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Fess Parker / Davey Crockett

by L. Wayne Hicks

Fess Parker's estimate is on the low side.

The legendary television star is far off on his estimate of how much the craze for coonskin caps and similar merchandise would amount to if America was gripped with "Davy Crockett" fever today the way it was 50 years ago.

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"I would suspect if you brought those numbers up to date that it might exceed more than $1 billion of merchandise," Parker estimates during a lengthy telephone interview from his California winery.

Before the country went crazy for hula hoops and Elvis Presley, "Davy Crockett" was responsible for many a busted piggy bank. The story of the frontier hero comprised three hour-long episodes of the ABC series "Disneyland," the first of which aired in December 1954 and was watched by 40 million viewers. The second episode aired in January 1955 and the third a month later. Demand for merchandise was so great whatever could be stamped with Fess Parker's face or Davy Crockett's name on it was.

Fess Parker as Davy Crockett bookPencil sharpeners. Curtains. Coonskin caps. Underwear. Pajamas. Dolls. Wagons. Comics. Guitars. Games. Books.

"You name it," says Parker, who immediately became television's first overnight sensation. The demand drove the price of a raccoon tail from 2 cents each to 8 cents, and a used coonskin coat that once fetched $2 went for $10. One department store spokesman called the whole thing "the boom that mushroomed."

All told, "Davy Crockett" merchandise accounted for $300 million in sales during the eight months of 1955 that the craze gripped the United States. In today's dollars, that amounts to slightly more than $2 billion.

"Even the cottage cheese people are after us to see if we can't give their product a Crockett tie-in," a Disney executive said in 1955. Mark Rich ranked Davy Crockett's coonskin cap No. 14 in his book "100 Greatest Baby Boomer Toys." Paul F. Anderson devoted an entire book to the topic, "The Davy Crockett Craze."

"It was the supernova of fads," Anderson said in an interview included on the DVD release of the "Davy Crockett" films.

Fads like the Davy Crockett craze linger in people's memories. So Parker has asked his old fans, through his Web site at fessparker.com, to send him their childhood memories of "Davy Crockett" to mark the 50th anniversary of the program. He's posting letters and vintage photos of children dressed as their hero.

Fess Parker as Daniel BooneFess Parker Part Two:
Fess Parker talks about
Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone and more!


SEE ALSO: The Fess Parker Show

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Fess Parker - PART 2
Fess Parker currently owns and operates the Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard, near Santa Barbara, California - along with 2 hotels, the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara and the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn and Spa in Los Olivos, California.

Fess Parker retired from show business in the 1970s.

Besides television, Fess Parker had roles in many films, including: Them!, The Great Locomotive Chase, Old Yeller and Hell is for Heroes.

Davy Crockett on DVD:
Fess Parker stars as Daniel Boone Season 1 on DVDFess Parker on DVD

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