I first came across this wallpaper when I was looking for children’s wallpapers for an exhibition I worked on a number of years ago. Sparkie was a puppet who believed he was a real boy, and he played the central figure in Big Jon and Sparkie, a children’s radio show that aired on Saturday mornings from 1950-1958. Big Jon and Sparkie was a serial with adaptations of classic books or original adventures adapted from Arthur's neighborhood.
Sparkie was part of a juvenile line of wallpapers produced by Child-Life wallpapers in 1953. The collection included eleven patterns that included Peter Pan & Wendy, Gabby Hayes, as well as baseball, nursery rhyme, circus, space ships, and cowboy and Indian themed wallpapers. Each of the patterns was available for less than $2.00 per roll. Produced as inexpensive novelty papers that would appeal to children, these were quickly run through the printing press as evidenced by the amount of color bleed in the designs.
On this wallpaper Sparkie is pretty much the only character illustrated. He is shown acting out a number of famous stories from American history including George Washington crossing the Delaware, Paul Revere making his historic ride and Buffalo Bill Cody with Sitting Bull. As with almost all children’s papers designed at this time, Sparkie would have had direct marketing appeal to boys. Looking at the other patterns in this collection, of interest to those beyond the nursery years, Peter Pan & Wendy is the only one of more gender-neutral interest., the little boy with big ambitions