The Story Behind The Name & The Logo
By: Herrick Kimball
Back in 2000 I developed plans for a homemade chicken plucking machine. It worked so well that I named it the Whizbang Chicken Plucker. Whizbang is a dictionary word that means conspicuous for speed, excellence, or startling effect. It was the perfect name.
In 2002 I self-published the book, Anyone Can Build A Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker, a.k.a., the Whizbang Plucker plan book. I named my little publishing company, Whizbang Books.
More plan books followed. Then, in 2009 I developed plans for a garden wheel hoe with an oscillating stirrup blade (Click Here to learn about the wheel hoe). naturally, I called it the Whizbang wheel hoe.
My wheel hoe was a modern incarnation of the old Planet Jr. wheel hoe produced by Samuel Leeds Allen back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I happened to own a Planet Jr. wheel hoe and a few old Planet Jr. catalogs.
Samuel Leeds Allen was an amateur astronomer as well as an inventor. One of his first inventions was a planter made with a couple of wash basins bolted together. The planter reminded Mr. Allen of the planet Saturn. So he adopted Saturn as the Planet Jr. company logo. Exactly how the name name, Planet Jr. came to be is a complete mystery to me. Planet Jr. was once a very big company with a worldwide market. That unusual (but memorable) name and logo was as well known and recognized as John Deere is today.
Inspired by the Planet Jr. name, I decided to rename my wheel hoe the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe. Then it occurred to me that I should rename my whole business from Whizbang Books, to Planet Whizbang, and that's what I did.
When I considered the possibility of a unique logo for my new business name, I wanted it to have some out-of-this world, or planetary theme in deference to the old Planet Jr. logo. But I also wanted my Planet Whizbang trademark to have a decidedly down-to-earth aspect. In other words, I wanted a totally oxymoronic logo.
This was quite a conundrum. But in a flash of inspiration, I came up with the idea of a leafy beet surrounded by golden Saturnal rings.
What, I ask you, is more down to earth than a beet? Perhaps a potato but, as much as I respect and appreciate potatoes (after all, my grandfather was a potato farmer), they do not compare to the beet for visual appeal.
I strongly considered a carrot because, truth be known, I’m especially fond of carrots. But your average carrot is simply not globular enough for the job.
Turnips came to mind. I love the two-tone color of the root. But turnips are a little too obscure.
Rutabagas (known by the old timers as “swedes”) are more obscure than turnips but they are probably the one root crop that looks more like a planet than any other. Nevertheless, rutabagas are not nearly as recognizable (or respected) as the beet.
Radishes? Well, radishes are certainly earthy. But it’s hard for me to take radishes seriously.
And so it was that I chose a lovely beet with its delightful red-veined green foliage and, of course, the Saturnal rings.
When I first showed my wife the new Planet Whizbang logo, she was speechless. I watched her face intently for some clue to her thoughts. I sensed a hint of a smile as she finally mumbled: “It’s a nice looking beet.” I took that as affirmation of the “rightness” of the design.
Later, my wife made some comment about “that beet with a halo.” I immediately corrected her: “That’s not a beet with a halo. Those are Golden Saturnal Rings!”
I wonder what S.L. Allen’s wife thought of the name “Planet Jr.” and his planet Saturn logo?
Whatever the case, let me make it clear now and for future generations that there is no symbolism or hidden meanings in the Planet Whizbang logo. It is simply a whimsical variation of a unique old trademark. In the end, I can tell you that I settled on this new logo for the same reason I like old-time banjo music.....it makes me smile.
So that's the story. Thanks for reading about it. But wait, there's more...
I'd like to tell you about S.L. Allen. He was a remarkable fellow. This is him and his wife, Sarah, in 1901...
Now some history... Samuel Leeds Allen was born May 5, 1841 into a prominent Quaker family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating from a Quaker boarding school in 1859, S.L. went to live and work at his father's farm in New Jersey.
Young Sam applied his natural problem-solving intellect and mechanical skills to the work at hand. When he was 27 years old he patented his first agricultural tool— a seed planter fashioned from two wash basins.
Shortly thereafter he established the S.L. Allen manufacturing company. Allen was awarded almost 300 patents in his lifetime, most of which were for different farm and garden tools sold with the Planet Jr. name attached to them.
But Samuel Allen's most famous invention was not an agricultural implement. In 1889 he invented a snow sled with steel runners that could be easily steered. He called his new sled the Flexible Flyer.
Allen died in 1918 at 77 years old. The S.L. Allen Company and Planet Jr. were sold off in 1968. Planet Jr. is now a part of history, but the Flexible Flyer sleds are still being made (in China).
S.L. Allen became wealthy from is many inventions and his manufacturing company. But he was also known as a caring and innovative employer. Allen was one of the first industrialists to provide his workers with disability insurance and retirement plans. It is reported that he developed and produced the Flexible Flyer sled as a way of keeping his employees working in the winter months when demand for agricultural tools was slow and employees were often laid off.
Back in 2015 I blogged about Sam Allen ,and shortly thereafter I received an e-mail from his great, great granddaughter. She informed me that there was a biography about the once-famous S.L Allen. I found a pdf copy online (check it out HERE). Right in the beginning of the book are the "Precepts of Samuel L. Allen." They provide a very good insight into the man's character, and his "secrets" to success. Here they are...
Acquire the Habits of :
Punctuality in everything. Attention. Observation. Patience. Doing things systematically. Finishing everything undertaken. Untiring industry.
Cultivate the Habits of :
Thoroughness in every study. Doing everything well. Learning something from everyone. Thinking deeply, powerfully, and comprehensively. Reviewing — remembering that next to perseverance it is the great secret of success as a student.
Cultivate the Habits of a Gentleman:
Politeness. Cheerfulness. Good humor. The memory, by observation, reading, conversation and reflection. Command over my temper. The conscience.
Cultivate the Habits of:
Daily prayer. Self-control of the tongue. Self-control of the feelings. Self-control of the thoughts. Self-control of the heart. Soundness of judgment. Humility and liberality of heart.
Beware of: Temptations:
Light reading (which enfeebles the mind and corrupts the heart). Silly speeches. Silly acting. Fault finding. Bad company. The first step in sin. Secret sins. Bad books. Indulging in reveries of imagination. Contracting the habit of procrastination. Levity upon sacred subjects.
Do not refuse to walk in a difficult path of duty. Never neglect any opportunity of self-improvement. Strive to improve thoughts when alone. Have a plan laid beforehand for every day. Have regard to the position of the body. Be simple and neat in personal habits. Treat properly my parents, friends and companions. Seek to " know thyself." Form fixed principles on which to think and act. Faithfully review my conduct at stated intervals. Live to do good and make this my aim in company and conversation. Do not waste the company's time or my own by talking trifles. Do not endeavor to be a wit or punster. Do not view words in an unnatural light for the sake of smart sayings. Beware of severe speaking. Be careful in introducing topics of conversation. Say as little as possible about myself, friends, deeds, etc.
If you are still reading this, I'm going to assume you'll like this rare old video showing the S.L Allen factory in Philadelphia, PA. I find it fascinating...
And finally, here's a great photo of S.L. Allen IV with a magnificent antique 8-foot-long "Airline Commander" sled that was made in his great, great grandfather's factory.