Mr. Bingle is a fictional character, a snowman assistant to Santa Claus. The figure consisted of a snowman's body with an ice cream cone hat, candy cane in hand, red ribbon with bells and holly wings. Originating as a mascot of the Maison Blanche department store in New Orleans, Louisiana, the character was later marketed in New Orleans and elsewhere by Mercantile Stores and Dillard's, and it remains part of the popular culture of the Greater New Orleans area.
Mr. Bingle was originally conceived by Emile Alline, an employee of Maison Blanche, in 1947. Mister Bingle shared the initials of his home, "M.B.", as the store was often called. Mr. Bingle became best known in puppet (or marionette) form at the Canal Street Maison Blanche, puppeteered by Edwin "Oscar" Isentrout (who also played the voice of Mr. Bingle), assisted by Ray Frederick and Harry J. Ory. These puppet shows occurred each day for the few weeks leading up to Christmas for about 15 minutes at a time, and were a favorite of local children. Mr. Bingle also appeared in musical radio and television commercials. The puppet shows ended in 1985 when Isentrout died.
Mr. Bingle's theme song:
- Jingle, jangle, jingle
- Here comes Mr. Bingle
- With another message from Kris Kringle
- Time to launch your Christmas season
- Maison Blanche makes Christmas pleasin'
- Gifts galore for you to see
- Each a gem from MB!
Mr. Bingle-related merchandise, especially plush toys, were sold by Maison Blanche. Later Dillard's bought the Maison Blanche chain and the Mr. Bingle trademark. They continued sales of Mr. Bingle merchandise. Years later, many New Orleanians could recall the catchy theme song. The character of Mr. Bingle also made appearances outside of the commercial setting for charitable purposes. For example, he visited sick children at the Children's Hospital of New Orleans.
Mr. Bingle was also displayed as a large papier-mâché figure on the front of the flagship Maison Blanche store on Canal Street, first standing next to Santa Claus and later in a flying form. The flying figure was displayed at the Metairie, Louisiana Maison Blanche Store and later at a Dillard's Metairie location when the Canal Street store was closed. By 2004 the Mr. Bingle figure was in such poor condition that it could not be displayed, although Dillard's continued to market small replicas.
A 2004 novel entitled Saving Mr. Bingle became a local success in New Orleans and Memphis; proceeds from the book were later used to buy a gravestone for Isentrout's unmarked grave at Hebrew Rest No. 3 Cemetery in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, a levee collapsed near the warehouse where Mr. Bingle was stored, and the neighboring buildings were destroyed but Mr. Bingle survived. Spurred by this discovery, funds were raised to refurbish the display and it became a centerpiece of the Christmas 2005 "Celebration in the Oaks" light display at New Orleans City Park. By 2011 the Mr. Bingle figure was again reported to be in need of repairs.
Mr. Bingle outside New Orleans
Mr. Bingle also appeared in Memphis, Tennessee, at the department store Lowenstein's, which was also owned by Mercantile Stores Mercantile acquired MB a few years before itself being acquired by Dillard's. The Mercantile chain used Mr. Bingle in Christmas advertising nationwide at various regional department stores owned by Mercantile. As of November 2014, Mr. Bingle merchandise was still widely available.
- Al Shea
- Companions of Saint Nicholas
- Saving Mr. Bingle, by Sean Patrick Doles, New Orleans Stories, 2004. (A work of fiction.) ISBN 0-9758996-0-0
- Canal Street: New Orleans' Great Wide Way, by Peggy Scott Laborde & John Magill, Pelican Publishing Company, 2006. ISBN 978-1-58980-337-4
- New Orleans Television, by Dominic Massa, Arcadia Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7385-5404-4
- Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley, Arcadia Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-0-7385-8817-9
- Myers-Boone, Leanne. "Here Comes Mr. Bingle". Country Roads Magazine. James Fox-Smith, publisher. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
- Times-Picayune staff writers (October 1, 2011). "1897: Maison Blanche department store 'grand opening'". David Francis, publisher. New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
- Hans J. Sternberg, We Were Merchants: The Sternberg Family and the Story of Goudchaux's and Maison Blanche Department Stores (LSU Press, 2009), ISBN 978-0807134498, p. 95. Excerpts available at Google Books.
- Peggy Scott Laborde & John Magill, Christmas in New Orleans (Pelican Publishing Company, 2009), ISBN 978-1455602179, pp. 16ff. Excerpts available at Google Books.
- Branley, Edward. "NOLA History: Here Comes Mr. Bingle". GoNOLA.com. New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- Sean P. Doles, "In Search of Mr. Bingle", Gambit, December 21, 2004.
- "Book About Store's Christmas Pitchman Becomes Big Easy Hit", Associated Press in The Harlan Daily Enterprise, December 24, 2004.
- ""Mr. Bingle" animator gets tombstone", The Advocate (Baton Rouge), December 16, 2005 (pay site).
- Scott Gold, "Mr. Bingle Helps Save Christmas in New Orleans: The beloved mascot is back, anchoring the holiday light festival as the city tries to recover from Katrina." Los Angeles Times, December 25, 2005.
- "No Jingle, No Jangle: Mr. Bingle To Miss Holiday Parade", WDSU, December 1, 2011.
- Christine Arpe Gang, "Holiday Memories / Beloved Mr. Bingle -- Snowman is a treasured memory of days gone by", The Commercial Appeal, December 25, 2009. Available here – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).