February 28, 2018


Moosylvania: When Cartoon Comedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis Collided: Even the threat of nuclear war wouldn't stop Bullwinkle creator Jay Ward from his mission. (Steve Huff, 2/28/18, Real Clear Life)

After a flood of fan mail, the show's creators decided to make Moosylvania real. Ward leased a tiny Minnesota island right on the border for $1500, then conspired with one-time Rin Tin Tin publicist Howard Brandy to petition the White House for statehood. He and Brandy would deliver this petition in person, in a van, in costume.

Ward and Brandy would cross the country in a colorful panel van. They would stop in several cities to collect signatures supporting the cause. The president would then declare Moosylvania--"the Only State in the Union With an Entirely Non-Resident Population"--the 52nd state (Puerto Rico, as far as Ward was concerned, was number 51).

As Jay Ward was readying his goofy campaign to create a state so tiny it would make Rhode Island look like Texas, Washington D.C. was an unhappy place. In the fight against communism, the Kennedy Administration had pulled the trigger on invading Cuba's Bay of Pigs in May 1961. That, like many of Bullwinkle's schemes, was a very bad idea.

Had so many Cuban exiles and CIA advisors not been killed, it would have been a tragic comedy of errors worthy of Jay Ward Productions. Instead, it was just tragic. Public opinion of the president had dropped and tension between the USSR and the United States, a permanent undercurrent in relations between the countries, was beginning its rise to the breaking point it would reach that fall.

The moment those tensions began to edge toward nuclear war might be debatable, but Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko's big lie to the UN on September 21, 1962 is good as any.

Gromyko insisted that "any sober-minded man knows that Cuba is not...building up her forces to such a degree that she can pose a threat to the United States or...to any state of the Western Hemisphere."

Of course, Cuba was doing just that. President Osvaldo Dorticos hinted as much when he addressed the United Nations on October 8, saying that if his country was "attacked, we will defend ourselves."

"I repeat," he said, "...We indeed have our inevitable weapons..."

The following day, President Kennedy signed off on a U-2 spy plane mission to Cuba.

On October 10, The Amarillo Globe-Times advised Bullwinkle fans of the show's "zany creator" and his plans to secure Moosylvania statehood. The paper quoted Jay Ward, who said the island's non-existent residents had "stood quietly as Congress has passed them over in order to grant statehood to such fledgling territories as Hawaii and Alaska."

Ward said that neither the theoretical Moosylvanians nor the moose and squirrel had ever raised "their voices to cry out at this injustice being done them." The article then said fans could write the Sunset Boulevard address of Statehood for Moosylvania. They would receive a pamphlet about the glories of the island and "a dandy little yellow lapel pin and a decal for your car."

The following day Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Luke Feck weighed in. He wrote that in addition "to the thorny problems of Cuba, Berlin and how to redecorate Lincoln's bedroom, I add the flea bite of a plea for admission into the Union by the Unincorporated Territory of Moosylvania."

The nation held its breath.

Posted by at February 28, 2018 3:30 AM