Illustration of an electrical plug character on a silver background
BASTIAN BROS. CO. ROCHESTER, NY
Created in 1951 by Andrew McLay for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the character known as Willie Wiredhand (wiredhand as in being the farmer's hired hand) became the “spokesplug” for electric cooperatives and continues to do so to this day. Willie’s birthday takes place on October 30, during National Co-op Month.
As Richard Biever describes in his history of Willie, "Electric cooperatives initially wanted to use Reddy Kilowatt as their spokes-character. Reddy—depicted with a body and arms and legs of jagged red lightning bolts and a round head equipped with a light bulb nose and outlets for ears—had been around since 1926 and was being used by 188 of the nation’s private power companies as of 1951. However, Reddy’s creator —Ashton B. Collins, who had licensed his character to the private utilities—believed that electric cooperatives were “socialistic” because they borrowed money from the federal government. Not only did Collins refuse to let Reddy be associated with cooperatives, he instructed his lawyers to warn NRECA that any rival character cooperatives might develop would infringe on his exclusive trademarks."
Biever, R.G. (2000). Still "plugging along," Willie Wiredhand celebrates 50 years of lighting up electric cooperative promotional efforts. Retrieved from http://www.smecc.org/willie_wiredhand_history_-_penn_lines.htm