Red Menace

Red Menace Bowman Gum Inc. released their Red Menace card set in 1951. There are 48 cards in the set, each measuring 2-1/2" by 3-1/8".

The meaning behind Bowman's grim & gritty Red Menace card set is clear: Communists are lurking just around the corner, ready to spread death and destruction and totalitarianism if they ever get the chance. This is heavy stuff, but for kids of the immediate postwar period, it was just part & parcel of the time.

The Red Menace cards depict various horrific and terrible scenes: mushroom clouds over bombed-out cities, not to mention giant hovering wraiths; citizens being harassed or even shot by grim-faced military officers; homes being searched for anti-Communist propaganda; and more. The obviously jingoistic and sensationalist images (not to mention the text on the backs of the cards!) was heavy stuff, but it wasn't that much worse than much Cold War propaganda being fed to Americans - even kids - during the 1950's. And, who's to say it wasn't accurate: after all, Communist takeovers around the world were indeed brutal.

The card fronts offer a piece of color artwork surrounded by a white border. The card backs (in dark blue and red ink against a white background, no less) give the words CHILDREN'S CRUSADE AGAINST COMMUNISM along the top, followed by the card number and title, then a block of (lurid) text. At the bottom was the phrase FIGHT THE RED MENACE between two stars, and the Bowman copyright matter at the bottom.

Additional cards in the set offered American generals and even personages such as Chairman Mao in portraits; but most of the photos were downright pandering in their depiction of violence.

Note: This set was reprinted in 1985, along with several additional cards that were supposed to have been made from artwork originally commissioned for the 1951 set, but never used.

The American Card Catalog number for this set is R701-12.

Value: Individual cards from this set in Excellent condition are worth between $12.00 and $25.00 each, depending on the image. (Note: card #19 is especially popular due to its depicting of Death hovering over a burned-out cityscape; its title is 'Ghost City'. This card may command a premium over others.) A full set of 48 cards may command a price of between $600.00 and $1,200.00.