Reddy Kilowatt is a cartoon representation of electricity as "servant of mankind" that was created by Alabama Power Company commercial manager Ashton Collins. Collins was working on the problem of portraying the benefits of electrical service in 1925 when, according to a company press release, he gazed out the window and witnessed two lightning bolts cross, forming the image of a human figure.
Thus inspired, Collins sketched the a figure with lightning bolt arms and legs, ending in insulated rubber gloves and boots. The round head was crowned by more lightning-bolt "hair", electrical socket ears, and a light bulb nose. Editorial cartoonist Hubert Harper polished up Collins' sketch for publication.
The character debuted in promotional materials for Alabama Power dated March 11, 1926. He was offered to other electrical utilities under license and quickly appeared in consumer billings, promotional giveaways, billboards, stationery, advertisements, comic books and educational films across the country and around the world. In Spain he was called "Don Kilovatio". He was "Zet Kilowatt" in Brazil and "Le Bon Genie de L'Electricite" in Belgium.
Through the 1930s Collins patented numerous methods of using the character, as a card holder, a lamp base, a doll, and even a font of decorative capitals depicting Reddy playing on the letters of the alphabet.
A 1947 series of animated Reddy Kilowatt cartoons was produced in the Walter Lantz Studio, home of Woody Woodpecker. He also starred in The Mighty Atom
After the use of the cartoon figure declined in the 1960s, he still appeared from time to time. Collins' son Ash used it as the logo for his Albuquerque-based Reddy Consulting Group. In 1998 Collins' friend Tom Michelletti, vice president of public and government affairs for the Northern States Power Company negotiated a sale of rights to the character. NSPC developed plans to recycle the character for a web-based information clearinghouse. They spun off the Reddy Kilowatt Corporation to manage the brand and created "Reddy Flame", a partner who personified the benefits of natural gas service.
- "Reddy Kilowatt" article at Don Markstein's Toonopedia - accessed February 18, 2007
- "Resurrecting Reddy Kilowatt" (PDF) (July 2, 1999) The Guilty Environmentalist Energy NewsData Corp.
- United States Patent Office. Design Patent No. 112,515