The card -- intended to pique kids' interest in eating "hay bales," as some still call shredded wheat2 -- features a Native American named Straight Arrow giving instructions on how to create a travois -- a frame that could be used by humans, dogs or horses to drag loads over land.
The small type at the bottom of the card, which is copyright 1949, states:
- NABISCO SHREDDED WHEAT
- Book One
- Card No. 35 in a series of 36 STRAIGHT ARROW INJUN-UITIES
For the complete history of the Straight Arrow Injun-uity cards, you need look no further than Roland Anderson, who has documented them in fine detail on his personal website.3
Here are a few excerpts from Anderson's in-depth history:
- "Straight Arrow was a fictional American Indian character.4 He was portrayed as a Comanche Indian orphan raised by whites as 'Steve Adams.' ... Each Straight Arrow tale had Steve reverting to his true 'secret Indian identity' in order to right some wrong, often committed against the Indians."
- "Straight Arrow ... made his first appearances almost simultaneously on a radio program and on 'Injun-uity cards'. These two projects were tightly coordinated projects backed by the National Biscuit Company and its advertising agency, McCann-Erickson."5
- "A package of Shredded Wheat contained 12 ... biscuits, packed in four layers with three biscuits in each layer. Separating these layers were three gray cardboard dividers. Starting in 1949, 'Straight Arrow's Secrets of Indian Lore and Know-How' were printed on these cardboard dividers in an effort to increase the popularity of Shredded Wheat among children."
- "The cards were published in four series called 'books.' ... All the cards of the first two books were published as an single 'Injun-uity Manual' with a stapled binding in 1951. This manual was available through the mail from the National Biscuit Company for 15 cents and a Shredded Wheat box top."
1. Here's a Flickr image by Paul Malon showing what the vintage Nabisco Shredded Wheat box looked like. Shredded Wheat is now made by Post, which acquired the brand in 1993.
2. In 2006, readers of The Straight Dope shared their thoughts on how they liked to eat their shredded wheat.
3. Anderson's website -- a true find -- is full of other fascinating stuff, including:
- Bald Mountain Childhood, described as "an autobiographic, biographic and historical description of growing up in a Carpatho-Rusyn family on Bald Mountain near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, during the 1920's and 30's."
- An interview with Inga Svensson about memories of delivering newspapers.
- An article from the March 1932 issue of Popular Mechanics titled "Fifty Years Hence," by Winston Churchill
- A collection of old comic strips, including Buck Rogers and Tarzan.
5. McCann-Erickson was also mentioned in this March 2011 Papergreat post: The Future of America (57 years ago).