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"Sunny Jim" is the name of two completely unconnected characters used in advertising and product branding: (1) a cartoon character created to promote Force cereal, the first commercially successful wheat flake; (2) the name of a brand of peanut butter produced in the Seattle area.
Sunny Jim and Force cereal
The character on boxes of Force cereal was created in the United States in 1902 by writer Minnie Maud Hanff and artist Dorothy Ficken, initially for an advertising campaign. Rather than selling the benefits of eating wheat, which Hanff assumed customers already knew, her copy for the original advertisements told stories in verse, such as this one:
- Jim Dumps was a most unfriendly man,
- Who lived his life on the hermit plan;
- In his gloomy way he'd gone through life,
- And made the most of woe and strife;
- Till Force one day was served to him
- Since then they've called him "Sunny Jim."
The advertisements featured slogans such as "Better than a Vacation" and "A Different Food for Indifferent Appetites." Other verses included:
- Whatever you say, wherever you've been,
- You can't beat the cereal, that raised Sunny Jim!
- High o'er the fence leaps Sunny Jim,
- Force is the food that raises him
This last rhyme became a familiar catchphrase.
Also used was the slogan "When skies are grey and times are grim, wake up and smile with Sunny Jim", which appeared on advertising coins.
The campaign was wildly successful at promoting the character of Sunny Jim. Printer's Ink stated September 17, 1902 that "No current novel or play is so universally popular. He is as well-known as President Roosevelt or J. Pierpont Morgan." However, the cereal company turned its advertising account over to a different firm, which did not approve of humor in advertising and more or less abandoned the campaign.
In the United States, Force followed a convoluted path involving many corporate mergers. The last owner stopped producing the cereal in 1983. Both the cereal and Sunny Jim had greater success in the United Kingdom, where Force cereal is still available and the box still features a picture of Sunny Jim.
Sunny Jim Peanut Butter
The brand of peanut butter known as Sunny Jim was manufactured in Seattle, Washington, by the Pacific Standard Foods company. The company was founded by Germanus Wilhelm Firnstahl, who modelled the apple-cheeked character seen on the jars on his son, Lowell. During the 1950s the brand accounted for nearly a third of all peanut butter sold in the Seattle area. The company was sold in 1979 for $3 million to the Bristol Bay Native Corp. A large sign on the factory building made the "Sunny Jim building" on Airport Way South a familiar landmark to motorists passing on nearby Interstate 5. In 1997, there was a fire at the plant which destroyed the sign and a portion of the building. On September 20, 2010, a massive fire finished off the Sunny Jim plant as well as a vacant building on the factory site. The main advertisement for Sunny Jim was "Sunny Jim has underground peanuts with a flavor that's outta sight".
- Nickname of James Rolph (1869–1934), American politician.
- Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons (1874–1966) was a famous thoroughbred horse trainer
- Nickname of James Mackay (1880–1953), Australian cricketer
- Nickname of James Young of Celtic FC (1882–1922)
- Nickname of Jim Bottomley (1900–1959), American baseball player.
- James Callaghan, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979
- General Alexander A. Vandegrift, 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was known as "Sunny Jim", a nickname given to him by his mentor Smedley J. Butler 
- At the La Jolla Cove beach in San Diego, California, there is a sea cave called "Sunny Jim Cave". When the cave is viewed from a certain angle, the opening of the cave bears a striking similarity to the cartoon character. The cave is accessible by swimming from the cove, but also is accessible from a nearby store that charges a nominal fee to walk down some in-store steps leading to the cave.
- In The Elephant Man and the 2017 series Twin Peaks, both by David Lynch, there are characters nicknamed Sunny Jim.
Seattle Times stories about Sunny Jim peanut butter (registration required):
- Fire Destroys I-5 Landmark -- Warehouse That Housed Sunny Jim (Peanut Butter) Plant Burns
- Celeste F. Rogge, Who Inherited The Sunny Jim (Peanut Butter) Fortune, Dies At 84
- "The Case for Sunny Jim: An Advertising Legend Revisited" by Eileen Margerum in Sextant, the journal of Salem State College (cereal)