I use a program called Tadpole Auction Watcher to monitor eBay so I rarely miss anything interesting when it shows up.

One day I received an alert about a Ray-O-Lite figure that was posted. I checked and when I saw the photo, I dismissed it as unimportant. It was obviously a re-painted Chicken Sam figure. I assumed that some operator repainted the figure instead of buying one of the available figures. That is until a few weeks later. A friend of mine drops by the shop and says he has a wartime Jap figure I have not seen before. Then he pulls out a figure that looked exactly like the one on eBay. The first thing I said was, no that is something someone painted I saw it when it was on eBay. Then he told me this one was never on eBay. Now he had my attention. There could not be two of these in existence if some operator had his wife repaint a Chicken Sam. No, there had to be another explanation...and there was.

I borrowed the figure to make a casting and started some research. It turns out that Harold Thompson was the source of these figures. Harold Thompson is the company that made the famous Siamese Rats figure and several others. They also made the background scenery for Ray-O-Lite Chicken Sam conversions.

During WWII when they could not produce new games they stll produced conversions. This did not mean materials were easy to come by. One thing they did have were plenty of were unwanted Chicken Sam figures. By the early 1940's the Chicken Sam game had run its course and operators wanted new figures. They were replacing chicken sams and somehow Thompson was getting them. Thompson may have even operated their own routes. Now Thompson had a room full of chicken sams and no one wanted them. What they also had was plenty of backgrounds. Backgrounds were easy to make. Just print more on cardboard. Figures were more expensive and took more time. Then someone at Thompson had a great idea. Convert Chicken Sam figures to Jap figures! Those were the rage and that is what everyone wanted.

This is the original figure that appeared on eBay. You can see it is badly damaged and the blue paint from Chicken Sam is clearly visible.

I have not been able to determine if Thompson sold these to the public or if they were only used on Thompson's routes or given to local dealers but there are definately out there and they are used with the standard Thompson background which is seen behind most Siamese Rat figures.

Thompson took the old CS figures, smeared them with plaster(plaster of paris) to smooth out the chicken and the coat and tie on Sam. They added a cardboard funnel hat which was stapled at the back and filled with plaster to cover Sam's hat. I am not sure why they did not just use a belt sander and sand the figures down. The original CS were made of solid carved wood, which is amazing in itself.

Well now I was interested in this figure. When I realized it was not a hack job from an operator that was merely a curiosity, I wanted one for my collection.

This is the original Jap-Sam figure. It was in much better condition than the one on eBay. There are also some clear differences between the two. They look like they were painted by different people using the same example. The brush work is very sloppy and it was clear they did these quickly.

This is an upskirt look at Jap-Sam. You can see the blue paint from Chicken Sam. It still amazes me that they carved this inside and out from wood. What craftsmanship! It is really a nice piece of work at least before it was smeared with plaster.

These are the legs of the original. They are CS legs with plaster smeared over them to smooth out CS's tattered clothing. Then painted to look like a uniform.

Using my casting skills from the previous Shoot The Jap and Lil-Hitler projects, I begain making my casting.

I had to protect the inside of the figure from the rubber mold compound so I made a cardboard tube to fit in him and used synthetic clay to seal the gaps.

I then glued him in the box so he is not touching the bottom and the rubber compound can surround him. Using the 2 part mold process like I used with other figures I cast him.

When I had the mold, I began casting my plastic men.

This is why you should not put Alumilite B resin in a styrafoam cup.

Here I am casting some CS legs. Note the spillage.

This is why it is a good idea to wear gloves. One accident when the resin seeps out of the mold will make a big mess that cannot be cleaned up. If you get it on your hands, you cannot get it off. It has to wear off. It is like super glue.

After I cast some men I decided to paint them. The paint job on the original was really sloppy so it seemed like a good idea to just paint all of them. It was not much harder to paint 4 than it was to paint one.

After several days of dabbling I finished. Can you pick out which is the original and which are the ones I painted?


Here are my painted ones with the original. I painted my men with satin polyeurathane. I need to go back and rough them up with steel wool to take off the sheen. If it were not for the new sheen you could not tell which was original and which was old.

I used some tricks to make my men look old. I used a fake sea sponge to dab brown acrylic paint on them first and then to dab it off leaving a little splotchy haze. I sprayed with two coats of clear polyeurathane, then I dusted them with black paint to create a dirty look. Then I took a rag wet with Mineral Spirits and wiped them down. This smeared up the black and made it look like they were really old. I then sprayed with polyeurathane again to seal in the look.


This is a closeup of my final man.

I have no idea what he is holding. You would expect them to sand out the bird and make it a knife or gun but they did not do that. They carved out the beak and made it a frying pan? A cleaver? I dont know what it was supposed to be. I also wonder if the person who created the original even knew what a Japanese person looked like. The eyes are not slanted as in most of the anti-Japanese literature of the day. I would have expected them to use extremely slanted eyes but they are very oxidental which leads me to believe the person who did this had no idea what their stereotype should look like so they did the best they could.






From Left to Right, ebay figure, original figure I borrowed, my cast copy(color distorted by flash).


Fortunately, I have a number of the Thompson backgrounds from past projects to go with my new figures.

And that's where little Jap-Sam's come from.


Another angle on my copy.