By  on October 15, 2010

On October 15, 1951, television audiences got their first glimpse of Lucille Ball in “I Love Lucy.” She’s in the kitchen, in a knotted head wrap, doing the dishes with her best friend Ethel Mertz, played by Vivian Vance; they’re plotting the Mertzes’ upcoming anniversary and how they’ll convince Fred to take Ethel to the Copacabana. What ensues are the typical hijinks, including a gag where all three, plus Lucy’s husband, Ricky Ricardo, are trying to light one another’s cigarettes at the same time. Later, there’s another scene involving smokes. It should come as no surprise that Philip Morris was the exclusive advertiser of the series in its early years.

But there were other tie-ins too. On September 24, 1952, WWD ran a full-page ad to promote a collection of Lucille Ball sweaters by New York’s Suzy Boutique, an affiliate of Elgin Knit Sportswear. The pictured pullovers were to be worn by Ball that fall. “Get in on this year-round selling program now,” the advertisement announced to the paper’s retail audience, noting the other manufacturers who held similar “I Love Lucy” licenses. They included Dunmar Ltd. (robes), Gingham Girl (aprons) and Dorothy Hubbs (dresses). “Mats, displays and promotional material available from each manufacturer,” the endorsement continued. Another full-page ad in the same issue similarly publicized Lucille Ball blouses by Weber Originals.

By 1953, a new addition to the cast got his very own merchandising hookup, too: On March 18, WWD reported on infant and little-boy fashions by McKem-Vanta Inc., to be worn by Little Ricky “for [his] first television appearance in April and from then on.”

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