As a father of two small children, I know that it’s always a little easier to get a child to follow a routine if one of their favorite characters are involved. Want you child to go to bed? Maybe you get some Elmo bed sheets. Having trouble getting your little one to eat their vegetables? A Buzz Lightyear spoon might do the trick. Your child doesn’t want to put on their gas mask? Get a Mickey Mouse gas mask.
I, thankfully, have only had to face those first two dilemmas. But people in the United States weren’t always so lucky. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the anxious citizens of the U.S. weren't sure when the next attack might come. One of the ways they found to deal with the uncertainty was to develop emergency response products to provide assistance in the event of another unforeseen tragedy. One of these products was the Mickey Mouse gas mask.
This site provides a full explanation, including this bit of back story:
On January 7th, 1942, one month after Pearl Harbor, T.W. Smith, Jr., the owner of the Sun Rubber Company, and his designer, Dietrich Rempel, with Walt Disney’s approval introduced a protective mask for children. This design of the Mickey Mouse Gas Mask for children was presented to Major General William N. Porter, Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service. After approval of the CWS, Sun Rubber Products Company produced sample masks for review. Other comic book character designs were to follow, depending on the success of the Mickey Mouse mask.
The mask was designed so children would carry it and wear it as part of a game. This would reduce the fear associated with wearing a gas mask and hopefully, improve their wear time and, hence, survivability.
So what became of the masks once the war was over?
Thankfully, no chemical attacks occurred in the United States. Mickey Mouse Gas Masks were distributed to senior officials and others during the war as keepsakes.
With 1,000 of them given out, you'd have to think there are still a good number of them out there sitting in attics or museums. Has anyone ever seen one of these masks in person? Own one? Know where we can buy one?
(Via How To Be A Retronaut)