Eugene the Jeep was the Snoopy of his day and possibly inspired the Jeep SUV

We can all agree that Popeye had the strangest "dog" in cartoon history.

"The Jeep's a magical dog and can disappear and things" Popeye explains to Olive Oyl when he introduces Eugene the Jeep in the 1938 cartoon "The Jeep." It was the first screen appearance of the strange "dog." The creature had first appeared in print two years prior, in the Thimble Theatre comic strip, which had a much more convoluted and fantastical explanation of the Jeep.

The Jeep returned to animation in 1940, in the Fleischer Studios short "Popeye Presents Eugene the Jeep." Here, Popeye received a mysterious package that contained the even-more-mysterious animal. It's not exactly a dog, but a dog-sized creature from another dimension.

Popeye discovered that Eugene can disappear in an emergency and see into the future, making him one of the most magical dogs in cartoon history.

In the book Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language, author Patricia T. O'Connor documented that Eugene was an immediate hit with Popeye fans, explaining that "Eugene became the Snoopy of his day."

That comparison goes beyond just terms of lovability and extends to marketing.

Popeye's leopard-spotted pet with a giant red nose, like Snoopy today, became a mascot painted on the side of trucks, planes and boats, a character associated with giant corporations and even the U.S. government.

In those early days of the character, Eugene the Jeep was everywhere, and all of these vehicles that had his face painted on the side became colloquially referred to as "Jeeps" because of the dog.

That's right, Popeye's weird little "dog" is most likely the origin point of the word "Jeep," the kind of general-purpose, all-terrain vehicles that we now associate with shows like M*A*S*H.

Origins of the Specious makes the case that these Jeeps casually took their name from the cartoon critter.

It happened in 1941 when the U.S. Army hosted an unveiling of the first-ever jeep prototype, manufactured by Ford and a company called Willys-Overland. Reporters attending wanted to know what to call the vehicle.

"You can call it a Jeep," one of the company's publicists said.

From there, Willys-Overland began officially using that name, and eventually, the company got bought by Chrysler, who took over the trademark and evolved it into a popular SUV.

On Popeye, Eugene was quirky in other ways than his magical powers. For one thing, he liked to feast on delicate orchids. But the most memorable aspect was definitely his "bark," which wasn't a woof, but repeating the sound "jeep, jeep."

You see, Jeep wasn't just what we called Eugene's "species," it was also the only sound the character made, repeated often on the show. You'd have to stick your fingers in your ears to claim you never heard it, and back then, Eugene was everywhere you looked.

We should note that this Jeep terminology history is disputed, and some linguistic-minded folks refuse to connect Eugene the Jeep or his plane, train and boat "jeeps" to the identically-named all-terrain vehicles that came later. The official etymology is still hotly debated.

What's kind of indisputable, though, is the timeline. Upon hearing Eugene say, "Jeep, jeep," Popeye famously asked in a 1936 comic, "What's a Jeep?"

The very next decade, World War II vehicle manufacturers took the word and ran with it, debuting a different kind of "Jeep" in the real world. The CJ ("Civilian Jeep") hit the market in 1945, produced over the years by Willys, the American Motor Corporation and Chrysler. The popular Wrangler was introduced in the 1987 model year. Today more than 2,400 dealerships have secured the rights to sell Jeeps on their lots.

What do you believe? "Jeep, jeep," does Eugene hold the keys to the history of the Jeep?

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EricFuller 20 months ago
Didn't American Motors also make the Jeep?
Mark EricFuller 8 months ago
Yes, they did. Chrysler inherited the Jeep name upon their buyout of AMC.
Pax 25 months ago
I think that there are some facts that are omitted from this story, namely, that the United States Armed Forces were looking for, at the time, a vehicle that could be used as what they had termed as a "general purpose", or GP for the military slang of that time, vehicle, thus the way that it was pronounced also sounded like the Jeep part of Eugene the Jeep's name, so you can thank both the United States Armed Forces AND Fleischer Studios for the important contribution to the invention of the iconic vehicle. Also, Willys-Overland was NOT the only company that had made the Jeep company exist, as Ford, GM, and, yes, Chrysler (now Stelantis) also had their own GP vehicles that were made as well. Even foreign companies, such as Nissan, Toyota, Land Rover, and Mahindra, just to name a few of them, had their own variants of the GP, or, in the case of Mahindra, an actual badge swapped Jeep. Honestly, Jeep needs to have a Eugene the Jeep logo for that company, as it is long overdue. Finally, one more thing, one can also argue that Eugene the Jeep also was the inspiration for another famous character, namely, one Marsupilami.
Rick Pax 20 months ago
However, the "GP" explanation is also a just-so story. Those vehicles weren't general purpose, they were reconnaissance cars. The "G" stood for government, and there was no "GP" designation - it was "GPW."
EricFuller Pax 20 months ago
Wasn't Jeep part of American Motors at one time?
dustinbank1 41 months ago
Makes me miss our old Wrangler and toy Jeep...well, my brother’s toy Jeep and my Barbie convertible...
WhiteRook 41 months ago
I thought the WW2 GI's gave the name to the jeep because it could go up and around anything? It started as a MB military recon vehicle and given a military production number.
BillO 41 months ago
Sounds kinda made up to me...
F5Twitster 41 months ago
"In those early days of the character, Eugene the Jeep was everywhere, and all of these vehicles that had his face painted on the side became colloquially referred to as "Jeeps" because of the dog.

"That's right, Popeye's weird little 'dog' is most likely the origin point of the word "Jeep," the kind of general-purpose, all-terrain vehicles that we now associate with shows like M*A*S*H."

The REAL story is actually contained within the above. The vehicle in question was classified, officially, as a General Purpose viehicle -- G.P. -- which troops quickly reduced to "jeep." it actually had nothing to do with the Popeye character.
Wiseguy F5Twitster 41 months ago
That's what I've always heard. I never watched Popeye cartoons so I had never heard of Eugene the jeep before now.
Bigvikefan F5Twitster 41 months ago
Absolutely right.
Joe1954 F5Twitster 41 months ago
I'm not about to believe Willys or Ford named the vehicle that way, no more than I believe Pershing was asked what to call US soldiers and replied Doughboys. But as far as Jeep goes for a military vehicle, supposedly the Dodge 3/4 ton scout and reconnaissance car was the first jeep. And doughboy was an insult.
Pax F5Twitster 25 months ago
The GP designation made it sound like Jeep, plus a lot of people probably knew who Popeye was, as well as had saw the name, so it was honestly a no-brainer to combine the two things into one consistent origin story.
BobPeters 41 months ago
Bantam's design is often credited with being the first Jeep. But the government gave Bantam's plans to Willys and Ford who built almost all of them. If I had been Bantam, I'd have expected royalties for every Jeep made by Ford and Willys. Maybe the contract to build "jeep" and other utility trailers was profitable enough that Bantam was compensated for the Jeep design with the trailer contract?
Joe1954 BobPeters 41 months ago
Definitely not true! All three were approached with the proposal for the vehicle that eventually became the Jeep. Bantam was the first eliminated because too many components were outsourced (like the axles to Spicer). After Willys won the contract, Willys had to provide the prints to Ford so that there was an alternate source. Even so, Ford made some design changes to make production easier.
VaughnBaskin 41 months ago
Eugene was the inspiration to Snoopy of The Peanuts Gang years later!
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Moody VaughnBaskin 41 months ago
I don't understand why you're being so rude & offensive. You made a claim that you can't back up then you insult me when I point out your mistake. If you had actually read the article that I linked to you would find that it's just the opposite of what you said. But somehow I don't think you're interested in facts & the truth. smh
VaughnBaskin Moody 41 months ago
Why you jsut go away and don't come back until you learn the connection between cartoons and comic strips/comic books and their influencers Moody Sadman?!

Stinkin' old babbyrat! :P
Joe1954 VaughnBaskin 41 months ago
If any one needs to "bug off!" it's you! For your information, Schultz was a grown man when Popeye was first aired! He served in the Army Air Corp in North Africa. In fact, one of my uncles served with him.
VaughnBaskin Joe1954 41 months ago
Get out Joe! This is between and Moody Sadman okay?!

So bug off and leave punkywimp!
trogg888 41 months ago
you know way back when they first discovered lsd it was used in fact cary grant used it in sessions with his therapist.wonder if any of the people who came up with eugene saw the same therapist
idkwut2use 41 months ago
Makes me miss our old Wrangler and toy Jeep...well, my brother’s toy Jeep and my Barbie convertible...
MrsPhilHarris 41 months ago
When I was a kid I loved Eugene the Jeep. 💕
Andybandit 41 months ago
Thank you everyone for clearing that up about the Brutus and Bluto name.
LittleMissNoName 41 months ago
I need to find a book collection of the old Popeye Thimble Theater strips.
JHP 41 months ago
as much as I detest the cartoons on Me-Tv - old popeye's are golden:)
CarolKelley JHP 41 months ago
I like some of the cartoons (don't much care for Tom and Jerry and never have), but I could do without the people/puppet hosts. Bill and Toony aren't terrible, but once the others come on, I'm outta there. Those segments are not funny in the least and are unbearable. Show more cartoons and leave the live action stuff out!
JHP CarolKelley 41 months ago
no wonder I haven't watched it yet - gonna bite the bullet and I recorded Popeye and friends

stay tuned:)

Pax CarolKelley 25 months ago
Do you not have a cloud to yell at somewhere?
Andybandit 41 months ago
Cute story. The only thing I never understood about Popeye was why there was Bluto and Brutus for that characters names.
JHP Andybandit 41 months ago
Oh that's easy, the same writers did Andy Griffith show
Moody Andybandit 41 months ago
MeTv did a story about that a couple of weeks ago. Here's the link:
justjeff Andybandit 41 months ago
MeTV explained that on another forum - at one point Paramount Pictures mistakenly thought Fleischer Studios had trademarked and owned the character Bluto, so they redesigned and renamed Popeye's adversary "Brutus" to avoid a possible lawsuit. It turns out, they could have used "Bluto" after all - there was no infringement...
trogg888 justjeff 41 months ago
always liked the name bluto better
daDoctah 41 months ago
A creature whose name is also the sound it makes? Sounds like Pokemon.

Actually, that idea goes back a lot farther. The ancient Egyptian word for "cat" is "meow".
Pax daDoctah 25 months ago
Actually, that would be the oldest known cat breed, which is the Egyptian Mau.
justjeff 41 months ago
Here's a fascinating history of Jeep on Wikipedia, including the various purported histories of the word/name and the many ownerships the company went through since its inception...
JHP justjeff 41 months ago
I still got my Jeep - it was made in Toledo (cherokee)
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