Long ago, man dealt with his lack of understanding about the world about him by anthropomorphising animals, trees, mountains, rocks, body parts, and anything else he believed needed or somehow had human attributes. This became the basis of a few religions. But as his braincase grew and he started forming societies and creating technology, he never quite outgrew the internal desire to identify with his surroundings or vice versa. This became the basis of a lot of advertising, which is quite similar to religion. Dancing cigarette packs, talking food products, flying containers of toilet bowl cleaner, and the ever-popular 'man' made of a non-flesh substance who helps people accomplish tasks or gives them vital instruction became the mainstay of visual advertising.
This has culminated in what you see here: Bill Ding – a hominid form made exclusively of lumber products who travels hither and yon spreading the message that you (the reader) should build additions onto your home and repair structural damage as you find it. His size varies between being shorter than a person, taller than a person, or outright gigantic. Humans do not fear this lumber golem, in fact they seem to welcome his presence even when he looms as big as a house. He doesn't seem to do any of the work himself, possibly out of concern that a worker might mistake him for being part of the wood supply for whatever project, and curiously he never advocates any other sort of home repairs such as electrical or plumbing. He appears to carry a heavy round shadow with him everywhere he goes. And as you look through the illustrations in this section, you may notice that his wooden grin seems to be indicating some deeper agenda... such as getting cozy with any women around while the males are elsewhere making repairs. (Husband nails boards while animated boards nail wife?) You decide whether the wooden wonder has an ulterior motive as you peruse the following illustrations.
These advertisement graphics came out of a Western Washington small-town newspaper from his initial appearance in September 1967 to his final curtain in December 1968 (the hardware store's going out of business sale was announced in a full-page ad in the paper's first issue of 1969), and this was a stock set of images which was not exclusive to the hardware store which paid for the ads. He has shown up in in-store advertising and television ads; click on this link to visit the Media Page. If you happen to know anything whatsoever about Bill Ding or have other pictures, please drop me an email: SaySomethingCryptic at gmail.com — I've done websearches and come up with almost nothing, other than the name has also been used for wooden toys (I had a set when I was a kid! here's one), a Garbage Pail Kid (I have the card), a LEGO Island videogame character, and a band plus the occasional human being's name.
Update (2/06): The gallery added 39 images, courtesy of me visiting the small-town's library archives with camera in hand, raising the number of examples from 16 to 55. Jump links to every tenth page have been added to this opening page for convenience.
Update (4/07): Announcing the Media Page -- Now with two television advertisements and an in-store product promotion card. Again, if you have any images of Bill Ding not found here, please share at the above address. --#2
Addendum 1, 6/04: I got an email from someone who confirmed that Bill was indeed a for-hire image, sort of like Reddy Kilowatt [who was created in 1926 and is still being used, presently owned by the Reddy Kilowatt Corporation wing of the Northern States Power Company]. He writes, "Bill Ding was a joke from my childhood; he used to hang on the external wall of a lumber yard in my hometown of Bucyrus, Ohio. Every time we would drive by we would say, 'Hi, Bill Ding!!' I don't remember the name of the lumber yard, but the 'pimp' in your ads is the same figure that used to hang on that wall! They took him down when they sold the building about 10 or so years ago." Having a giant Bill Ding on the side of a building would frighten me; women far and wide would not be safe. So far I haven't heard from anyone local to me who read the newspaper I got the images from or went to Haynes Hardware in Eatonville to meet Bill, but hopefully someone will chime in.
Addendum 2, 1/05: I received an email from someone familiar with Bill's creator, though the individual who birthed him was not named. Anyone? He says, "Bill Ding was a copyrighted logo for a company called 'Local Trademarks' out of New York. The last time I had contact with the company was about 1985, when their West Coast agent died. At that time they were still marketing Bill Ding in the US and Canada to lumber companies. They may still be marketing [Bill]." I'm willing to respect an active trademark, but my Google searches yeild nothing about the Local Trademarks company or any other references to the character so I'm running under the assumption that both are no longer active.
Addendum 3, 4/06: The eBay seller 'postcardprint' was offering a 17"x24" Bill Ding advertising lithograph (5-color, heavy paper), and he emailed me to let me know. The description included the following information: "Apparently there was a book published by this company [Local Trademarks] in 1925 called 'The Story of Bill Ding' [by H P Longstreet], and the company renewed the [book's] copyright in 1953. This character was marketed to local lumber businesses to promote sales. There is a website devoted to this character - go figure!" Thanks! No link here, Jim? :) A photo of the sign has been added to page 49.
Addendum 4, 4/07: TVdays.com offers a multitude of DVDs each with an hour of commercials from the 1950's and 1960's, and disk 17 of the Classic Commericials series ($20) contains two Bill Ding advertisements. If you want to spend $13 at Google Video you can see the entire program – the Bill Ding ads are 52'35" and 53'25" into it. Thanks, Ira! Added a Media Page to the site for non-newspaper advertising.
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