1930: Dr. Seuss illustrates an ad advocating using a .22 rifle to get rid of sparrows

Dr. Seuss illustration from 1930 for Crosland Rifles shows a citizen being menaced by a sparrow.

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) did much more than write and illustrate the children’s books for which he is best known and celebrated.
The good doctor was once a newspaper editorial cartoonist who strongly advocated intervention by the United States against fascism in the European conflict that would grow into World War II.
And before and after he published his first children’s book, “To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” in 1937, his whimsical drawings were popular in advertising for brands such as Flit (a hand-pumped insecticide), Esso Oil, Ford Motor Co., Holly Sugar and Schaefer Beer, long after he was established as an author.
Seuss started as an ad man in 1927 and this 1930 ad caught our eye.
It’s one of a series Dr. Seuss did for Crosland Rifles that year and it proposes that John Q. Homeowner buy a Crosland .22 gauge rifle to rid himself of that fearsome threat and menace to domestic tranquility, THE SPARROW.
The ad portrays sparrows as a messy menace to decent folk: “He roosts on housetops, defaces gables, ledges, windows and awnings, and nests in drain pipes.
Worse yet, sparrow were portrayed as bullies that frighten off legitimate songbirds. “This culprits open hostility drives away welcome songbirds, replacing their musical notes with his ‘cheep, cheep, cheep.'”
So what to do? “John Sparrow should be tarred and feathered. Or, better still, he should be shot with a CROSMAN SILENT .22, the most amazing gun ever invented for shooting targets and killing small game, furred or feathered.”
It’s hard not to imagine shots ringing out around the neighborhood as homeowner in 1930 take aim at menacing sparrows, squirrels and other varmints threatening the humble abode. To think that you might have seen it on Mulberry Street.

Text of 1930 Crosland Rifles ad

The full ad

Chris Treadway

  • Andrés Soto

    These birds, the English Sparrow, are an invasive species and should be controlled just like the cats, dogs, Starlings and other invasives that so damage habitat and indigenous species. We haven’t even started on the vegetation!