The Frolie Grasshopper Circus

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For a taste of the unalloyed strangeness of the past you have to bypass the fine art and cultivated histories and look to the ephemera. The Frolie Grasshopper Circus (1898) is an uncredited booklet for American children made to promote Quaker Oats, and it does so in a manner far removed from today’s bland and focus-grouped campaigns. The combination of grasshoppers and oats brings to mind crop-devastating swarms of locusts. And who are these slit-eyed insect-wrangling imps? The one on the cover is wearing a pair of stilt shoes like Horrabin the evil clown in Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates while one of his confederates bears the emblem of some sinister insect cult. There’s more to this grotesque parade than meets the eye. The Internet Archive has all 16 pages if you need to know more.

Update: I’ve been informed that the illustrations were by William Cheseborough Ostrander.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Detmold’s insects

5 thoughts on “The Frolie Grasshopper Circus”

  1. Fantastic booklet with such fun illustrations, I was never a big fan of grasshoppers but this might change my mind. And an astute analysis. The Frolie is somewhat sinister yet strangely compelling. He turns up again a few years later in a 1901 fortune telling calendar, which also has a great cover illustration with multiple frolies flying through the sky on bats. Too bad Quaker Oats seems to have retired the character after these two promotions. Probably didn’t fit well with the wholesome image they were trying to portray.

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