Friday, March 30, 2012

Quaker Oats takes you "Around the World with Hob"

This neat and occasionally disconcerting little book was a Christmas present from my wife. It's a 44-page staplebound volume that was published in 1929 by The Quaker Oats Company.

"Around the World with Hob" was written by Grace T. Hallock and illustrated by Electra Papadopoulos.1 While it was an unabashed advertising booklet, it had the legitimacy of being distributed throughout schools.

The copyright page states:
  • Around the World with Hob, prepared for school use, is designed for the primary grades. Accompanying the verses are drawings for the children to color with crayons.
  • This publication may be secured free of cost in quantity by writing to The Quaker Oats Company, School Health Service, 80 East Jackson Street, Chicago, Illinois.

The main character is, of course, Hob. We learn that he is a "little man"2 who lives in the mill below the hill. It's not clear whether he's a squatter at the mill or has received authorization to live there.

Hob's partner is Bob Robin, who is a robin. Bob Robin serves as Hob's transportation.

Bob, with Hob aboard, flies all around the world. Take a closer look at the two of them in this image, which is a magnification of a portion of the book's cover:

And what do they do as they fly all over the world? Well, here's where it gets a little disconcerting and perhaps even creepy. Hob and Bob are voyeurs.

As the book itself states:

Through windows open wide
They peep
When all the children
Are asleep.

Through doorways open wide
They steal
To watch the children
Eat oatmeal.

This is wrong, right? We can't be advocating this kind of behavior.

Not even by a "little man."

Not even if the doors and windows are already open.

Peeping pixies are uniformly unacceptable!

After all of his peeping, Hob sits down and documents the rampant oatmeal-eating that he has seen all over the world, which makes up the bulk of the book. His international subjects include:
  • Jill of America
  • Andy of Scotland
  • Lucy of England
  • O'Neill of Ireland
  • Gretchen of Holland
  • Otto of Germany3
  • Oscar of Sweden
  • Yuki of Japan
  • Mary of Australia
  • Rita of Argentina
  • Bingo of the West Indies
  • Pedro of Mexico
And we learn about all the ways these children like to eat oatmeal. Some examples: Andy likes it piping hot and in oatmeal cakes; O'Neill and Otto also like it hot; Yuki eats it off a plate, with chopsticks4; Mary eats it with a piece of bread; Rita likes it hot, but makes her donkey settle for cold and raw oats and straw; Bingo, who had no shirt and must sit on a log to eat, shares his porridge with his dog, Jingo5; and Pedro enjoys oatmeal as a "treat."

And so we can thank Hob the Voyeuristic Little Man for all these oatmeal observations from around the globe!

Finally, the back cover of "Around the World with Hob" presents one final wonderful illustration by Papadopoulos...

It reminds me a bit of the cover of "Georgina Finds Herself," which I featured back in January.

1. No, I didn't make up the name "Electra Papadopoulos." And, yes, it will go down as one of the greatest names ever mentioned on Papergreat.
2. It is not specified what kind of "little man" Hob is. He could be a brownie, tomte, kobold, di sma, gnome, Nimerigar, pixie or trow. Quaker Oats and Grace T. Hallock just don't give us enough information to go on.
3. Otto is described as follows: "Otto's hair is straight and yellow, Otto's trousers short and green. Black and tight is Otto's jacket, And his blouse is white and clean." I have nothing further I wish to say here.
4. I'm just telling you what the book says.
5. I'm just telling you what the book says. This was 83 years ago.


  1. Poor Hob would have to "register" to live in the mill these days and would probably be on the TSA watchlist.

    If I were having a baby, I would SO steal the name Electra Papadopoulos :)

  2. Electra Papadopoulos? You've obviously never heard of the author Crescent Dragonwagon.

  3. Did Bob Robin perhaps get his name from the song, or was it vice-versa?
    "When the red-red robin comes bob-bob-bobbin along, along. There'll be no more sobbin' when he starts throbbin' his own, sweet song....."

  4. I would just like to point out that no other wife in the WORLD gave their husband this as a Christmas gift. I'm incomparable. ;-)

  5. I believe "hob" is an old English name for the devil.