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How spinach became Popeye's secret weapon


Army.ca Dinosaur
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Well blow me down....

How spinach became Popeye's secret weapon​

Back in 1919, illustrator E.C. Seegar was asked to create a cartoon for the New York Journal.

He titled it: Thimble Theatre. The lead characters were Olive Oyl, her brother Castor Oyl and Olive's boyfriend Harold Hamgravy. The cartoon strip became very popular. Ten years later, Seegar needed a sailor for one story line, so he created a new character called Popeye.

Popeye was supposed to be a temporary one-off, but so many readers wrote in requesting Popeye's return, Seegar made him a regular, and eventually, Popeye became the lead character in the strip.

Popeye, the character, had a strange quirk. He loved spinach. Occasionally, when Popeye needed to save someone or fight off a big villain, Popeye would quickly open a can of spinach, gobble it down, and be instantly instilled with super human powers.

In 1933, Popeye was adapted into a series of animated cartoons to be shown in theatres. While Seegar had used spinach in his comics sparingly, the animation studio recognized the iconic aspect of Popeye's spinach jolt, and featured it in every single cartoon. Whenever Popeye was facing a seemingly hopeless situation – usually having to save Olive Oyl from harm – he would pop open a can of spinach and save the day.

In 1960, Popeye made the jump to television and a new series of cartoons was commissioned. Al Brodax, who would eventually oversee the Beatles cartoons and animated film Yellow Submarine, was put in charge.

The cartoons were wildly popular. And Popeye reached an even bigger audience than ever. Spinach became such an iconic aspect of Popeye cartoons on the mass-medium of television, that something unexpected happened: consumption of spinach jumped 30 per cent. Kids who hated their vegetables could be convinced to each spinach, because Popeye did. Popeye sold so much spinach, there is a statue of the sailorman in Crystal City, Texas, the world capital of spinach.

So, why did E.C. Seegar choose spinach to be Popeye's super fuel in the first place?

Back in 1870, German chemist Erich Von Wolfe was researching the amount of iron present in green vegetables. When writing up his findings, he made a mistake. He misplaced a decimal point. Instead of writing that spinach contained 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100-gram serving, he said spinach had 35 milligrams of iron – 10 times the actual amount. And that's why E.C. Seegar chose spinach to be Popeye's secret weapon.

Even though Von Wolfe's mistake was eventually corrected 70 years later, the myth of spinach still remains to this day. All thanks to a misplaced decimal point and the power of television to sell – not during commercial breaks – but within the main story line itself.


On a side note, I can't believe I missed Crystal City on one of our many passes through Texas. :unsure: