Herman ‘Kay’ Kamen was an American marketing legend famed for the licensing and successful merchandising of Disney products in the 1930s and 1940s. Kamen opened his advertising firm in Kansas City, Missouri where he was joined by Ruth Ivener in 1927, who would later become Vice President of Kay Kamen Ltd. The flourishing company created displays and campaigns for department stores across America, and in 1932 received a wire from Walt and Roy O. Disney inviting Kamen to California for a meeting. Kamen cashed his life saving, boarded a train to Los Angeles, and successfully secured a license to merchandise Mickey and Minnie Mouse – a contract he would hold for over two decades. Kamen and Ivener moved the firm to New York in 1933 and within two years, Mickey and Minnie products could be found in department stores across the nation. Shortly after in 1934, the duo was joined by Ruth’s sister, Ida Ivener, who had been working at the registrar of vital statistics for the Iowa State Board of Health in Sioux City. The group transformed Disney’s merchandising and within two years net $35 million in sales despite being in the depths of the Great Depression.
On December 21, 1937, Walt Disney Productions premiered its first animated film based on the Brothers Grimm German fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. To mark this momentous occasion, Disney collaborated with the renowned jewelry house, Cartier to create a limited-edition enamel and gold charm bracelet featuring the iconic characters from the film. A version of this bracelet was worn by Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian, during premier at Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles. The bracelet was advertised in the show’s program with a tag price of $100.00.
On February 7, 1940, Walt Disney Productions released their second animated feature film Pinocchio, based on the children’s novel by Italian author Carlo Collodi, which premiered at the Center Theatre at Radio City. Cartier again crafted gold charms inspired by the characters, which were predominantly advertised and sold in the Kamen Disney merchandising catalogues.
The Kamen Disney partnership is one of the greatest merchandising success stories of the century. The era was abruptly ended following the campaign for Cinderella after Kamen tragically died in a plane crash on October of 1949. The year following, the New York merchandising office was absorbed by Disney and transferred to the Burbank studio. Ruth Ivener remained in New York and managed the merchandising for Ham Fisher, the creator of the Joe Palooka comic character.
The present lot is a rare example of a Cartier Disney charm bracelet. Gifted from Kamen and passed down through the Ivener family, this special piece includes charms from both Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as well as Pinocchio, and is engraved with the last names of the marketing legends- IVENER KAY KAMEN.