In Memoriam: Revell USA

Revell USA has been gone for a while, but not so long that I can’t stage an impromptu funerary service for an American institution. One of the greatest things we ever did, as a nation, was Revell, and it was, as is the case so often in these matters, the work of one man, who carried us on his back. Lew Glaser was a visionary like Walt Disney. The difference was that Walt was playing big league ball and Lew was forever locked into the minor leagues.

But for a bush-league ball club, Lew Glaser and Revell showed ’em how it’s done. A true spirit of enterprise and the desire to provide the customer with something that he didn’t even know he wanted until it abducted him and carried away his heart to a waiting pirate ship–setting sail for Bermuda.

Where else–how else?–could a kid in Ogden, Utah hope to discover the wider world? The local library was open but books only take it so far. Models. Plastic model kits. They put you inside the frame. Virtual reality before we had invented the phrase. Those “corny” box top paintings that certain assholes love to sneer at–those were the only art gallery I had–and millions of others, from the far reaches of the Amazon to the Australian outback, learned about color and form and line and image from the only place where such things existed in the dry cold world.

Lew Glaser made Revell into his own image. He honestly wanted to educate, entertain and enlighten. He wanted his “war toys” to carry the builder to a higher purpose. To fire the imagination. That was the meaning.

For me, “the day the music died” was the day Lew Glaser succumbed to cancer. That was the end, my only friend, the end.

Revell USA carried on after the boss died, but, looking back, we can see that it was a slow downhill slide after the the guiding light went out. Part of that slide can be blamed on our American lack of any real feeling of loyalty to the past. We killed Revell with our simple, straightforward desire to have fun in ways that required less work and more sofa.

In England, they love Airfix, but Airfix was always “Brand X” to me–and probably always will be. Still, when Airfix very nearly went under, loyal fans paid tribute (this is how The Airfix Tribute Forum was started). Here in the USA, when Revell USA folded up (along with Monogram) nobody seemed to care enough to post a notice on Facebook, let alone start up a forum of sad but stalwart devotees.

Now, I haven’t forgotten that Revell Germany is still going at it–and will carry the glorious name of Revell into the twenty-first century–but the one-and-only original, the true-blue as blueberry pie Revell that used to sit in Southern Cal in the shadow of Disneyland and ape it’s neighbor’s design on the hearts and minds of the world, is no more.

Revell was a labor of love for its founder. It was a project to bring the reality of the miracle of the industrial revolution–of steam power and air power and nuclear power and space flight–and bring it all into the living room and the den and the basement shelving and the bedside table next to the copy of the Cub Scout’s handbook.

Let’s not remember the last days of Revell–the sorry state of the once great monarch, reduced to begging in the street and turned out by financial four-flushers to milk a few more pennies from the old decrepit molds. Let us remember her as she would like to be remembered; as Lew Glaser intended. The kits that launched a million careers in engineering and science, and millions more in airplanes and automobiles, and, which might just save us all, indirectly, one day.

Lew Glaser

4 Replies to “In Memoriam: Revell USA”

  1. Great writing on Revell’s beginning, history and downfall. It definitely gives me a new perspective of all that this company achieved, and let us achieve as human beings. Appreciate it Dan!!

    Best regards,

  2. Nice writing Dan. When I was 12 yrs old, I did a thing selling Christmas cards to get Revell Models. I fondly remember the 1955 Aircobra and others. They really were great kits. My first one was a 1954 USS Missouri, I rigged all the little paper signal flags.

  3. I had a few of the old Revell kits, and the thing about them is the usability. I was going to say playability but we don’t do that now ‘ahem’…Opening cockpits, retractable landing gear, bomb bay doors that opened, entire aircraft/ship/whatever that opened up to see in different compartments….you just don’t get these anymore.

    A pity.

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