumphe, and scrawled in the dust on the moon. An outhouse was built for the exclusive use of Truman, Stalin, and Churchill who were there for the Potsdam conference. The first person to use it was Stalin. He emerged and asked his aide (in Russian), "Who is Kilroy?"

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