At the Hopalong Cassidy Museum, almost any household item you could think of is branded with the image of one of television’s greatest cowboys. Currently located in the 10th Street Antique Mall in Cambridge, Ohio, this museum is a testament to the popularity of Hopalong “Hoppy” Cassidy, a hero of children’s TV westerns in the 1950s.
The museum is located near the birthplace of William Boyd, the actor who played Hoppy on the large and small screen. Though it is only three rooms big, the Hoppy Museum contains too many items to single out just one or two as emblematic. You could outfit your bedroom, your bathroom, your living room, and your kitchen with the merchandise on display here. And all of it is branded with the likeness of Hopalong Cassidy.
There are coloring books and comic books. There are butter cartons, milk bottles, and a breadbox. There are mugs and plates, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a dental kit. There is a bike and there is a bunk bed and curtains, and there is a sweater, a skirt, a belt, and of course—there are cowboy boots. Radios, cameras, 35mm film. There are toy guns and holsters for your toy guns.
Hoppy originated on film in the 1930s, but the height of his popularity came after airing on television in the 1950s. He was a clean-cut western cowboy who drank Sarsaparilla and acted out a moral code that promoted Christian values of kindness, fairness and patriotism. Though Hoppy was not a Midwesterner like Boyd was, he certainly embodied the values that we imagine belonging to small towns like Cambridge, Ohio.
The sheer volume of merchandise exhibited at the museum is not only a testament to Hoppy’s popularity, but it is also a testament to Boyd’s business acumen. Having purchased the rights to the character and to the movies made in the 1930s, in the 1950s Boyd cropped and edited the films for television and re-aired them as half-hour serials, eventually going on to make new episodes and a radio series as well.
In addition to circulating those films globally—they aired in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia—Boyd licensed the character for innumerable commercial products. In all, the enterprise made hundreds of millions of dollars with over 2,500 products and over 200 manufacturers profiting off of Hoppy’s likeness.
The Hopalong Cassidy Museum turns this rich body of material artifacts that the children’s western generated into a catalyst of public memory. Baby boomer visitors can come and recall their own childhood afternoons sitting glued to the television set, elbows on the floor, heads in their hands.
Update May 2018: The building was destroyed by a fire, but some of the collection was salvaged. However, the museum is closed and the website has been taken down.