Hopalong Cassidy: Cowboy Hero and Franchise Empire

"Git 'em up, podner!"  Photo including in William Boyd scrapbook, Box 173, William Boyd Papers, #8038. UW American Heritage Center.

“Git ‘em up, podner!” Photo included in William Boyd scrapbook, Box 173, William Boyd Papers, #8038. UW American Heritage Center.

One the most popular collections at the American Heritage Center is the papers of William Boyd, who played cowboy Hopalong Cassidy for many years on radio, television, and film. Hopalong Cassidy was originally created by author Clarence E. Mulford in 1904 in a series of short stories and novels. William Boyd first brought Hoppy to life in a 1934 film adaptation of Mulford’s story. He portrayed Hoppy in many more films, on a television series beginning in 1949, and voiced Hoppy in a radio show. The character became enormously popular and Boyd acquired all rights to the Hopalong character in 1948. He consolidated all Hopalong enterprises and began a highly profitable business through promotion of the character. Boyd donated some of his profits to children’s hospitals and homes. Boyd married actress Grace Bradley in 1937. He retired in 1953, and died in 1972.

Hopalong Cassidy with children in Hoppy costumes and his horse,Topper. Photofile: William L. Boyd.  UW American Heritage Center.

Hopalong Cassidy with children in Hoppy costumes and his horse,Topper. Photofile: William L. Boyd. UW American Heritage Center.

The William Boyd collection contains a wide variety of materials; everyone is sure to find something in the collection that would pique their interest. The collection has materials concerning Boyd’s portrayal of Hopalong Cassidy and his many related promotional and business ventures. It contains correspondence, legal files, financial files, newspaper clippings, promotional and publicity materials, and other business records. In the collection, you can also find Hopalong Cassidy scripts and comics, sheet music, phonograph records, and photographs of William Boyd. There are also a large number of artifacts, including Hopalong Cassidy costume items, toys, and other merchandise. A small amount of William Boyd’s personal files are also present.

Box 112, folder – “Birthday cards, undated”

Example of a Hoppy Birthday card, Box 112, Folder – “Birthday cards, undated.” William Boyd Papers, #8038. UW American Heritage Center.

Hopalong Cassidy on parade, Box 115, Negative Number 27916. William Boyd Collection, #8038. UW American Heritage Center.

Hopalong Cassidy on parade, Box 115, Negative Number 27916. William Boyd Papers, #8038. UW American Heritage Center.

Due to Hopalong Cassidy’s immense popularity, he had merchandising and tie-in deals with a wide range of brands and products. Interestingly, three products he most heavily seemed to promote were bread, tuna, and dairy products (especially ice cream). This is due, in part, to his popularity with children. Of course little Timmy wants his sandwiches to be made with Hoppy’s favorite bread and tuna! Not only does the collection contain correspondence and other business files pertaining to his merchandising and promotional deals, but you can also find examples of the original packaging used for various products. Hopalong Cassidy games, toys, and children’s cowboy clothes (sanctioned by Hopalong Cassidy, of course!) are also contained in the collection.

Box 113, folder – “Packaging with Hopalong Cassidy, undated” The tuna wrapper does have a date of 1952 stamped on the back.

Hoppy’s branding efforts even reached Chicken of the Sea! Box 113, Folder – “Packaging with Hopalong Cassidy, undated.” Tuna label has a date of 1952 stamped on the back. William Boyd Papers, #8038. UW American Heritage Center.

There are numerous scripts in the collection for his radio, television, and film productions, as well as contracts and copyright agreements for the stories. In the 1950s, a Hopalong Cassidy comic strip was produced by King Features Syndicate. The collection contains a nearly complete run of these comics, which are a blast to read though. Would you like to see Hopalong Cassidy’s saddle, boots, hats, and other apparel? The collection has these, too! How about his holster and six-shooters? Yep, these can also be found at the AHC! Do you want to learn how to play all the old Hopalong Cassidy songs? Well, we’ve got the sheet music just for you! Did you write a fan letter to Hoppy as a child? Maybe you can find it in the fan mail folder!

Box 156, folder – “Knockout Comics – entire magazine, 1957-1959”

One of the strips distributed by King Features Syndicate. Box 156, Folder – “Knockout Comics – entire magazine, 1957-1959.” William Boyd Papers, #8038. UW American Heritage Center.

There are also a large number of scrapbooks filled with newspaper and magazine clippings detailing William Boyd’s activities as Hopalong Cassidy, as well as a large number of photographs. The photographs include movie stills from his various productions, publicity photographs of William Boyd at various events, and a number of photographs with him and his wife, Grace Bradley Boyd. Whether you’re looking to do serious research or just experience a blast from the past by looking at old toys, games, and original Hoppy apparel, this collection has it all.

Box 150, folder – “Correspondence – letter (copy) from Clarence E. Mulford to Boyd re: making Hopalong Cassidy film, 1948”

Letter from Mulford to Boyd discussing film options for a story by Mulford. Box 150, folder – “Correspondence – letter (copy) from Clarence E. Mulford to Boyd re: making Hopalong Cassidy film, 1948.” William Boyd Papers, #8038. UW American Heritage Center.

–Emily Christopherson, Processing Archivist

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