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the Whizbang Chicken Plucker … and Elvis

April 2, 2011

My relentless research of the Whiz Bang Chicken Plucker continues apace.  I’m

only taking brief breaks as I seek the truth to enlighten you.  Wait.  I inverted that.

I’m taking brief breaks to skim Wikipedia and Google checks.  The important point

here is that I hope to enlighten you.

Since I first posted about it way back on Tuesday, I’ve discovered that the chickens

won’t bruise if they’re properly bled.  Some leg and wing damage, such as broken

bones, is normal, but it shouldn’t exceed 4%.  I learned this at the website of Herrick

Kimball, The Deliberate Agrarian.

Herrick is a complicated man.  He’s run a haiku contest on his site, but elsewhere

on it he speaks of the “pernicious feminization” of culture.  Beyond that, there’s a

wealth of information for homesteaders.  Some of it is understated: “You should

never pluck a live bird.”  Some is simply nuts and blots: the Kent C-25 medium

durometer rubber plucker finger is “widely used and highly regarded”.

Herrick is quick to point out that he didn’t invent the tub chicken plucker, he just

perfected it.  The $2000 price tag on the original machine was outside his budget,

so he made one for about $500 with new parts.  With used parts, we might get into

the $350 range.  Using an old washing machine, we might get by on $150.  And it

could be shared in the community.

Our friend Lee is a skilled mechanic.  Since he’s going to be a partner with Jude and

me in this poultry enterprise, he should be able to make one on the cheap.  We will

keep you posted.

It’s my practice to get easily distracted when I research and write.  This topic was

no exception.  I remembered the term “whiz bang” from a line in the song “Ya Got

(Trouble)” from The Music Man: “Is he starting to memorize jokes from Captain

Billy’s Whiz Bang?”  So I Wikipedia’ed it.

The Whiz Bang was created in 1919 by Wilford “Captain Billy” Fawcett.  Fawcett

joined the U.S. Army at age 16 to fight in the Spanish-American War.  By World

War I he was a captain.  His work with the Army publication Stars and Stripes

convinced him to go into publishing.  He combined his nickname with the nick-

name of an artillery shell for the title of his first venture.

Fawcett first circulated the Whiz Bang among wounded veterans and his friends

in Robbinsville, Minnesota.  The remainder was given away at hotel newsstands.

The mix of bawdy jokes and poetry made the mag the most popular comic in the

U.S. for much of the 20’s.  The Captain went on to originate Smokehouse Monthly,

True Confessions, Mechanix Illustrated and Woman’s Day.

His company’s first attempt at a superhero character was Captain Marvel, who

appeared in 1940, right after Superman did for DC Comics.  With similar costumes

and secret identities, the two fought Nazis separately, then each other in a copy-

right infringement battle in 1953.  Captain Marvel outsold Superman in the 40’s

and was the first superhero on film in 1941, long before George Reeves, Christopher

Reeve, Dean Cain, Tom Welling or that last guy took an acting lesson.

Although Captain Marvel had three assistants called the Lieutenant Marvels,

Fawcett decided to give him a more distinctive sidekick — Captain Marvel Jr.

Junior was given some of the Captain’s superpowers and a different color scheme

for his costume and cape.  His hair was longer and curlier than his benefactor,


This caught the attention of a lad in Tupelo, Mississippi, name of Elvis Presley.

Presley copied Junior’s hair style, cape and lightning bolt on his chest and went

on to modest success as a professional singer.  His collection of Captain Marvel

Jr. comic books are in the attic at Graceland.  A copy of Captain Marvel Jr. #51

(1947) is on the desk in the replica of his childhood room.

The feeling was mutual.  In Teen Titans (Volume 3) #23, Junior calls Elvis “the

greatest modern-day philosopher”.  Another teen titan in that issue, Superboy,

was not as impressed with the King, saying “He’s okay, just a little too into the

retro thing for my taste.  Loves all that rockabilly crap.  Flame shirts and hot

dice belt buckles.”


There’s always a critic.

  1. April 2, 2011 7:54 am

    modest success??

    • April 2, 2011 10:59 am

      I’m trying out Herrick Kimball’s use of understatement. Thanks for staying in touch.

  2. April 2, 2011 12:32 pm

    Kick me if I’m not really helping here, but the sheltered workshop (Mallard Industries, where my son Emil works and now lives) in Wadena makes and sells an industrial chicken plucker. Apparently it was invented here. I forget the whole story.
    I’ve gotten behind in my favourite-blog reading so let that explain it if I’m not really sure what you’re after along the chicken-plucker lines. I will now continue reading your entries, from most recent to further back.

    • April 2, 2011 4:27 pm

      Hi, Kate, and welcome back. As best I know, the tub chicken plucker was invented by Audrey Toti and Kent Tomlinson in the 40’s. Check last Tuesday’s post for the beginning of this possible saga.

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