So, what exactly did the general public know of Walt Disney in say, 1935? This cigarette card premium, distributed by Mitchell's Cigarettes provided a brief but interesting biography, with a special emphasis on the cartoon-maker's estimated annual income. Here is the full text of the card:
Walt Disney, the famous inventor of "Mickey Mouse" and "Silly Symphonies" and one of the most original geniuses of the screen, is a slender, athletic yound man of 34. In 1935, when he paid his first visit to Europe since he drove an ambulance with the American Expeditionary Force in the Great War, the League of Nations International Film Committee awarded him a special medal for his original and distinctive work. In 1920, he was working as a hack artist at £5 a week; today his income, thanks to"Mickey Mouse" and the Symphonies, is reputed to be £80,000 a year. It is estimated that these famous films have already earned the hugh sum of £28,000,000.
The financial translation: $7 a week; $113, 600 a year and the huge sum of $39,760,000.
Cigarette cards were a favorite collectible throughout the early decades of the 20th century. According to the NYPL Online Collections:
Cigarette or tobacco cards began in the mid-19th century as premiums, enclosed in product packaging. They were usually issued in numbered series of twenty-five, fifty, or larger runs to be collected, spurring subsequent purchases of the same brand. Typically, these small cards feature illustrations on one side with related information and advertising text on the other. The height of cigarette card popularity occurred in the early decades of the 20th century, when tobacco companies around the world issued card sets in an encyclopedic range of subjects. After a slump during the First World War, popularity resumed, with new emphasis on film stars, sports, and military topics. Plants, animals, and monuments of the world remained perennially favorite themes. The appeal of contemporary cigarette cards fell by the 1950s, ceasing their production and distribution.
Walt and Mickey Mouse were together featured in an earlier cigarette card distributed by Wills's Cigarettes in 1931.