Mickey Mouse Weather House

Here’s a fun fact you might not have learned in history class; For part of World War Two weather reports in newspapers and on the radio in the U.S. were restricted by the Federal Government. Weather forecasts were regarded as “essential information” based on concerns that they could give an enemy bent on attacking the U.S. useful information.

In 1944 a clever couple with the weather reporting restrictions in mind had an idea, “Maybe people will buy weather houses, at least until the war is over.” Bob Kahn was in advertising before the war, he also collected Swiss weather houses, his wife was a commercial artist. Neither had experience with running a business or knew much about manufacturing but they decided to give the idea of producing weather houses a try. With the war on raw materials were hard to come by and most manufacturing facilities were dedicated to supporting the war effort. Despite the obstacles and their slim savings the Kahns had something powerful working for them. Luck.

A toy manufacturing company in Iowa advertised that they had room to manufacture non-essential products. Mr. Kahn contacted the manufacturer and happily discovered that it could produce parts for the weather houses, but the Kahns would have to assemble them. Also the Kahns would need to find wood for the product, preferably walnut.

The Kahns were fairly sure they could handle the assembly, but the kind of wood required, walnut, was something they didn’t have. As luck would have it, though, the Kahns found through an inquiry to the War Assets Administration the name of a manufacturer who produced rifle stocks. Thousands of the manufacturer’s rifle stocks had been rejected by the Army. As coincidence would have it, the rejected stocks were made of walnut.

 

With the needs of manufacturing the weather house taken care of the Kahns put together an illustrated ad which they placed in a Chicago newspaper. The day after the ad ran the Kahns had 400 orders. A day or two later 800 orders. By the end of the week 1500 orders.

Suffice to say, from then on their business, Weatherman Co, boomed. The Weather Bureau attested to the accuracy of their weather houses, the Great Lakes Navel Training Station ordered nearly a thousand units, and after the war sales from around the globe flocked in.

With their success came the opportunity to buy a license to produce and sell a weather house featuring Disney characters. Mrs. Kahn designed the look of the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck weather house and it was one of their top sellers.

Mechanic Illustrated (November 1950)

To get best results, place your Weather House in any room on a perfectly level surface near a window or any dry, airy place.

Now, the answer to the question, “How does the Mickey and Donald weather house work?”

The Mickey and Donald figures that stand in the doorways of the weather house are suspended from a fiber which is sensitive to humidity. When the humidity in the air increases the fiber reacts to the change by twisting so Donald is outside. When the humidity drops the fiber twists the other way and Mickey comes out. If your hair has ever curled when you travel to a humid place you’ve experienced the effect firsthand.

 

To regulate: Turn the little rooster on the roof slowly to the left and to the right until Mickey and Donald swing freely in and out of the arched doorways. When both figures are lined up and centered in the doorways the Weather House is regulated correctly.

Your Weather Forecaster should not be disturbed once regulated. Donald Duck will come out of the doorway 8 to 24 hours in advance of rain or stormy weather.

 

 

The technical name for a weather house is, “hygrometer” and the humidity-sensitive fiber that the figures are suspended by is called, “catgut”, though it’s not made from any part of a cat. Catgut is made from twisted intestines of goats, sheep, or other barnyard ruminants.

 

Inside-front-cover,”Airboy” vol 5 #4 (1948)