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Hearst Still Owns Jeep

by David Zatz on

While the Jeep trademark for automobiles, cup warmers, handbags, and such is owned by the American arm of Fiat Chrysler — the logically but tortuously named FCA US LLC — an older trademark for Jeep remains in use.

Hearst Holdings, Inc., descendent of the famed Hearst newspapers,  holds the Jeep trademark, as it applies to comics. They claimed that the first use was on March 26, 1936, in their application of January 18, 2007, and it appears nobody objected: the application was approved on October 28, 2008.

Ken Massey wrote that the Jeep name was first applied to the largely Bantam-designed Willys-Overland light recon trucks around 1941, when test driver Irving Haussman demonstrated the agility of the small vehicle by driving up the Capitol steps.

World War II Third Armored Division veteran Jack Keenan wrote that early Willys-Overlands were not called Jeeps. “We called ’em ‘Peeps’.” (He provided the illustration above, drawn and annotated during World War II.) Steven J. Zaloga, in his book Jeeps 1941-45, wrote that the term “jeep” had been used by Army mechanics to describe any new vehicle. In 1936, the comic strip Popeye, which ran in Hearst newspapers, brought out the character “Eugene the Jeep,” who could travel anywhere.

Willys-Overland started officially calling the light truck a Jeep in 1942. While American Bantam had been responsible for most of the design, Willys was the only company to actually make civilian versions after the war.  (See the Allpar story, “How the Jeep got its name,” for more.)

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