Bob Watkins and Chuck Tenant became army pals during World War II. Afterwards, each went their ways - Watkins became a commercial artist and Tenant an ad man at Wade Advertising in Chicago. Wade was the agency for Miles Inc., the maker of Alka-Sletzer, and now wanted his long-time friend Watkins to draw a character to help sell the bicarbonate.
Watkins mailed several sketches of a character originally named Sparky. Little did he know that his sketch would become one of America's top spokespersons. Sparky became Speedy and the rest is history. His Alka-Seltzer tablet body with hat and "effervescent" wand first appeared in women's magazines in spring of 1952. However, it wasn't until television, that Speedy really came to life.
Approximately 30 different facial expressions were used with a filmmaking technique at the time so secret, the tape was kept in a Hollywood studio vault. Dick Beals was given the honor of becoming Speedy's voice after hundreds of actors and actresses were auditioned. From 1953 - 1964, Speedy appeared in 212 commercials. He became an international spokesman being called Prontito in spanish-speaking countries.
In an incident sure to cause an upset stomach, a Speedy model was lost in route to shooting a commercial in the Philippines but was later found in an Australian warehouse. He was returned to and put on display in Miles Elkhart, Indiana headquarters were he still remains today. Campaigns such as "Speedy is its Middle Name" and Plop, Plop Fizz Fizz, Oh, What a Relief it is" has made Speedy one the most award-winning advertising icons ever.
Taking a break, Speedy was shelved in the late 1960's and early 1970's but returned for the American Bicentennial and the 1980 Winter Olympics. He is now periodically seen sporting glasses and a Hawaiian shirt. Not bad for a little boy who took only three hours to be developed!
Here, Speedy is represented as a vinyl savings bank. He is standing, wearing his trademark Alka Seltzer tablet hat and holding another tablet in front of him. The top of his "cap" says "Alka Seltzer Bank" in white and "Speedy" on the edge in blue.