Alexander Botts: The Natural-Born Salesman of Earthworm Crawler Tractors
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The popularity of Upson’s “good egg” spread from the Saturday Evening Post to other forms of media as well. Botts appeared in a comic strip called “Alexander the Great”; radio adaptations of his adventures were broadcast; several anthologies of his stories were published; and in 1936, Hollywood immortalized the much-loved salesman in the movie Earthworm Tractors, starring comedian actor Joe E. Brown as Botts, June Travis as his love interest, and Guy Kibbee as the stubborn sales prospect.
Joe E. Brown reportedly threw himself into the role of the determined salesman, using mud for his stage makeup, insisting on doing his own stunts (even though the antics of Alexander Botts were often dangerous), and learning how to operate the mighty crawlers on the movie set himself. Brown coined a new phrase, telling one reporter, “A guy that rides a mule is known as a muleskinner. ... I guess as long as I wrangle Caterpillars I must be a ‘Catskinner.’” The movie crew took over the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Ill., for several weeks to make the film, and, fittingly, when the movie made its debut, it was first shown in the Peoria theater.
A new collection of Upson’s best Botts adventures is the first in print since the 1970s. It begins with Botts’ first day on the job in I’m a Natural-Born Salesman, has classics like The Big Sales Talk and Tractors on Parade, includes Botts and the Daredevil Driver, which does not appear in any other anthology, and features two never-before-published stories about Botts and his Earthworms: Wrong Again, Henderson and Botts and the Fire Bug. The fabulous saga of America’s favorite salesman will entertain fans both old and new. FC
This article is taken from the introduction of a new collection of Botts stories released this month by Voyageur Press, entitled The Fabulous Saga of Alexander Botts and the Earthworm Tractor.
Photos provided courtesy of Caterpillar Inc. Corporate Archives. The editor wishes to thank Nicole Thaxton, the archivist at Caterpillar, for her efforts.
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