origin of ‘Linus blanket’ (security blanket)

 

The Peanuts Gallery – The Pittsburgh Press – 27 May 1956

The Peanuts Gallery
from The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) – 27th May 1956

 

 

The phrase Linus blanket denotes an object, or occasionally a person, depended upon for reassurance and comfort.

It was named after Linus van Pelt, a small boy who carries a blanket for comfort in the comic strip Peanuts, by the American cartoonist Charles Monroe Schulz (1922-2000).

Snoopy, the pet beagle in Peanuts, often tries to steal Linus’ blanket; this was evoked in Students Hear Cartoonist: ‘Peanuts’ Reaction Often Odd, published in the Eugene Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon) on 12th October 1957:

The 34-year-old cartoonist brought nearly an hour of laughter Friday night from 725 high school journalists and faculty advisers from throughout Oregon as he gave them a behind-the-scenes look into the world of good ’ol [sic] Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, Pig-pen and Snoopy.
Schulz was the main speaker at the banquet of the 31st annual High School Press Conference sponsored by the University of Oregon’s school of journalism.
[…]
The cartoonist also revealed that his comic strip characters even get mail. Someone sent in a handkerchief-sized piece of outing flannel with “Snoopy” embroidered on one corner, “so Snoopy wouldn’t always be trying to get Linus’ blanket.”

In Creator Gives Lowdown on Peanuts, from The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) of 20th December 1957, Mark Beltaire, explaining how Schulz created his characters, used security blanket to qualify the blanket that Linus carries:

And of course there had to be Linus “who found security in one little yard of outing flannel,” the security blanket that Snoopy is always trying to steal from him. In the winter, thanks to a few extra strokes of Schulz’s crayon, Linus’ blanket is electrified.

In Handy Guide to Badder Bowling, from The Sunday Press (Binghamton, New York) of 19th January 1958, Russ Worman, Sunday Press sports writer, used Linus’ blanket in a comparison:

Recent survey shows that the biggest waste of money in sports is the hanging of towels in bowling halls.
By rough count, seven out of every 10 bowlers after touching the towel proceed to wipe their hands on their pants.
[…]
Obviously, a lot of potential dishcloths could be collected by the American Bowling Congress for needy families . . . but DON’T TOUCH THOSE TOWELS! They rank first in the long list of ritualistic rigmarole keeping bowlers from falling flat on their faces.
First, the towel. “If you want to get technical about towels,” says a veteran alley manager and reliable instructor, “wiping your hands on your pants makes a lot more sense than a towel.”
He explained: “After all, your pants stay the same frame after frame. The towel gets full of chalk and if you’re a no-chalk man, your hands are getting dirty instead of clean.”
“Cleaning your hands on a dirty towel? Drying your hands on a towel so you can dry them on your pants? What does it all prove?” the man wanted to know.
It proves the towel is nothing more than a shred of securitylike Linus’ blanket in the comic strip “Peanuts.”
As inseparable as Linus and his blanket, bowlers and their towels refuse to be separated by the march of modern convenience. Newest alleys in the Triple Cities boast electric hand-dryers. They also have towels . . . by popular demand.

Linus_ blanket – Sunday Press (Binghamton, New York) – 19 January 1958

illustration from Handy Guide to Badder Bowling
The Sunday Press (Binghamton, New York) – 19th January 1958

 

The earliest figurative use of Linus blanket that I have found (with the initial of Linus in lower case) is from TV Coverage Of Sports Events Leaves Much To The Imagination, by John J. Connolly, published in the Daily Independent Journal (San Rafael, California) of 14th November 1958; Connolly concluded his article with:

I pray that the American sports fan never gets so lazy or complacent that TV becomes his “linus blanket” and sports events are acted out to empty stands.

The context of this advertisement from the Des Moines Tribune (Des Moines, Iowa) of 22nd July 1958 shows that Linus blankets is here probably a humoristic name for blankets of mediocre quality:

                 Linus Blankets to Carry and Chew . . . 2.84
131 Plaid rayon, cotton and nylon blankets 72×84 inches; slight irregulars but your teeth will never know it.
               Shaggy Embroidered Sheet Sets . . . 1.97
32 Left for anyone brave enough to sleep on them. The colored borders with embroidered patterns may keep you awake. 1 sheet and a pair of matching cases for your two heads.
               Surefit Studios and Daveno Covers . . . Set 4.44
Sure to fit nothing you have but available in wonderful patterns that were discontinued because the designer went nuts.
               183 Nylon Tier Curtains . . . Pair 73c
Please use for crying only. They won’t take much strain. Ivory nylon with colored trim, double ruffles, 30 inches long and 60 inches wide to the pair.

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