George Wilson

In the 1950’s, the Dennis the Menace comic strip was a weekly feature in virtually every newspaper in America. The trop of the comic was a well meaning but mischievous boy, Dennis, who was always getting in some sort of trouble either unintentionally or because of some complicated set of circumstances that he created. His usual foil was his uptight gruff neighbor, Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson was your typical elderly man who wanted to enjoy his afternoons in peace. He was serious minded, and he was a stamp collector, and philately and Mr. Wilson’ s love of his hobby and desire to pursue it without being driven crazy by Dennis was one of the central themes of the comic strip.

Throughout the 1950’s there was continually a discussion among philatelists over whether the portrayal of collectors in general society was fair (it wasn’t) and more importantly whether such portrayals of collectors as the kind of people who could dislike little boys was helpful to the image of philatelists (it also wasn’t). The discussions emphasized that philatelists tended to be shown as introverted curmudgeons in the popular press, and much time in the stamp press was spent discussing how to change the popular perception of our hobby to make it seem more attractive to new collectors.
All this seems quaint now and there are so few philatelists in popular culture that even having a frankly unpleasant fictional national character who collects stamps would be something of a public relations coup. Today our hobby has disappeared from the popular culture screen. Product placement is the big thing in advertising these days and Coca Cola pays a fortune to have movie stars down a coke in the movies. Philately used to have some product placement in American popular culture, and today it has none.
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