Saturday, January 1, 2011

Peter C.L. Hodgson Obituary (New York Times)

(this is from the New York Times - Biographical Service - August 7, 1976, page 1147) - retyped here:
by Robert D. McFadden
Peter C.L. Hodgson, Sr., an advertising and marketing executive who turned a seemingly useless silicone substance into an international craze called Silly Putty died of a heart attack yesterday at his home in Madison, Conn. He was 64 years old.
It was in 1949 that Mr. Hodgson, who had formed his own ad agency in New Haven after World War II, discovered the blob of goop that millions of children and adults would come to consider the ultimate plaything.
It molded like soft clay. It stretched like taffy, it bounced like a rubber ball. And it would even pick up pictures and printed matter when pressed on a newspaper or comic strip.
The stuff had been developed by General Electric scientists in the company's New Haven laboratories several years earlier in a search for a viable synthetic rubber. It was obviously not satisfactory, and it found its way instead onto the local cocktail party circuit.
That's where Mr. Hodgson, who was at the time writing a catalogue of toys for a local store, saw it, and an idea was born.
"Everybody kept saying there was no earthly use for the stuff" he later recalled. "But I watched them as they fooled with it. I couldn't help noticing how people with busy schedules wasted as much as 15 minutes at a shot just fondling and stretching it".
"I decided to take a chance and sell some. We put an ad in the catalogue on the adult page, along with such goodies as a spaghetti-making machine. We packaged the goop in a clear compact case and tagged it at $1.00".
Having borrowed $147 for the venture, Mr. Hodgson ordered a batch from General Electric, hired a Yale student to separate the gob into one ounce dabs and began filling orders. At the same time he hurried to get some trademarks.
Silly Putty was an instant success, and Mr. Hodgson quickly geared up to take advantage of it. In 1950, he established Arnold Clark, Inc. in New Haven and a manufacturing plant in North Branford, Conn. to make and distribute the non-toxic goo.
As sales expanded, Mr. Hodgson, the president of Marketing Inc. in New Haven, established distribution and sales companies in Canada and Europe. Half ounce dabs of Silly Putty in plastic egg shaped containers are sold for $1 each throughout the United States and 22 other countries and annual sales exceed $5 million.
Mr. Hodgson, a tall, robust man with a close-cropped full gray explorer's beard, marketed a wide range of products and ideas - tires to toys and beer to political candidates - in his long career in advertising. In the late 1930's, he headed an organization that established Wendell Willkie clubs across the country anticipating Mr. Willkie's 1940 Republican Presidential candidacy.
Peter Calvert Leary Hodgson, Sr. was born in Montreal on August 15, 1912, the son of an American civil engineer. He grew up in Norfolk, Conn. and Miami, joined the Navy in 1929, and, after being discharged, joined a New York advertising agency in 1933.
He is survived by his second wife, the former Margaret Weaver; a son, Peter Hodgson, Jr. of Los Angeles; two daughters, Margaret Marguiles of Santa Cruz, Calif. and Nancy Mains of Berkeley, Calif.; 10 grandchildren and a sister, Jane Dennis of Belmont, Mass.
The 1920 U.S. Census reveals that at the time of that census Peter C. Hodgson was 7 years old, born in Canada, and living in Norfolk, Virginia with his father, Herbert D. Hodgson, who was a civil engineer for the railroad and who was born in Virginia. He was also living with his mother, Emily L. Hodgson, who was 29 years old, born in Virginia about 1891, and who was a singer in the church choir. Also in the household was Herbert D. Hodgson (Peter's older brother) who was 8 years old, also born in Virginia.
The 1930 U.S. Census reveals that at the time of the census Peter C.L. Hodgson was 17 years old, born in Canada, and living in Coral Gables, Dade, Florida with his father Herbert D. Hodgson, who was 46 years old and a civil engineer. Also in the household was his brother, Herbert D. Hodgson, who was 19 years old, and born in Virginia.