Jam Handy

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(Redirected from Henry Jamison "Jam" Handy)

Henry Jamison "Jam" Handy (6 March 1886 – 13 November 1983) was an American Olympic breaststroke swimmer, water polo player, and leader in the field of commercial audio and visual communications. Handy was noted for the number of training films that he produced over the years.

Athletic activities

  • As a swimmer, Handy introduced a number of new swimming strokes to Americans, such as the Australian crawl.
  • He would often wake up early and devise new strokes to give him an edge over other swimmers.
  • Swimming led to him getting a bronze in the 1904 St. Louis Olympic Games in Missouri.
  • Twenty years later he was part of the Illinois Athletic Club water polo team at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games in France. He broke the record of longest period of time between first and last competition. The team won the bronze at that Olympics.


  • Handy attended North Division High School in Chicago, and then the University of Michigan during the 1902–1903 academic year.
  • During that time, he worked as a campus correspondent for the Chicago Tribune when on 9 May he wrote an article about a lecture in the Elocution 2 class given by Professor Thomas C. Trueblood as a "course in lovemaking." Handy went on to describe how Trueblood had dropped to a bended knee in order to demonstrate how to make an effective marriage proposal. John T. McCutcheon, a Chicago Record Herald cartoonist, followed the next day with a cartoon about a "Professor Foxy Truesport" showing his class how to best make love.
  • Neither Trueblood nor university President James B. Angell were amused. Ten days after the initial article was published, Handy was suspended for a year for "publishing false and injurious statements affecting the character of the work of one of the Professors." Handy was told he could re-apply one year later. Instead, Handy decided to apply to a different school, but he was unable to gain acceptance to other schools because of what had happened at the University of Michigan. Handy was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania, but was told to leave after two weeks of classes.
  • Tribune editor Medill McCormick tried to intervene on Handy's behalf, but Angell refused to change the suspension. At that point, McCormick offered Handy a job. Handy worked in a number of departments at the Tribune. It was during his time working on the advertising staff that Handy observed that informing and building up salespeople's enthusiasm for the products they were selling helped to move more merchandise. He also began researching exactly what made people buy a particular product.
  • Handy left the Tribune to do further work on corporate communications. He worked with John H. Patterson of National Cash Register, who had used slides to help train workers. With help from another associate, Handy began making and distributing films that showed consumers how to operate everyday products. After World War I broke out, Handy began making films to show how to operate military equipment. During this time the Jam Handy Organization was formed.


  • The Jam Handy Organization was also probably best known for producing the first animated version of the new Christmas story Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer directed by Max Fleischer.
  • After the war, the Jam Handy Organization was contracted as the Chicago-Detroit branch of Bray Productions, creating films for the auto industry, Bray's largest private client.
  • General Motors selected Handy's organization to produce short training films as well as other training and promotional materials. One such film was Hired! – a training film for sales managers at Chevrolet dealerships. This film was eventually featured as two parts on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes Bride of the Monster and Manos: The Hands of Fate. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 team also spoofed other Handy film shorts, including A Case of Spring Fever during the Squirm episode, one of the final shows of the original MST3K series. Many films produced by the Jam Handy Organization were collected by Prelinger Archives and may be seen and downloaded at the Internet Archive.
  • Between 1936 and 1938, the Jam Handy Organization made a series of six animated fantasy sales films for Chevrolet featuring a gnome named Nicky Nome, which showed new Chevrolet automobiles saving the day from villains, often in retellings of classic tales such as Cinderella, the subject of two of those films, A Coach for Cinderella and A Ride for Cinderella. The other films were Nicky Rides Again, Peg-Leg Pedro, The Princess and the Pauper, and One Bad Knight.
  • Handy appeared swimming in a commercial from 1978 asking for the public to support American athletes training for the 1980 Olympic games before the boycott. At the time of his filming, he was the oldest living United States Olympic medalist.
  • Handy also produced films for other companies and for schools. He's estimated to have produced over 7,000 films for the armed services during World War II. Handy was noted for taking only a one-percent profit on the films, while he could have taken as much as seven percent. He was noted for never having a desk at work, instead of using any available workspace. Handy's suits didn't have pockets, as he thought they were a waste of time.
  • He continued swimming on a regular basis until just a few days before his death.

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