The Selling of Sailor Jerry

There’s been a lot said about the Sailor Jerry brand in the past few years. As the brand becomes bigger and bigger, more people have been debating whether it’s ethically right to make money from his name. Some people think that it’s wrong, because his widow doesn’t see any of the money the corporations that own it make, and some people think that it’s unfortunate but ultimately right because Mike Malone bought all of his property after Jerry’s death, to do whatever he wanted with it. Regardless of your own feelings on it, I hope you’ll agree that this new online article about it is the most detailed and fair look at the whole thing, and that you’ll be interested in hearing about it.

The article, from Arts Labor Magazine, really goes into depth on both sides, and explores whether the Sailor Jerry brand should exist today. From the article:

This controversy over who owns the rights to the Sailor Jerry name, likeness and artistic copyrights is nothing new. Shanghai Kate first brought up in online forums in 2009 that Louise Collins was one step from homelessness while rich men were becoming richer on the name and reputation of her late husband. By that time, Malone had died and Ed Hardy took the brunt of Kate’s scorn. His son, Doug Hardy, who now runs the Hardy business from San Francisco, shot off a vitriolic response:

“Mike and my father became the sole owners of Jerry’s artwork after Louise sold it (Mike had sold a good amount of Jerry’s artwork to my father). It would have been burned and lost forever otherwise… Mike decided to make some money off of the artwork, first by partnering with my father to make the Sailor Jerry flash books (which are still used by tattoo artists around the world) and then later partnering with the clothing company that still produces the Sailor Jerry line of clothing. The clothing company made a deal with the liquor producers who make the rum, which apparently is a world-wide smash hit. Recently the liquor company bought out the rights completely, and my father and the executors of Mike’s estate got paid in a settlement, which was from I understand, not a huge sum. Mike had been selling Jerry’s original art for years, which was just as much of his right as licensing it as he had purchased it in full from Louise years earlier. That’s the end of the story.”

Personally, I find the whole Sailor Jerry thing a bit weird. I’ve read from various sources about how much he hated the mass-production of the 20th Century, and his thoughts on tattooers who enjoyed the limelight. He was a regular guy, who actually apparently hated half of the kinds of people who walk around with his artwork on their t-shirts. I think that it’s fantastic to know that his artwork is easily accessible today and that everyone knows how great he was, but I don’t find rum and merchandise an appropriate way of doing this. However, I didn’t know Sailor Jerry- if you know otherwise, feel free to correct me in the comments. I do think that the flash books and art prints are a much cooler way of keeping alive the cool imagery and talent the guy had.

Either way, the whole article is really interesting, and well worth a read! Click here to see the whole thing.

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One thought on “The Selling of Sailor Jerry

  1. My name is Robert Micheal.. Sailor Jerry was my great uncle. With he was still with us..what an incredible artist, even teaching the Japanese alot of technology and design state of the are tattoo painters. Man he was an incredible artist…the best ever.


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