Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ebony Jr!'s Rare Gems: Sunny and Honey



Volume 1, Issue 1 of Ebony Jr! was published in May 1973 by Johnson Publishing Company, the publishers of Ebony and Jet magazines.  Described by Google Books as “the largest ever children-focused publication for African Americans,” Ebony Jr! was geared toward children ages 5 through 10.  Single issues originally sold for 50 cents in 1973.  By 1985, the last year of publication, single copies were $1.
Ebony Jr!, designed to engage the younger set, included short stories, such as “The Haunted Ship in Charleston Harbor”; recipes like “BakingPowder Biscuits”; and oodles of games and things to do.  The publication kept little subscribers anticipating their next issue.  Word Mystery is one game example that was a fun way to boost  knowledge and vocabulary.   However, the most popular feature in each issue of Ebony Jr! was the adventurous brother and sister duo, Sunny and Honey. 

Screen capture of the original Sunny and Honey characters

In print, these siblings served as positive images for young readers and also further encouraged learning and literacy.  Many young readers’ letters to Ebony Jr! confirm their delight for Sunny and Honey, whose articles and character illustrations improved with each issue.
 

Ebony Jr! Sunny and Honey cloth doll ad (screen captured from the December 1973 issue)

By December of the debut year, Ebony Jr!’s Sunny and Honey characters were available by mail order as 18-inch, stuffed-cloth dolls wearing colorful, painted-on clothing.  The Honey doll holds her very own brown baby doll.  Sunny’s yellow shirt proudly advertises his Ebony Jr! affiliation.  Their original, 1973 cost was $3.95 each as shown in the above screen captured image of a Sunny and Honey ad that first appeared in the December 1973 issue of Ebony Jr!

Sunny and Honey dolls were advertised in several issues of Ebony Jr! from December 1973 through April 1976.  During this same period, ads for the dolls also appeared in sporadic issues of Ebony and Jet magazines.

It is safe to assume that since advertisements for the dolls in Ebony Jr! ceased in 1976, that original quantities sold out that year.  Research reveals the dolls made a comeback several years later, as advertised in the May 20, 1991, issue of Jet, which featured Bill Cosby and the young Raven-Symone on the cover.  At that time, the dolls were only available through Ebony and Jet magazine as Ebony Jr! had ceased publication.  The dolls' 1991 cost was $4.95 each plus $2 for postage. 

Below are images of the original Sunny and Honey cloth dolls provided by Ms. Carolyn Armenta Davis – All Rights Reserved
These rare Ebony Jr! Sunny and Honey dolls were acquired by Ms. Carolyn Armenta Davis* in approximately 1974 from Johnson Publishing Company as promotional material when she co-produced the weekly Black Entertainment Show, Tilmon Tempo that aired on Chicago’s Channel 5, NBC-TV. 

At present, Ms. Davis desires to find a new home for her dolls.  Seriously interested parties are invited to contact her directly regarding acquisition of these well-preserved, fine examples of Ebony Jr! and Johnson Publishing Company memorabilia.  Davis describes their condition as excellent without tears and with full color cloth.  Her email address is:  carmentad@aol.com .

While Ebony Jr! ceased publication in 1985 and dolls of the Sunny and Honey characters last sold in 1991, the characters are a mainstay.  The more contemporary Sunny and Honey can be seen at the Ebony Jr! website:  http://www.ebonyjr.com/ .  I had hoped to glean additional information about the characters and the dolls, specifically how many were produced and the exact year beyond 1991 that selling ceased.  Unfortunately, other than a few cover images of past Ebony Jr! publications, the site offers little in the way of information.

Other than Ms. Davis' dolls, I have never seen any others.  This could mean few remain or those that do belong to owners not willing to part with them.

*Carolyn Armenta Davis, an international lecturer, historian, and curator on contemporary Black|African Diaspora architects, is also an award-winning broadcast writer-producer; a non-profit and business advisor; and a world traveler.

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6 comments:

  1. These dolls are awfully cute, they look like comic book characters come to life. Also, I didn't expect to see the backs fully detailed too!

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  2. They are indeed delightful rare gems indeed, Carmen! I hope they will find new homes where their appreciation and historical significance will continue.

    dbg

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  3. Hello from Spain: I like this collection of dolls. I had not seen before. I hope they find a new home. Keep in touch

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  4. Thanks for the detailed history of these dolls. They are very charming!

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  5. I have never seen a printed cloth doll before. I agree, they are rather charming.

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  6. I used to read Ebony Jr all the time and always looked forward to Honey and Sunny. Thanks for the memories.

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