Parkhurst – Parkies – Zip ! Kennedy?
Parkhurst, Parkies and Zip, what do all of these names have in common? George Kennedy.
Greorge Kennedy was the founder and creator of Parkhurst Products Ltd. The Canadian sports and non-sports card gum manufacturer from 1948 through 1964.
Kennedy started producing cards as a promotional scheme to sell gum. His cards eventually went on to become some of the most highly sought after and rare collective sets, packs/wrappers and display boxes to date. But it was some of his earlier ideas that earned him the respect from a WWII perspective that got him into gum.
In his early 20’s, Kennedy spent summers stuffing cushions for theatre seats and busses for Dunlop Tire Manufacturing. At the age of 24 he enrolled at the University of Toronto just as the war broke out in 1939.
Working summers at Dunlop gave Kennedy the break he had been waiting for. Dunlop received a government contract to work on a dive bomber suit to be used by pilots in the war. Kennedy was recommended by Dunlop to work on this project and the Air Force went to the Dean of the University and asked that he be permitted to leave for this vital project.
After successfully completing the project in 1940 and was hired by Wrigly’s Gum as an assistant plant manager in Toronto Canada. He had worked on emergency ration kit for the armed forces which gave him his first gum based experience.
In 1946, George had teamed up with the ex-president of Wrigly’s and created their own company called Hudson Research Foundation which funny enough, was located a couple blocks away from Topps in Brooklyn N.Y. They produced synthetic gum base for companies such as Bowman Gum.
Kennedy had the greatest respect for Warren Bowman for his entrepreneurial spirit in gum manufacturing and land development in Florida.
Kennedy moved on and in 1948 he returned to Canada to create his own company, Parkhurst Products Ltd. His production of sports and non-sports cards gave him the revenue and reputation to expand into other businesses such as: Haws Company, The It Company, Sunbright and Woodman’s Horseradish. Also producing Saran Wrap and Handiwrap for Dow and later getting into the margarine.
Kennedy was somewhat of a greenhorn when it came to the card business though. The first sets of cards in 1951 were only 1 ¾” x 2 ½”, he chose that size so they could get more cards per sheet, thus keeping their costs as low as possible with just starting out.
A guillotine was used for cutting these cards the first couple years, which allowed for allot of imperfection due to slippage while cutting, so the condition of these cards are very hard to find in high grade.
Another factor affecting condition was that Kennedy purchased a cement mixer for around $100.00 to properly mix the cards. The guillotine would cut the sheets consistently in the same order, so they would end up with stacks of the same cards in one pile. The cement mixer would allow for a more random mix of cards. Although, they did have an employee check the cards for damage before hand packaging each pack.
All of this was done for the first couple of years and then they purchased a slitter, which produced a better method of cutting and collating.
As for distribution, they used a broker – John Stewart Sales, then later hired their own sales staff.
Ashton Potter was used for printing Parkies. Unfortunately, all the printing plates were destroyed many years ago.
Kennedy had always offered more to kids with premiums and contests as we see in a lot of the hockey card issues and non-sports issues as well. Albums were offered in early issues of both sports and non-sports, plus the lucky premium cards
Two different sets graced the first year production of 1951:
“Parkies Hockey” 5 cards per pack & 105 cards in the set. And
“Colour Comic Card” 6 cards per pack & 39 card in the set.
Parkhurst had increased the size of their cards after 1951, to keep up with the market trends but kept and used other small card for various non-sports issues. They also started using wax wrappers in their 3rd year of production.
The very first product Parkhurst had released was Bubble Dandy Animal Gum in June of 1950. 5 pieces of gum and a celluloid button of one of 12 different animals.
Throughout the 1950’s and into the early 1960’s , Parkhurst released many wonderful sets. Hockey sets seemed to be their best sellers and were consistently done from 1951 through to 1963-64. Oddly enough, in 1956, for some reason, no hockey cards were produced from Parkhurst that year or any other manufacturer for that matter. However, in 1956 Photo Magic cards came out and there are approximately 12 hockey players in this set, super rare as they were the self developing kind.
We can see through non-sports cards that Parkhurst had offered cards and full packs within cereal from Kellogg’s, Nabisco and of course the infamous Quaker Oats in 1955. Some were single card cello sealed which have been found in the non-sports card issue of “Frontier Days”, (which would make one assume that the 55’ Quaker Oats hockey cards were also individually cello sealed as well).
Parkhurst had always seemed to keep on top of what was happening within the trading card market. From the “Adventure of Radisson” to “Zorro”, this company kept Canada on the map within the trading card industry along with the competition, O-Pee-Chee of London.
Here is a list of most of the Parkhurst sports and non-sports sets available:
“Adventure Of Radisson” – “Baseball” – “Canadian Birds” – “Colour Comic Card” – “Fido” – “Frontier Days” – “Football” - “Guns and Pistols” – “Hockey” – “Indianapolis Speedway Winners” – “Missiles and Satellites” – “Movie and T.V. Stars” – “Old Time Cars” – “Operation Sea Dog” – “Photo Magic” – “Pixie” – “Puzzle Card” – “Race Against Time” – Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” – “Texas John Slaughter” – “Wrestling” – “Zorro” - “Zip Puzzle” - and many more.
Parkhurst also did cross-overs on their sports & non-sports issue. The Zip Puzzle cards had a nice shot of what looks like an early connect the dot, Maurice Richard and not to forget that on the back of the 1960 Speedway Winners card issue they printed the names of the winners of the Hockey Contest of 1959!
In 1964, Parkhurst had made its last hockey set and was pulling out of the gum and trading card industry. Kennedy had determined that gum making was too time consuming. They were making 20 times in margarine sales over gum and there was a lot less time involved in producing it. It was a pure business decision.
A year later Parkhurst had merged with Grant Products Ltd. This affiliation was started much earlier with mail in premiums. Grant Products also produced a set of cards at this time called “Treasure Island” and “Horrible Horoscopes” which would seem to be their final issue. However Grant Products in 1967 had their name on “The Monkees” coloured photos non-sports issue, moreover as the licensee.
Kennedy retired in 1975 from Grant Products and his son-in-law took over. The Parkhurst legacy ended in 1985 when Grant Products closed.