Character of the Week: Captain Midnight
In 1940, Ovaltine, owned by The Wander Company, became the official sponsor of the very popular radio show, “Captain Midnight.” It was during the World War II years, and The Wander Company had been looking for a heroic figure to sell their product, Ovaltine, a cocoa malt powder used as a flavoring for milk. They could not have picked a better venue.
Originally, Captain Midnight was the alias for aircraft pilot Jim “Red” Albright, who worked undercover trying to gather information on a criminal gang led by Ivan Shark and his daughter, Fury. When Ovaltine took over sponsorship, the story changed. Albright was known only as Captain Midnight, and he became the head of the Secret Squadron; an aviation group that fought espionage and sabotage in the years before the US officially entered World War II. After the US entered the war, Axis villains were introduced into the show. Captain Midnight and his Secret Squadron fought the wartime activities of Baron von Karp, Admiral Himakito and von Schrecker throughout Europe, South America, the Pacific, and continental Asia.
As the official sponsor of “Captain Midnight,” The Wander Company used advertising gimmicks to promote Ovaltine. Ovaltine’s foil tops and labels offered the chance to join the Secret Squadron. The proofs-of-purchase from the jars could be used to get premiums like decoder rings, patches, and various other souvenirs from the shows, such as the plastic mug pictured above. Often, the decoder objects would be used to crack messages within the “Captain Midnight” show broadcasts.
Ovaltine and The Wander Company brought the “Captain Midnight” show to a national level, broadcasting on the Mutual Radio Network. In 1942 the show moved to the Blue Network, and then it moved back to Mutual in 1945, where it remained until it went off the air in 1949. Although the “Captain Midnight” show became a film series and a television show in the 1950s, Ovaltine was no longer the sponsor.
The “Captain Midnight” radio show was a great way to advertise Ovaltine. With an audience of millions and the premiums that could be sent away for, Ovaltine grew in popularity and became a household name. Although most people today don’t know about “Captain Midnight,” people all around the world know of Ovaltine, and it is still a popular drink today.