The Lone Ranger and Cheerios: Long-time riding partners
“Hi-yo, Silver! Where’s my bowl of Cheerios!”
General Mills and the Lone Ranger, the fictitious crime-fighting Western hero, go back to 1941 when Cheerios first sponsored the masked man’s radio adventures heard by millions of weekly radio listeners.
With today’s release of Disney’s film version of “The Lone Ranger,” people around the world will once again be introduced to the white-hatted do-gooder who rode the frontier on his white horse, crying, “Hi-yo, Silver! Away!”
Although General Mills won’t be promoting the “The Lone Ranger” – due to another movie studio relationship – the new movie brings back fond memories of our longtime relationship with the straight-shooting marksman who galloped to the “William Tell Overture.” Some of those memories will be shared through “Throwback Thursday” posts – likely on July 11 and 18 – on the Cheerios Facebook page.
“This will allow us to commemorate our history with the Lone Ranger, especially when this character is top of mind with the public thanks to the movie,” says Tommy Hillman, integrated communications manager for Big G cereals.
Big G cereal promotions
General Mills began sponsoring the Lone Ranger radio broadcast in 1941 and continued its ties until the last television episode aired in 1957.
At its peak in the 1950s, the television show drew 45 million weekly viewers, and the radio broadcast had 20 million listeners.
During that time, General Mills ran a number of promotional tie-ins between the Lone Ranger, Cheerios and other Big G cereals, including Wheaties, Kix, Trix and the discontinued Sugar Jets. Those offers included toy guns, Lone Ranger masks and pocket-sized comic books from 1954, pedometers, two-inch tall figures of cowboys and Indians, and six-feet tall “big as life” posters from 1957.
Probably the most popular promotion was the Lone Ranger Frontier Town in 1948.
On the packages of different versions of Cheerios boxes, Lone Ranger fans could assemble cut-outs of Frontier Town buildings, and through a special mail offer obtain four maps and additional buildings.
But one of the most unusual promotions occurred in 1951 when 10 children each won a trained white horse through Cheerios’ “Lone Ranger Coloring Contest.” The back of the Cheerios box notes that “10 boys and girls can own a real live Western horse.”
Winners also received a Lone Ranger outfit. (The photo below is from New Ulm, Minn.)
Television and Clayton Moore
Throughout the 1940s, many of the General Mills promotions reached wide audiences via the Lone Ranger’s radio show. But with the advent of television later in that decade, the company and its marketing teams saw a new way to reach consumers. General Mills was ready to sponsor its first commercial television series: the Lone Ranger.
The popular series aired from 1949-1957. During all but two of those years, the Lone Ranger was portrayed by Clayton Moore, the actor most associated with the masked man.
Moore starred in 169 half-hour episodes of the television series and two feature films. He rarely let anyone photograph him without his mask.
After leaving the show, Moore continued to appear as the Lone Ranger in rodeos, parades, county fairs and shopping mall openings, firing blanks from his twin Colt .45s and talking to young fans about honesty, law and order, and respect.
By the early 1960s, Moore and his family moved to Golden Valley, Minn., where General Mills has its headquarters. Moore’s wife, Sally, grew up in Minneapolis. The former Lone Ranger obtained a Minnesota real estate license, and lived in Minnesota for a few years before returning to California.
In May, Moore was inducted into the Golden Valley Hall of Fame.
Golden Valley residents recalled Moore as a considerate man who often handed out replica silver bullets, the Lone Ranger’s signature calling card.
Moore died at 85 in December 1999.
Editor’s note: For more information about Clayton Moore, read “TV’s Lone Ranger had Minnesota ties” in the Star Tribune.
The General Mills Archives provided information and images for this post. You can learn more about our past on GeneralMills.com. Have a question about General Mills’ history? Send our Archives team an email.