January 27, 1892 – Merchandising Executive and Disney Legend Kay Kamen is Born
“This was Kay Kamen’s genius, of tying products together and promoting the wonderful property.” – Mickey Mouse Collector Bernie Shine
On January 27, 1892, Herman “Kay” Kamen was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He began his career as a hat merchant before moving to advertising. In 1932, Kamen contacted Walt Disney about potential merchandising opportunities for Mickey Mouse, and two days later, Kamen met Walt and Roy in California, where they inked a deal to make Kamen the sole licensing representative for the Walt Disney Studios. In a span of three years, the number of Mickey Mouse products skyrocketed to the thousands, ranging from toys, games, books, watches, and more. Kamen also created a catalogue of Mickey Mouse merchandise in 1934, with seven issues to follow. The most well-known piece of the entire catalogue would be Kamen’s deal with Ingersoll-Waterbury Clock Company, creating the Mickey Mouse watch. The watches were a huge success, saving the company from bankruptcy. Kamen took his merchandising skills to other characters in the Disney line, including Donald Duck and the Seven Dwarfs; when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released, Kamen already had an extensive merchandising campaign at the ready, which was the first instance of tying merchandise to a film. In 1949, Kamen’s life and career were cut short when he was killed in a plane crash over Spain. For his work in Disney merchandising, he was posthumously awarded as a Disney Legend in 1998.