Monday, April 22, 2013


The following is a true story, as confirmed by Snopes:

Burma-Shave was an American brand of brush-less shaving cream, famous for its advertising gimmick of posting humorous rhyming poems on small sequential highway roadside signs.  Burma-Shave was introduced in 1925, and at its peak, it was the second-highest selling brushless shaving cream in the United States.  Then this set of signs appeared:

Free Offer! Free Offer!
Rip A Fender
Off Your Car
Mail It In For
A Half-Pound Jar

Most interpreted the jingle as humorous. Some, however, chose to see if the firm would make good on its promise. All fender-bearers were greeted politely, relieved of their automotive "coupons," and provided with the promised half-pound jar. Then in 1955 the company promised to send a contest winner to Mars as part of a promotional campaign.  It also should have been taken as a joke:

Free — Free
A Trip
To Mars
For 900
Empty Jars

Unlike the car fender fiasco, this playful spouting looked safe to the company — 900 empty Burma-Shave jars was going to prove hard to come by. Yet they had not reckoned on the determination of Arliss French, manager of a supermarket in Appleton, Wisconsin. Mr. French wired Burma-Shave he was accepting their offer — where should the jars be shipped? In response, the company wired back:

If A Trip
To Mars You Earn
Remember, Friend
There's No Return

French was not to be dissuaded. He countered with another telegram:

Let's Not Quibble
Let's Not Fret
Gather Your Forces
I'm All Set

What could Burma-Shave do but respond?

Our Rockets Are Ready
We Ain't Splitting Hairs
Just Send Us The Jars
And Arrange Your Affairs

However, Burma-Shave was concerned. They sent general manager Ralph Getchman to Appleton to determine just how serious this French fellow was. Getchman's report was not what the home office had been hoping for. Arliss French's store was festooned with reproductions of the Burma-Shave signs. Full-page ads run in the local paper entreated: "Send Frenchy to Mars!" Within the store was a huge pile of empty jars, and it was growing day by day. Also in the store was a mock rocket ship for the kids to swarm over. And from the roof of the establishment, little green men fired toy rocket gliders out over the parking lot.

On the spur of the moment, the head of Burma-Shave recommended offering the determined grocer a trip to the Mars Candy Company in Chicago for a weekend on the town. That spontaneous utterance  planted the suggestion of a solution that was to provide everyone with enough wiggle room to look like the offer had been honored.

When French presented himself at Burma-Shave's head office, he was dressed for his  trip — he arrived sporting a bubble on his head and clad in a silvery space suit with a big red owl on the front. His 900 jars arrived in a Brink's armored truck emblazoned with a "Send Frenchy To Mars!" sign. Burma-Shave was ready — they
presented tickets for French, his wife, and twelve children to travel to Moers, a little town in Germany that mercifully pronounced its name "mars." The Frenches were handed jars of Burma-Shave and given the advice they be used to barter with the natives for goods and services.

The photos were many and the news coverage extensive. The Frenches enjoyed their German vacation, and Burma-Shave once again netted more by way of publicity than it lost in meeting its obligation.

So in case you never saw these signs, here are a couple more--


  1. I'd never heard that story before! That's priceless! Very well done (even if the 12 kids probably would have liked to go to the candy factory just as well.)

  2. There were still a few signs around when we took road trips back in the 1960's I loved them!