In 2006 The company celebrated their 100th anniversary. Below here is a short History of The S. S. Adams Company:
FROM GAGS TO RICHES
By JOEL SAYRE
Loud laughter bespeaks the empty mind - but Soren S. Adams has based a flourishing industry on it.
SUCH NOVELTY SHOP gadgets as the dribble glass and the exploding cigar do not convulse the cerebral-humor crowd with laughter. But then again there are those who love them. American practical-jokesters spent eight million dollars last year on such dandy little mirth provokers as the Lapel Rose, which shoots a merry jet of water into the sniffer's face, and the Joy Buzzer, which gives your pal an electric shock when you shake hands with him. Bethlehem Steel will do fairly well this year, but the graph of the funny-goods business will go right through the top of the chart. It seems that during periods of crisis, great numbers of our people try to forget their troubles by squirting and asphyxiating their neighbors and by making each other itch, ouch, and sneeze.
You might think that the person who dominates the jokers' novelties industry would be a weird codger with a wild look in his eye. Not at all. Soren Sorensen Adams (''Sam'' to his fellow Rotarians) is a God-fearing family man, quiet of dress, voice and manner, a model employer and a careful driver. In his $250,000 Factory at Asbury Park, N. J., seventy employees work overtime at an industry pioneered by Adams and solidly based on the raucous guffaw.
It was through his epoch-making discovery of sneeze powder, around 1905, that Adams entered his singular profession. As salesman for a coal-tar product he noticed that it possessed a tremendously high sneeze potential - much greater than pepper. Adams began fooling with it for his own amusement. High spots were his sprinkling of this sneeze generator through hotel keyholes, in a cafe where a wandering brass band was serenading, and at a trapshooting contest where he unnerved his competitors by dusting the powder near them as they took aim.
In 1906 Adams decided to market the sneeze powder commercially and put up the stuff in e name of Cachoo sold to the public for a dollar. Within three months of its appearance one Philadelphia retailer bought 70,000 bottles. Cachoo divie nothing since the Civil War. Town fathers passed ordinances, school principals preached sermons, editorial writers inveighed against Cachoo. But a laugh-hungry populace demanded more. The eagle screamed as this fair land reverberated 'neath the thunder of nasal broadsides.
THEN SAM ADAMS learned his first bitter lesson about the jokers' novelties business: if you have something the people want, there will always be others eager to share your fortune. Within two months the stripling sneeze magnate discovered that pirates had moved in and were murderously underselling him. Was young Adams downhearted? Not a bit. He abandoned sneezing wit to take up an even more explosive humor. The outcome was that side-splitting contribution to American culture, the Bingo Shooting Device.
This gadget, still a good seller after thirty-five years, is a small metal box containing a mouse-trap arrangement that explodes a percussion-cap. To quote Adams's literature: ''It goes off with a loud bang when moved or disturbed. This little fun-maker can be used for jokes in a hundred different ways. Place it in a napkin or magazine, under a plate, cigarette box, hat, etc. is entirely harmless and always creates a big laugh.'' He installed the device in decks of cards, cigar boxes and books with saucy titles. Thousands fell to the floor screaming with clodpod laughter. Whereas in 1906 American humor was based on sneezing, in 1907 it derived from things blowing up in people's faces.
The speed and frenzy with which his competitors stole the Bingo Shooting Device gave Adams the only other lesson he needed: if you want to stay on top of the jokers' novelties business youhave to think them up faster than the boys can swipe them. So Adams again went into a quick brown study and emerged with the Snake Jam Jar. Again quoting the accompanying literature: ''A perfect imitation of a jar of raspberry jam. A thirty-inch snake jumps out when the jar is opened.'' Today the muslin-hided, spring-skeletoned serpent which jumps from varioainers may be a trifle less exciting than an air-raid, but in 1908 it was terrific. Adams's snakes hurtled from cold-cream jars, jewel boxes and compacts. Like the Bingo Shooting Device, however, the snakes were easy to pirate.
But while the jackals were still pawing over their shoddy counterfeit snakes, Adams knocked his competition groggy by conceiving the Racket Wireless Message, handed to the jokee in the shape of a telegram. When the message is lifted from its envelope a whirling, rattling mechanism propelled by a rubber band is set in motion against the paper, startling the jokee nearly out of his wits but startling the jokers' novelties business even more. Adams made $150,000 on it in six months. Was there no end to the fellow's cleverness?
As if snakes and wireless weren't enough for one year, Adams rose to new heights by giving western civilization the Dribble Glass. Today the Dribble Glass with the four holes concealed in the grape design around its collar, enabling the contents to cascade down the drinker's front, is almost as familiar as the safety pin. Scarcely a state legislature can convene without one. Indeed, at moments of public peril, when the pressure of democratic anxiety has risen to wellnigh intolerable heights, a solon has only to substitute one of Sam's dribblers for the tumbler beside the speaker's water pitcher, and the crisis is past.
TRIUMPH followed triumph. In breath-taking sequence came the Bleeding Finger (''a compact bandage made like a thimble: when worn it looks like a badly cut finger''), the Shiner, that phony telescope which gives the dupe a black eye, and the All-Metal Ink Blot. The man's rivals must have felt toward him as other dramatists have felt about Shakespeare.
There is not space to tell how Adams dreamed up a soap which dyed the user a harmless though horrible green; how he sensationally improved the iron cigar, or contrived seven kinds of daffy pencils, which do everything from exploding to writing in several different colors at once. We ly over his invention of the rubber nail and rubber clothes hook; of his failure with that wonder of realistic glass-blowing, the Imitation Poached Egg. ''Everybody roared,'' Adams says, ''but I couldn't give the damn things away.'' Adams' son Joseph steered his father into a jokers' novelty on the night he returned from his first party. When he came in Mrs. Adams took one look and exclaimed: ''You've been playing kissin games!'' This gave Adams the idea for a rubber stamp in the form of nature's own cupid's bow, which may be used to impart kiss marks on any surface susceptible to them. Very damning on shirt-fronts.
Early in the game Adams discovered that it is useless to patent an easy-to-imitate item, for will-o'-the-wisp rivals quickly flood the market with imitations. Eight or nine years ago he created the explosive Bingo Book Matches, patented them, and offered them to the trade at $7.50 a gross. But the Japanese soon were passing around cheap facsimiles at $3.50 a gross, and when federal authority lumbered to its legs Bingo Book Matches were as dead as the Imitation Poached Egg.
ON THE OTHER HAND, whenever he concocts a joke that is difficult and expensive to manufacture, Adams will withhold it from the market until he has patented the pants off it. Notable among these are a butterfly which zips from the center of an unfolded greeting card and flies twenty-five feet; a tin frog that jumps five feet straight up; a squirting cigarette lighter; a little peach called the Stick-Um Bell in the guise of a push button that jabs the finger of the pusher (attach it to your door when you next throw a party), and three super-doopers grouped under the heading of Surprise Boxes and Packages.
The first of this trio is the Shooting Pop Ball Box: ''When these boxes are opened there is a loud explosion and from one to four dozen four-inch paper balls jump out; a small box the size of your hand will produce enough balls to fill a bushel basket.'' The second is the Explosive Bouquet (a favorite of the late T. Coleman du Pont, it is said): ''A package about the size of a box of cigarettes - when opened there are four explosioaper Rowers jump out.'' Third and possibly most dazzling of all is the Explosive Package: ''Three packages tied within each other; during the process of opening there are eighteen .explosions and when the last package is opened a five-foot snake jumps out.''
BUT THE DARLING OF Sam Adams's heart is the Joy Buzzer, a small clockwork gimmick which you wind up, wear as a ring and when you shake hand with your dupe it gives him a spurious electric shock. The Joy Buzzer definitely established Sam as the Ford of his industry, enabled him to buy his factory and during the dismal year of 1932 fetched in $144,000. It is patented as tightly as the U. S, bomb sight, and retails at a quarter. So far, 2,500,000 have been purchased. It was due to the Joy Buzzer that Adams never cut a salary or laid off a gnome throughout the depression.
But Sam can fumble a good one now and then, as witness his failure to snap at the Razz Cushion - that impudent little rubber pillow which gives a hearty Bronx cheer when sat upon. In 1930 a Toronto rubber concern offered him exclusive rights to it. ''The whole idea seemed too indelicate,'' Sam says wistfully today, ''so I passed it up, and the first year I threw away about $50,000.''
Selling these humble humor machines is good business if you know how. Sam makes about one hundred and fifty per cent profit on nearly all items. About 6,000 retailers in the U. S. handle his goods. Among the biggest retailers in the country are: B. Shackman R Company of New York, James Sherman of Chicago and George Zorn of Philadelphia. The largest mail-order joke-dealer is the Johnson Smith Company of Racine, Wisconsin. If you want some superb reading matter, send twenty-five cents for its catalogue and just about collapse with merriment.
Adams's closest rival is Richard Appel of New York, daring innovator of the backfiring carving knife and spoons that melt in your mouth. Appel's star number this year is Jumping Candy. Though no tycoon as yet, Appel is progressive, scrappy and fast on his feet is far behind Adams in the Golden-Gag Marathon. There's one thing you can say about Soren Sorensen Adams: he doesn't play tricks on his friends. You can walk up to him and shake his hand without getting an electric shock, and he won't put a rubber frankfurter on your plate when you dine at his house. Occasionally he tests a new device on some Fellow Rotarian and notes the reaction with a coldly objective eye. Possibly, nearing sixty, Sam is a little bit tired of his own haw-haw contraptions.
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