When I post my video diaries I always get comments about my Laura clothes. No, not my period dresses, but my Laura Ingalls Wilder t-shirts that I wear for travel and Laura trips. I thought everyone might enjoy a closer look at them. So enjoy our monthly series where we look at a Laura shirt.
Shirt of the Month
Here’s this month’s shirt:
This is a shirt that launched a lawsuit – sort of. Although the merchandising rights to Little House on the Prairie had transferred from Roger Lea MacBride to Ed Friendly through the contract that resulted in Ed Friendly’s gaining the rights to develop and produce the Little House on the Prairie TV show, the Friendly organization didn’t really utilize those rights between the times the Ashton Drake dolls came out in the mid-1990s and the production work of the musical in 2007. In the meantime the Little House on the Prairie homesite in Kansas had developed as a family owned business in Independence, Kansas under the name “Little House on the Prairie.” They had trademarked the name, had purchased and were using the corresponding URL, etc. All of this unremarked by anyone for years.
When the “Little House on the Prairie: The Musical” play debuted at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, they wanted to follow regular theater practice of selling things with the name of the show. They were in contact with both the Friendly production company and the historic site who both claimed the merchandising rights on the name. A lawsuit was filed and eventually a settlement was reached which ended with the Friendly company retaining the rights plus gaining the URL and the historic site continuing operations under the name Little House on the Prairie Museum with the word museum featured in all branding. (Note: I make this description from various news articles, public fillings, and things I personally knew happened. I’m neither a lawyer, nor was I privy to any insider information so take my opinion of what happened as you will. There was more to it than this, but it’s the gist.)
Back to the Guthrie
So as the play was opening at the Guthrie none of this had yet been settled and taking a look at the competing field the production company decided to stay out of the fray as much as possible. Personally I think that’s the best thing they could do at that time. However, that meant that they weren’t able to use the “Little House” name on anything that didn’t say the full name of the play so they were very careful . They had to get inventive. They came up with more generic phrases and images that still made you think of Laura, the ultimate “Prairie Girl” which is featured on this shirt and several different similar phrases on a variety of items. By the time they made Sioux Falls on the national tour they had stuff (including shirts) with the play name.
This shirt isn’t offered anymore I’m sorry to say because I think it’s really pretty. I also really like brown and tan Laura shirts because if you are on a Laura trip there is a lot of dirt and they hide it the best.
However, the good news if you want to see the play itself, they recently released production rights for purchase by local shows. Share it around with local theater companies and see if you can get it staged. If you do please let me know.
Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.