Kay Kamen
Herman Samuel Kominetzky

(1892-01-27)January 27, 1892
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
DiedOctober 28, 1949(1949-10-28) (aged 57)
São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal
OccupationMerchandising executive
Known forWork with The Walt Disney Company
Promoting Mickey Mouse

Herman "Kay" Kamen (born Herman Samuel Kominetzky;[1] January 27, 1892 – October 28, 1949)[2] was an American merchandising executive, noted primarily for his work with the Walt Disney Company. He promoted Mickey Mouse – the most popular cartoon character of the early 1930s.[3]

Early life

Kamen was born January 27, 1892, in Baltimore, Maryland to Russian-Jewish parents, and spent his early life working as a merchant and an advertising man.[2] Kamen was the youngest of four children. He did not finish high school and spent time in a juvenile penitentiary. His first work was selling mink hats in Nebraska in his twenties. He appeared to be a good salesman.[1]


In his thirties Kamen founded a marketing company based in Kansas City, Missouri. The company's specialization was developing products based on movies and negotiation of merchandising agreements for a number of prominent animated figures.

In 1932, Kamen contacted Walt and Roy O. Disney with a proposal to handle licensing of their characters. They were receptive and invited him to come to the studio and make a presentation. Sensing a major opportunity, Kamen immediately withdrew his life savings from the bank and sewed the money into his coat for the two-day train trip to Los Angeles the same day and stayed awake for the entire trip for fear of having his coat stolen. Upon arriving at the Disney Brothers' office, Kamen spread the money on their desk and promised them that amount plus 50% of the revenue he would generate with the merchandising license.[4]

As a result, Kamen (although briefly delayed by him falling asleep while the Disneys were privately conferring over the offer[4]) secured the licensing agreement for all Disney merchandising, a contract his firm would hold for the next two decades.[5][ChWDC 1] Kamen's firm quickly monetized Mickey Mouse's image, providing a much-needed line of cash to the struggling Disney firm through its Walt Disney Enterprises division. The following year, Kamen's firm developed the Mickey Mouse watch, which was produced by Ingersoll-Waterbury and soon became the bestselling watch in the United States.[6][7] By 1948, revenue of licensed Disney products totaled more than $100 million.[7] Kamen and WDE developed product lines for many of Disney's films and franchises, particularly Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Kamen died in the 1949 Air France Lockheed Constellation crash on São Miguel Island, in the Azores.[8]


  1. ^ a b Thompson, Derek (7 February 2017). Hit Makers: How Things Become Popular. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 9780241216057.
  2. ^ a b "Disney Legends: Kay Kamen". D23.
  3. ^ "Selling Mickey: The Rise of Disney Marketing". Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b O'Reilly, Terry (16 July 2016). "Movie Merchandising". Under the Influence. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  5. ^ Steven Watts (9 May 2013). The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life. University of Missouri Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-0826273000.
  6. ^ Sarah Colt, Tom Jennings and Mark Zwonitzer (2015). Walt Disney: He Made Believe (television documentary). American Experience.
  7. ^ a b Alan Bryman (2004). The Disneyization of Society. p. 83. ISBN 0761967656.
  8. ^ "Atlantic Airline Crash Kills 48". Albany Democrat-Herald. Albany, Oregon. 28 Oct 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 25 February 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
  1. ^ "1932". Retrieved 13 November 2012. sources:
    *Walt Disney - An American Original, by Bob Thomas, 1994. Page 107.
    *Disneyana: Walt Disney Collectibles, by Cecil Munsey, 1974. Page 108.
    *Building a Company - Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire, by Bob Thomas, 1998. Page 70.
    *Walt Disney - The Triumph of the American Imagination, by Neal Gabler, 2006. Page 197.

Further reading