Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Reddy Kilowatt Records

Collection ID:
Northern States Power Company
Hooks, Benjamin, Dr.
Xcel Energy
Reddy Communications, Inc.
Reddy Kilowatt, Inc.
Gofman, John W.
Commoner, Barry, 1917-
Collins, Ashton B.
Collection is in
. Some of the materials are in
, and
Physical Description:
30 Cubic feet
119 boxes
The records document the development and use of Reddy Kilowatt, a cartoon figure trademark created in 1926 by Ashton B. Collins, Sr. More than 150 investor-owned electric utilities in the United States and at least twelve foreign countries licensed the use of the Reddy Kilowatt trademark. The records include a wide range of textual and visual materials and sound and moving image recordings.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of approximately thirty cubic feet of material created or compiled by Ashton Collins, Sr., and the Reddy Kilowatt Service; Reddy Kilowatt, Inc.; and Reddy Communications, Inc. Materials include publications, advertisements, clip art, photographs, drawings, sketches, correspondence, small artifacts, ephemera, and audio-visual material. It is divided into eight series: Series 1, Background Materials, 1926-1977; Series 2, Ashton Collins, Sr., Materials, 1926-1974; Series 3, Client Services and Publications, 1935-1999; Series 4, Advertising Materials, 1939-1997; Series 5, Scrapbooks, 1935-1960; Series 6, Copyright, Trademark and Other Legal Materials, 1926-1994; Series 7, Reference Materials, 1926-1992; Series 8, Audio-Visual Materials, 1939-1989.
Throughout its history, the Reddy Kilowatt firm was particularly thorough in keeping records of its publications and services. In addition to materials generated by the company itself, there is a significant amount of material accumulated through efforts in market and legal research activities. Particular strengths of the collection include a wide variety of Reddy Kilowatt publications and ephemera; trademark and legal files; files kept on other trademark characters; audio-visual materials; and materials relating to the public debate over atomic energy. The audio-visual materials are unusual because of the amount of textual documentation retained. There is also a significant portion of material documenting the company's involvement in the 1964-1965 World's Fair. The collection is also particularly rich in correspondence and memoranda. The reach of possibilities involving the appearance of the Reddy Kilowatt character in a variety of poses, media, and merchandise should not be underestimated.
Series 1, Background Materials, 1926-1977
This series is divided into three subseries: Subseries 1, Articles of Incorporation, 1953; Subseries 2, Histories and Origins of Reddy Kilowatt, 1926-1977; and Subseries 3, Reddy Remarks, 1935-1936. Series 8, subseries 6, consists of five hours of oral history interviews with Mrs. Ashton Collins Sr. and her son Ashton Collins Jr.
Subseries 1, Articles of Incorporation, 1953, contains the packet of legal information mailed to licensees including the certificate of incorporation, Collins's letter of transmittal, a summary of the corporate structure, the joint tenancy agreement, the corporate by-laws, and copies of a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The packet also includes the
Reddy Kilowatt Guide Book
, which directed licensee companies on correct and incorrect methods of depicting Reddy Kilowatt. Upon incorporation, Collins retained 80 percent of the company's stock; the remaining 20 percent was available only to Reddy Kilowatt licensees. The Reddy Kilowatt Service begun by Ashton Collins, Sr., in 1934, was wholly owned by him until the formation of Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., in 1953.
Subseries 2, Histories and Origins of Reddy Kilowatt, 1926-1977, contains a variety of documents that illustrate the origins and development of both the Reddy Kilowatt character and the company that promulgated his use. A photo album and newspaper clippings from the First Alabama Electrical Exposition document the first appearance of Reddy Kilowatt. Newspaper clippings, graphics, and ephemera from 1926 to 1934 illustrate the adoption of Reddy Kilowatt into advertising use by a handful of eastern and southern electric utilities. Files of press clippings spanning 1937 to 1977 consist largely of utility company newsletters and articles from trade publications. Correspondence is also included. The press clipping files document a carefully developed and tightly controlled company mythology about the emergence of the Reddy Kilowatt character and the success of Collins's endeavors.
Subseries 3, Reddy Remarks, 1935-1936, includes promotional materials that describe Collins's advertising program to prospective clients as well as a series of newspaper advertisements from three electric utilities. This subseries represents Ashton Collin's initial attempt to design an entire advertising program in conjunction with promoting a trademark figure.
Series 2, Ashton Collins, Sr., Files, 1926-1974
This series is divided into four subseries: Subseries 1, Correspondence, 1926-1964; Subseries 2, Speeches, 1942-1974; Subseries 3, Articles, 1933-1951; and Subseries 4, Miscellaneous, 1933; 1953.
Subseries 1, Correspondence, 1926-1964, includes letters discussing Collins's original attempts to set up the Reddy Kilowatt program, as well as Collins's later revitalization of the Reddy Kilowatt/lighting bolt connection. Also included are thank you letters following the Edison Electrical Institute's tribute to Collins and a few holiday cards. Collins's correspondence is also distributed throughout the collection in conjunction with specific topics.
Subseries 2, Speeches, 1942-1974, includes transcripts and notes from speeches given by Collins to various electrical industry forums. Subjects include trends in the electrical consumer market, political situations involving electric utilities, and recommendations for electric utility advertising. Themes include calls for action against government regulation of public utilities and the need for specific advertising directed toward youth and women. Correspondence and event programs are included, as well as a reference file containing material about public speaking and relevant issues in the electrical industry.
Subseries 3, Articles, 1933-1951, contains seven short editorials submitted to
Electrical World
in 1933 and two articles written by Collins for investor-oriented magazines (1947 and 1951).
Subseries 4, Miscellaneous, 1933; 1953, contains a hotel bill and a sheet of the Reddy Kilowatt letterhead used by Ashton Collins.
Series 3, Client Services and Publications, 1935-1999, encompasses the range of publications and services provided to licensees of the Reddy Kilowatt trademark. Publications range from clip art illustrations to detailed program guides. Services include wiring certification, portable talking figures for exhibition, comprehensive advertising plans, access to demographic surveys, special informational mailings, and access to trademark merchandise. The first seven subseries are publications arranged alphabetically; the remaining eight subseries are specific service programs, also arranged alphabetically: Subseries 1, Clip Art, 1936-1978; Subseries 2,
Communications in Environment/Youth
, 1971-1972; Subseries 3,
Reddy Bulletin,
1935-1964; Subseries 4,
Reddy Kilowatt Activities
, 1934-1935; Subseries 5,
Reddy Kilowatt Ink
, 1986-1993; Subseries 6,
Reddy Kilowatt's Review,
1936-1940; Subseries 7,
Reddy News,
1942-1999; Subseries 8, Environmental Program, 1960-1974; Subseries 9, Grass Roots Impact Plan, 1950-1952; Subseries 10, Reddy-Items Merchandise, 1947-1994; Subseries 11, Reddy Kilowatt Talking Figure, 1949-1970; Subseries 12, Reddy Kilowatt Youth Program, 1938-1987; Subseries 13, Reddy Wiring Program, 1955-1963; Subseries 14, Special Executive Mailings, 1950-1994; and Subseries 15, Subject Files, 1952-1988.
Subseries 1, Clip Art, 1936-1978, includes mat service sheets, original sketches, and layout boards. The mat service sheets were sent regularly to client companies for use in advertisements. They include Reddy Kilowatt in a variety of poses and activities meant to illustrate a wide variety of uses for electricity as well as the benefits of investor-owned utilities. Subjects include but are not limited to household appliances, farm uses, atomic energy, national defense, electric rates, power outages, safety, voting, famous Americans, holidays, the New York World's Fair (both 1939 and 1964-1965), and the Beatles. One noteworthy theme is the potential of electrical appliances to alleviate household chores, specifically targeted toward women. The sketches included in the subseries originate from Ray Crosby, longtime art director for Reddy Kilowatt. Included among the layout boards are the original designs for a series of 1940s advertisements concerning American mobilization for war. The subseries also contains the Reproduction Proof Index, which cross-references a detailed list of subjects with corresponding service sheet numbers. The index incorporates mat service sheets from approximately 1955 to the indexes' publication dates, 1970-1972.
Subseries 2,
Communications in Environment/Youth
, 1971-1972, contains issues of the newsletter,
Communications in Environment/Youth
, and related correspondence.
Communications in Environment/Youth
informed client companies of issues of public concern related to utility companies, including environmental issues, and provided information about successful public programs. These include topics such as plant siting, interactions with public school systems, information about nuclear plant safety, efforts to switch to recycled paper, and youth safety programs. The correspondence includes internal memoranda discussing connections between youth culture and environmental concerns, and promotional letters sent to client companies.
Subseries 3,
Reddy Bulletin
, 1935-1964, contains issues of the
Reddy Bulletin
, a promotional device for the Reddy Kilowatt Program and a means to communicate industry-wide information. It contains advertisements for Reddy Kilowatt merchandise, comic books, films, television commercials and other promotional materials. Promotional merchandise includes items such as ashtrays, balloons, candy, soap, decals, patches, scorebooks, notepads, aprons, canning labels, pens, safety posters, dishes, coasters, clocks, playing cards, poker chips, bill inserts, calendars, billboards, correspondence cards, and plywood display figures. Examples of many of the items were included with the
Reddy Bulletin
. Where possible, these items have been left in situ. The Reddy Bulletin also includes general information relevant to electric utility advertising executives.
Subseries 4,
Reddy Kilowatt Activities
, 1934-1935, contains issues of the earliest client-oriented publication from the Reddy Kilowatt Service. A one-page sheet,
Reddy Kilowatt Activities
described usage of the Reddy Kilowatt trademark by the initial licensees of Reddy Kilowatt.
Subseries 5,
Reddy Kilowatt Ink
, 1986-1993, contains issues of the quarterly newsletter,
Reddy Kilowatt Ink
. Begun in 1986, the newsletter included two pages of clip-art along with suggestions for use in advertisements. It filled the former function of
Reddy News
, which was reformatted into a magazine-style industry publication in the 1970s.
Subseries 6,
Reddy Kilowatt's Review
, 1936-1940, contains issues of
Reddy Kilowatt's Review
, which combined advertisements by licensees with commentary by Ashton Collins. Anecdotes of consumer response to Reddy Kilowatt and testimonials from clients appear sporadically.
Subseries 7,
Reddy News
, 1942-1999, contains issues of
Reddy News
and a thorough index. Initially,
Reddy News
was a collection of advertisements by clients, released biannually. It was meant to stimulate advertising ideas among licensee companies and included explanatory copy that underscored the goals of the Reddy Kilowatt Program
. Reddy News
was reformulated in the 1970s as a bi-monthly trade publication focused on the business concerns of investor-owned utilities, though examples of advertisements were still included. The hand-written index was compiled by Mrs. Collins, Sr., and cross-references detailed subject headings with
Reddy News
issues from 1942 to 1970.
Subseries 8, Environmental Program, 1960-1974, includes consumer brochures, clip art, and a program guide titled
Environment: A Reddy Kilowatt Program
. There is also a notable 1973 study, "Public Acceptance of Nuclear Power-Analysis and Approaches," complied by Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., and released only to client companies. This series represents Reddy Kilowatt, Inc.'s response to increased public scrutiny of the environmental impact of power plants in the 1960s and 1970s, especially atomic energy facilities. More information about the public relations strategies developed by Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., in relation to atomic energy is contained in Series 4, Advertising Materials, 1939-1997; Subseries 1, Bernard J. Bachem Files, 1959-1980. The firm's market research on the public debate concerning atomic energy is reflected in a series of audio recordings located in two sub-subseries located in Series 8, Audio-Visual Materials, 1939-1989; Subseries 4, Sub-subseries 3, News Programs, 1976-1979 and Sub-subseries 4, Speeches, 1975-1980, undated.
Subseries 9,
Grass Roots Impact Plan
, 1950-1952, contains a series of brochures, clip art and promotional documents. The Grass Roots Impact Plan was an advertising program designed to "fight creeping socialism" by promoting the benefits of investor-owned utilities. The plan also promoted the use of atomic energy. The brochures were mailed out to participating companies in intervals to be kept in a binder for a complete program guide.
Subseries 10, Reddy-Items Merchandise, 1947-1994, includes catalogs, supplier information and publicity material related to the Reddy-Items Merchandise Program. Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., contracted for a wide variety of merchandise items to distribute through its client companies. There is little information or correspondence within the collection about the actual process of ordering such materials. The catalogs provide an overview of merchandise available for specific years. Interested researchers may wish to refer to the artifact collection for actual examples of Reddy-Items merchandise and to examine the
Reddy Bulletin
, used primarily to advertise these products to clients. See Series 3, Client Services and Publications, 1935-1999, Subseries 3,
Reddy Bulletin
, 1935-1964.
Subseries 11, Reddy Kilowatt Talking Figure, 1949-1970, consists of correspondence, design proposal, design specifications, display kit instructions and publicity materials related to a three-dimensional Reddy Kilowatt figure used at expositions and fairs. The figure was wired to an external microphone and speaker, so that the figure could talk to the audience and answer questions. A script is included with the display kit instructions, along with explanatory photographs. Multiple photographs of the figure in use are included with the textual materials.
Subseries 12, Reddy Kilowatt Youth Program, 1938-1987, includes a program guide, presentation binder, promotional materials, pen and ink illustrations, poetry, documentation of two Reddy Kilowatt youth clubs, business presentation scripts, and a government anti-communist brochure. The "Mother Juice" rhymes illustrate Ashton Collins, Sr.'s early interest in focusing advertising attention on youth populations in order to inculcate appreciation of electricity and its applications. The confluence of the baby boom and the post World War II anti-communism movement made this focus a mainstay of the Reddy Kilowatt Program, providing Collins with an opportunity to combine capitalist economic values with consumer electricity usage. The script for "Fission, Fertility, and the Future" spells out Collins's reasoning behind his interest in influencing youth populations, and the accompanying program guide and presentation binder illustrate the mechanics of his youth-oriented advertising plan for electric utilities. Of particular note is the 1964 survey of adults and adolescents testing for trademark recognition and attitudes about electricity. The survey was commissioned by Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., and performed by Gilbert Youth Research Organization in five cities across the United States. Another notable item in the subseries is
Communist Target--Youth
, a 1960 report by J. Edgar Hoover to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
Subseries 13, Reddy Wiring Program, 1955-1959, includes brochures, ephemera, and photographs related to the Reddy Wiring Program. This program promoted a specific standard of electrical wiring in new homes. Participating builders were then allowed to designate their products as "Medallion" or "Gold Medallion" homes.
Subseries 14, Special Executive Mailings, 1950-1994, consists of letters and press releases sent to a list of advertising and public affairs executives of Reddy Kilowatt client companies. Topics include, but are not limited to, requests for information, legal updates, personnel changes, promotions of specific advertising programs, and reprints of articles.
Subseries 15, Subject Files, 1952-1998, are arranged alphabetically by subject heading. Subjects include, but are not limited to, sports trophies, ventriloquist acts, brochures about the 1976 Bicentennial, consumer information brochures, and the Annual Report competition. Of note is the 1953
Artist Guide
, which explains the particulars of drawing Reddy Kilowatt.
Series 4, Advertising Materials, 1939-1997, is divided into three subseries: Subseries 1, Bernard J. Bachem Files, 1959-1980; Subseries 2, Business Advertising, 1940-1997; and Subseries 3, Client Advertising, 1939-1977.
Subseries 1, Bernard J. Bachem Files, 1959-1980, consists of files generated and maintained by Bernard J. Bachem, the vice-president in charge of audio-visual media and the Reddy Kilowatt Environmental Program from approximately 1958 to 1972. The files are arranged alphabetically by subject heading. Topics include production and syndication of television commercials, nuclear energy public relations strategies, radio scripts, and the
Reddy and Mr. Toot
children's show. Of note is a file of correspondence with Terrytoons, which contracted with Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., to produce television commercials.
Subseries 2, Business Advertising, 1940-1997, consists of brochures and presentation materials developed for advertising to business clients. The subseries includes several "presentation binders" used at meetings with potential clients to describe the Reddy Kilowatt Program. In 1940, Ashton Collins, Sr., began collecting testimonials from executives at licensee companies for use in approaching new clients. These became a mainstay of his business advertising approach until the 1960s, when the company began developing a series of glossy brochures. Slide-shows and filmstrips also became a key advertising tool; scripts and related memoranda are contained within this subseries, and are also found in Series 8, Audio-Visual Materials, 1939-1989, Subseries 1, Supplementary Materials, 1945-1984; and Subseries 5, Filmstrips, 1939-1984.
Subseries 3, Client Advertising, 1939-1977, contains advertisements created by licensees of the Reddy Kilowatt trademark. Materials are organized alphabetically by subject and include newspapers, bill inserts, notices, brochures, employee handbooks, annual reports, comic strips, signs and posters. More examples of client advertisements can be found in Series 3, Client Services and Publications, 1935-1999, Subseries 3,
Reddy News
, 1942-1999.
Series 5, Scrapbooks, 1935-1960, undated, consists of eight scrapbooks: Plant Openings, Publicity, Reddy on Display, Reddy Made Magic, Transportation, Use of Reddy on Trucks; and Reddy news Launchings. The Plant Openings, 1948-1949, details when a plant opened and contains the associated advertising for the plant dedication typically with photographic collages. The Publicity Scrapbook, 1935-1950, contains newspaper clippings about Reddy Kilowatt and articles from trade publications such as the
Advertisers Digest
. Reddy on Display Scrapbook, 1948, depicts window displays of Reddy Kilowatt at various public service and gas companies across America. The Reddy Kilowatt Scrapbook tells the story of Reddy Kilowatt's daily activities starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 2 a.m. The Reddy Made Magic Scrapbook, 1948, contains publicity for the Technicolor motion picture film,
Reddy Made Magic
, which tells the story of electricity. The majority of the publicity consists of announcements for the showing of the film. The Transportation Scrapbook, 1947, contains advertising for electric and gas powered buses, trolleys, and trams. Reddy Kilowatt is cast as the servant for electricity, gas, and transportation. Use of Reddy on Trucks Scrapbook, undated, consists of black-and-white photographs of electric companies using the Reddy Kilowatt logo and clippings from the
Reddy Bulletin
of trucks. Reddy News Launchings Scrapbook, 1942-1960, consists of pages from the
Reddy News
presumably used for developing news releases.
Series 6, Copyright, Trademark and Other Legal Materials, 1926-1994, is divided into six subseries: Subseries 1, Copyright Materials (general), 1926-1953; Subseries 2, Trademark Materials (general), 1932-1953; Subseries 3, United States Trademarks, 1933-1989; Subseries 4, Foreign Trademarks, 1937-1994; Subseries 5, Reddy Kilowatt v. Mid-Carolina et al., 1937-1976; Subseries 6, Trademark Character Files, 1937-1976; and Subseries 7, Reference Materials, 1945-1980.
Subseries 1, Copyright Materials (general), 1926-1953, contains general copyright information and compiled lists of copyrights for various Reddy Kilowatt activities, such as the
Reddy News
, Reddytoons, and bulletins, and correspondence between the Alabama Power Company and the Library of Congress Copyright Office about copyrighting the basic figure and name of Kilowatt and such prefixes as "Reddy," "Happy," and "Handy." The Alabama Power Company initiated this correspondence in 1926 to protect its symbolic character "Reddy Kilowatt" for appliance sales and general advertising.
Subseries 2, Trademark Materials (general), 1932-1953, includes general correspondence about trademarks, trademarks not granted, trademark renewals and re-publication, trademark assignments, and infringements cases. The trademark assignment file also contains a patent assignment (United States patent # 2,349,706) from Ashton B. Collins to Reddy Kilowatt, Inc. The patent is for a display device designed primarily to hold advertising matter. The infringement materials relate to improper uses of Reddy Kilowatt and clients seeking permission or clarification on the proper use of the trademark.
Subseries 3, United States Trademarks, 1933-1989, consists primarily of registered trademarks, certificates of renewal, correspondence about the registration process with the United States Patent Office and examples of the trademark being used by Reddy Kilowatt, Inc. The bulk of the correspondence is from C.A. Snow and Company, registered patent attorneys, and Louise M. Bender, corporate secretary for Reddy Kilowatt, Inc. Examples of the trademarks are found in the
Reddy News,
"clip sheets" of trademark
business letterhead, stickers, playing cards, calendars and other ephemera. Trademark file #651,768, contains a copy of the
Reddy Kilowatt Handbook of Trademark Usage
, 1958. This handbook was intended to guide electric light and power companies licensed to use Reddy Kilowatt trademarks. Trademark file #827,151, contains a small binder of Reddy Kilowatt small appliance advertisements, 1938 to 1965, not inclusive. This subseries is arranged chronologically by registered trademark number.
Many of the materials in this series were filed under the provisions of the Lanham Act, named for Representative Fritz G. Lanham of Texas, passed on July 5, 1946, and signed into law by President Harry Truman to take effect "one year from its enactment," on July 5, 1947. The Lanham Act is found in Title 15 of the U.S. Code and contains the federal statutes governing trademark law in the United States. The Act prohibits a number of activities, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising.
Subseries 4, Foreign Trademark Materials, 1937-1994, consists of registered trademarks, correspondence and examples of the Reddy Kilowatt trademarks in foreign countries such as Australia, Barbados, Mexico, Kenya, the Netherland Antilles and South Korea. The Kenya file contains specific information about trademark law and policies in Kenya. Several publications of note are
Law of Kenya
Trademarks Ordinance Chapter 506
, 1962;
The Merchandise Marks Ordinance Chapter 505
, 1963, detailing the specific Kenyan laws and information on the electricity industry in Kenya; the East African Power and Lighting Company's
The East African Power and Light Company, Directors Report and Accounts,
1965; and
The Power Supply Industry in Kenya
, 1966.
Subseries 5,
Reddy Kilowatt v. Mid-Carolina et al.
, 1926-1960, includes correspondence and legal documents related to the trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., against Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). The lawsuit was filed in 1953 and resolved by Judge Harry E. Watkins in 1956. The subject of the dispute was "Willie Wiredhand," an advertising trademark character used by the NRECA. Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., alleged that the character was drawn similarly to Reddy Kilowatt and used in comparable ways, thus confusing consumers' ability to discern between the two. Judge Watkins's decision hinged on the legal boundaries drawn between service areas of investor-owned utilities and electric cooperatives. Because electric cooperatives were prevented from competing for investor-owned consumer audiences, Judge Watkins deemed that the trademarks also were not in competition. Ashton Collins, Sr., was greatly disappointed by the decision, and this is reflected in the post-decision correspondence files. Other files of note concern consumer surveys in South Carolina and Iowa commissioned by Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., with the aim of finding evidence to bolster the lawsuit; depositions from participants are included in the files. Ashton Collins, Sr.'s affidavit and documentation of the Willie Wiredhand trademark also are included in the subseries.
Subseries 6, Trademark Character Files, 1937-1976, contains the reference files developed by Ashton Collins, Sr., and Reddy Kilowatt, Inc. concerning other trademark characters. The correspondence reflects an interest in factors leading to success of other trademark characters as well as an active concern with trademarks that might infringe on Reddy Kilowatt's success. Files include early characters such as the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroads' Chessie the Cat and Borden's Elsie the Cow. A large file on Smoky Bear contains advertisements including Reddy Kilowatt. Files that reflect infringement concerns include Willing Water, Bill Ding, Mr. Wirewell, and Genie.
Subseries 7, Reference Materials, 1945-1980, contains files developed on topics relating to non-character corporate trademarks. Materials include brochures, articles, advertisements, publications and correspondence. Files on efforts by Xerox Corporation, Coca-Cola Company and Dow Chemical Company to regulate language about their trade names are included. Other notable files include Bakelite advertisements and a file of correspondence and articles concerning Isadore Warshaw, who testified on behalf of the NRECA during the Reddy Kilowatt v. Mid-Carolina et al., hearings.
Series 7, Reference Materials, 1926-1992, consists of general files maintained by Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., for internal reference. It is divided into five subseries: Subseries 1, Client Use of Services, 1977-1984; Subseries 2, New York World's Fair, 1938-1939, 1961-1966; Subseries 3, Subject Files, 1940-1992; Subseries 4, Testimonials, 1939-1977; and Subseries 5, Empty Binders, 1926-1987.
Subseries 1, Client Use of Services, 1977-1984, consists of files maintained during the incarnation of the company as Reddy Communications, Inc. During this period, the firm was emphasizing its usefulness as an information clearinghouse for the electric utility industry. These files include monthly reports on client use of services as well as more detailed reports on steps taken to meet client requests for information.
Subseries 2, New York World's Fair, 1938-1939; 1961-1966, contains files largely accumulated during the participation of Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., in the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, with some documentation surviving from the 1938-1939 New York World's Fair. Reddy Kilowatt was used prominently in "Tower of Light," the investor-owned electric utility exhibit. The 1964 exhibit included a musical show which met with some initial criticism and was revised for the 1965 fair to become "Holiday with Light." Materials include press releases from production companies and Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., scripts, photographs and production documents for the shows; correspondence with the production company; and electrical industry trade publications.
Subseries 3, Subject Files, 1940-1992, includes files on unique uses of Reddy Kilowatt, Reddy Kilowatt-themed apparel, verses written by consumers, World War II-era advertisements, and files used by company staff for market research.
Subseries 4, Testimonials, 1939-1977, contains letters from executives at licensee companies attesting to the benefits of receiving the Reddy Kilowatt Service. The letters were occasionally edited and compiled for use in business presentations.
Subseries 5, Empty Binders, 1926-1987, includes the original binders and albums used for presenting Reddy Kilowatt programs.
Series 8, Audio-Visual Materials, 1939-1984, undated
The series is divided into five subseries: Supplementary Materials, 1945-1984; Animation Cels, 1946; 1985; Moving Images, 1940s-1989; Audio, 1946-1980; and Filmstrips, 1939-1984.
Subseries 1, Supplementary Materials, 1945-1984, contains scripts, production documents, promotional materials, correspondence and memoranda related to the audio-visual materials in this series. Of particular note are the files containing production documents and correspondence related to
The Mighty Atom.
These files track the decision-making process within Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., concerning the inclusion of previous footage from
Reddy Made Magic
. Other materials relating to this subseries may be found in Series 4, Advertising Materials, 1939-1997, Subseries 1, Bernard J. Bachem Files, 1959-1980.
Subseries 2, Animation Cels and Sketches, 1946; 1985, contains mylar animation cels and paper sketches used in the production of
Reddy Made Magic
and the "Adventure Kid" television commercial.
Subseries 3, Moving Images, 1940s-1989, contains all film (excluding the filmstrips) and video in the collection and is organized chronologically. The films and videos include animated educational films, commercials, television shows, home movies, an informal instructional video, and an employee appreciation video.
Subseries 4, Audio, 1946-1980, undated This series contains all the audio (excluding those items associated with filmstrips) and is divided into 5 subseries.
Sub-subseries 1, Music, 1954-1960, undated, contains Reddy Kilowatt theme songs and promotional music used by Reddy Communications and is organized chronologically, with undated materials last.
Sub-subseries 2, Promotional, 1946-1979, undated, consists of promotional audio such as radio commercials and informational spots. The items are organized chronologically, with undated materials last.
Sub-subseries 3, News Programs, 1976-1979, consists of recordings on cassette tapes. The cassette tapes are organized chronologically.
Sub-subseries 4, Speeches, 1975-1980, undated, contains recordings of speeches and presentations given by important figures in and outside of the electrical industry. The items are organized chronologically, with undated materials last.
Sub-subseries 5, Corporate Interviews, circa 1974-1977, consists of informal interviews conducted by Reddy Communications, Inc. employees. The interviews are organized chronologically.
Sub-series 6, Oral Histories, 1983, consists of five hours of audio cassette recordings with Mrs. Ashton Collins, Sr. and Ashton Collins, Jr. at the initial stages of collection acquisition. The oral histories were conducted by John Fleckner, Archivist with the Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Topics discussed include biographical information about Ashton Collins, Sr.; the early history of the Reddy Kilowatt Service; Mrs. Ashton Collins, Sr.'s experiences in the Reddy Kilowatt, Inc. office; her participation in electric industry conventions; Cuba's ousting of Reddy Kilowatt; and the transition in the company's services during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Sub-subseries 7, Reference CDs, consists of all reference copies made of the audio. Multiple titles are contained on each disc.
Subseries 5, Filmstrips, 1939-1984, consists of filmstrips and their associated audio and elements (negatives, A and B roll, etc.), paired together by title. The filmstrips are organized chronologically.

Collection is arranged into eight series.
Series 1, Background Materials, 1926-1977
Subseries 1.1, Articles of Incorporation, 1953
Subseries 1.2, Histories and Origins of Reddy, 1926-1977
Subseries 1.3, Reddy Remarks, 1935-1936
Series 2, Ashton Collins, Sr., Materials, 1926-1974, undated
Subseries 2.1, Correspondence, 1926-1964
Subseries 2.2, Speeches, 1942-1974, undated
Subseries 2.3, Articles, 1933-1951
Subseries 2.4, Miscellaneous, 1933; 1953
Series 3, Client Services and Publications, 1935-1999, undated
Subseries 3.1, Clip Art, 1936-1978, undated
Subseries 3.2,
Communications in Environment/Youth
, 1971-1972
Subseries 3.3,
Reddy Bulletin,
1934-1941; 19431964
Subseries 3.4,
Reddy Kilowatt Activities
, 1934-1935
Subseries 3.5,
Reddy Kilowatt Ink
, 1986-1993
Subseries 3.6,
Reddy Kilowatt's Review,
Subseries 3.7,
Reddy News,
1942-1965, 1959-1972, 1978-1988, 1993-1999
Subseries 3.8, Environmental Program, 1960-1974
Subseries 3.9, Grass Roots Impact Plan, 1950-1952
Subseries 3.10, Reddy-Items Merchandise, 1947-1995
Subseries 3.11, Reddy Kilowatt Talking Figure, 1949-1970, undated
Subseries 3.12, Reddy Kilowatt Youth Program, 1936-1987
Subseries 3.13, Reddy Wiring Program, 1955-1963, undated
Subseries 3.14, Special Executive Mailings, 1950-1994
Subseries 3.15, Subject Files, 1952-1998, undated
Series 4, Advertising Materials, 1939-1997
Subseries 4.1, Bernard J. Bachem Files, 1959-1980
Subseries 4.2, Business Advertising, 1940-1997
Subseries 4.3, Client Advertising, 1939-1977
Series 5, Scrapbooks, 1935-1960, undated
Series 6, Copyright, Trademark and Other Legal Materials, 1926-1994
Subseries 6.1, Copyright Materials (general), 1926-1953
Subseries 6.2, Trademark Materials (general), 1932-1981, undated
Subseries 6.3, United States Trademarks, 1930-1994
Subseries 6.4, Foreign Trademark Materials, 1937-1998
Subseries 6.5, Reddy Kilowatt v. Mid-Carolina et al., 1926-1960
Subseries 6.6, Trademark Character Files, 1937-1976, undated
Subseries 6.7, Reference Materials, 1945-1980
Series 7, Reference Materials, 1926-1992
Subseries 7.1, Client Use of Services, 1977-1984
Subseries 7.2, New York World's Fair, 1938-1939; 1961-1968
Subseries 7.3, Subject Files, 1940-1992
Subseries 7.4, Testimonials, 1934-1977
Subseries 7.5, Empty Binders, 1926-1987
Series 8, Audiovisual Materials, 1939-1989, undated
Subseries 8.1, Supplementary Materials, 1945-1984, undated
Subseries 8.2, Animation Cels and Sketches, 1946; 1985
Subseries 8.3, Moving Images, 1940s-1989
Subseries 8.4, Audio, 1946-1980, undated

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Ashton B. Collins, Sr. (1885-1976), the commercial manager of Alabama Power Company, created the trademark character Reddy Kilowatt in 1926 in an attempt to humanize electric utility service for marketing and other corporate communications purposes. Reddy Kilowatt first appeared publicly at the 1926 Alabama Electrical Exposition in a display for the Alabama Power Company, which also ran supporting newspaper advertisements. The original figure had five arms to illustrate the many capabilities of electric service. Though Collins originated the idea of Reddy Kilowatt, he asked an engineer from the company's drafting department, Dan Clinton, to create a usable sketch of the character. After the exposition, Collins retained the copyrights to Reddy Kilowatt. In 1932, he recruited a friend, Dorothea Warren, to develop several sketches of Reddy Kilowatt in an attempt to sell what Collins called "The Reddy Kilowatt Program." At the time, Collins was employed by Edison Electrical Institute to travel the country promoting electrical household cooking appliances. He used the opportunity to network with electric utility managers and to promote his idea of using Reddy Kilowatt to humanize electric service in the home. Collins convinced his first clients in 1933. By the end of 1934, at least six other electric utility companies had adopted the "Reddy Kilowatt Program." Subscribers to the Reddy Kilowatt Service received sheets of clip art for use in advertisements. The mechanism for this distribution was called a "mat service." The Reddy Kilowatt mat service was the backbone of the licensee program from the 1930s until the late 1960s. The mat service offered various poses of Reddy Kilowatt to be included in advertisements for the licensee companies, as well as complete advertisements to which the licensee companies could simply add their name. Another publication,
Reddy News
, was soon developed to reinforce the program. Published biannually, it was sent to licensee companies to provide ideas about ways to use the Reddy Kilowatt trademark. As the mat service evolved, the Reddy Kilowatt figure found many uses. Common themes were the benefits of electrical appliances for farms and homes, safety, and holidays. The descriptions of electrical appliances emphasized gender roles in alluding to the potential new freedom for women from household chores. Farm-oriented advertisements underscored increased farm productivity through electrical innovations such as incubators and automated milking machines. As electric usage increased, the mat service added advertisements pointing out the need for updated wiring in order to maintain safety. More mundane concerns included electric service issues such as power outages, vandalism and timely bill payment. A wide variety of Reddy Kilowatt holiday poses became available, ranging from the Easter Bunny to President's Day and Halloween. Christmas was especially well illustrated, accenting the possibility of electrical appliances as gifts. The Reddy Kilowatt Service was only available to investor-owned utilities, and the mat service reflected this by emphasizing the benefits of this economic structure. Other economic themes included the inexpensiveness of electric service and payment of taxes by investor-owned utilities. The service also began to express a specific political agenda in response to public ownership of utilities and rural electrification cooperatives. Bolstered by post-World War II anti-communist sentiments, the Reddy Kilowatt Service began issuing advertisements promoting free enterprise which linked public and co-operative utilities with the road to socialism. In 1950, Collins launched the Grass Roots Impact Plan, a comprehensive advertising plan incorporating these themes. Ashton Collins consistently emphasized to his licensees the need to begin the consumer education process early. Youth education was a clear priority for the Reddy Kilowatt Service and was even included in Collins's initial "Reddy Remarks" program via a bedtime story booklet. Licensee companies sponsored Reddy Kilowatt Youth Clubs in the late 1940s, inspired by Collins's speeches emphasizing the importance of youth programming. In the mid-1960s, Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., developed a comprehensive youth program for client companies that incorporated youth education with capitalist economic values. Collins developed a supporting slide presentation titled "Fission, Fertility, and the Future." Tailored to an audience of business executives, the presentation emphasized the importance of reaching youth during a period of social upheaval in order to protect the interests of investor-owned utilities. Film and television programs developed by the company also reflected the emphasis on youth outreach. Since the company's business revolved around a cartoon character, the transition into animation seemed fairly simple. Reddy Kilowatt, Inc., entered into a partnership with Walter Lantz Productions to produce
Reddy Made Magic
, a 1946 cartoon about the history of electricity. However, producing audio-visual media turned out to be too expensive and the experiment with animation remained limited. In 1957, Collins tested the waters again by contracting for a commercial with Terrytoons, a low-budget animation company and, in 1959, the company hired John Sutherland to update
Reddy Made Magic
for the atomic age.
The Mighty Atom
recycled the historical sequence from the previous film and added a new sequence promoting the use of atomic energy. Collins already had used the cheaper media of filmstrips and slide presentations for business presentations, and this format also was incorporated into the youth program. Licensee companies were encouraged to use Reddy Kilowatt in their own sponsorship of radio and television programs, and some used Reddy Kilowatt in locally produced commercials. Ashton Collins was an aggressive and skillful promoter of Reddy Kilowatt, and the range of the program was not limited to the United States. Collins began registering his trademarks in prospective markets early on, and soon received trademarks in Canada (1934), Argentina (1937), Great Britain (1938), and Mexico (1938). Trademarks were also granted in Australia, Barbados, Kenya, Mexico, South Korea, Venezuela and the Netherlands Antilles. Though no official list of international licensee companies is available, materials within the collection indicate lively usage of Reddy Kilowatt in South America and Australia. Ashton Collins, Sr. was married in 1931 to Mrs. Ashton Collins, Sr. They had two sons, Ashton, Jr., and Beatty. Each member of the family became involved in the business over time, though that was not required by Ashton Collins, Sr., at any time. After the two boys left home, Mrs. Collins began volunteering at the office; her work included filing, photocopying, and assembling indexes and scrapbooks. After his release from the Air Force, Ashton Collins, Jr., approached his father about working in the company. Ashton Collins, Sr., met with him over the course of a day and outlined a program for him to work his way up through the company. Collins, Jr., agreed and began work in the mailroom. In 1962, he became president of the company and his father became chairman of the Board of Directors. Beatty Collins's involvement in the company was limited to service on the Board of Directors. By the late 1960s, the business climate for investor-owned utilities had changed significantly. Public concern over the environmental impact of power plants resulted in greater scrutiny of new plant construction, particularly in regard to nuclear energy facilities. Electric utilities no longer desired to sell increased output, as building new plants became too costly to justify their expense. The Reddy Kilowatt Program reflected these changes in several ways. An environmental program was developed to help electric utilities navigate their way through the increasingly complicated public and business climate. This included a number of services specifically targeted toward the issue of atomic power such as consumer advertising meant to demonstrate the minimal output of radioactive waste and a low-profile consulting service focusing on atomic plant siting issues. As companies moved away from blanket advertising for electric usage, the Reddy Kilowatt character was relegated to children's programming. As Ashton Collins, Sr.'s, influence in the company began to wane, the youth program moved away from economic education and shifted to conservation issues and electrical safety. The company changed its name to Reddy Communications, Inc., at some point before 1982 and began to market itself as an information clearinghouse and consulting service. In 1998, the company was bought by Northern States Power, which had recently become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Xcel Energy.

Samantha Richert
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to the Archives Center by Xcel Energy in 2005.
Processing Information
Series 8, Audio-Visual Materials, 1939-1989, processed by Alexis Ainsworth (intern), 2007; textual records processed by Samantha Richert (intern), 2008; supervised by Wendy Shay, audio-visual archivist and Alison L. Oswald, archivist.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items are available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. Reference copies are ½ inch VHS, audio cassette, or compact disc. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow. There are no reference copies on VHS or DVD for the filmstrips, and the Archives Center does not have a filmstrip projector.
Technical Access: Titles on Beta Max video tape and all picture and audio elements for Original Film (OF) 913.7 cannot be viewed. Viewing the film and filmstrip portion of collection requires special appointment.
Preferred Citation
Reddy Kilowatt Records, 1926-1999, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Related Materials
Related Archival Materials: See Louisan E. Mamer Rural Electrification Administration papers, 1927-2002 (AC0862).
Related Artifacts: The Division of Information Technology and Communications holds artifacts related to this collection (Accession #: XXXX-XXXX).

Keywords table of terms and types.
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Baby boom generation Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1939-1945 Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
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Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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