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The Cutest Lil Ugly Critter // Meet the Nauga!

Do you know this goofy fella? Many years ago Greg and I were thrifting and he walked up to me holding this lil guy. He had a quizzical look on his face, “Why do I know this? WHAT is it?”  I got wide eyed. “What is it??” I shrieked. “It’s a NAUGA!!!” Oh yes, friends. The ever lovin’ Nauga.

Back in 1936, the UniRoyal company produced a sturdy synthetic leather they called  Naugahyde. It was used on chairs and couches and touted as more affordable and longer lasting option than leather. Fast forward to the 1960s and, in an effort to stand out  amongst the competition, UniRoyal partnered wtih legendary ad man, George Lois to launch a genius marketing campaign worthy of Don Draper.

Lois and designer Kurt Weihs came up with the brilliant idea of inventing an imaginary creature they would call the Nauga. The idea was that Naugas were a rare and exotic creature who lived in Sumatra and shed their hide each year—resulting in Naugahyde. (Rest assured, it was all tongue-in-cheek and no Naugas are harmed for Naugahyde! But there many people actually believed the elaborate backstory about the Nauga being an actual animal—to this day questions are still raised!) The Nauga became so popular, he even made an appearance on Johnny Carson in 1966!

They took things to the next level when they offered a free Nauga doll with every Naugahyde reupholtering. These little Nauga dolls are totally collectible now, so if you see one…scoop it up! There are actually a few on eBay right now.

So remember that thrifting day when Greg came up to me clutching the Nauga? Well, I jokingly said to him, “Were there any more??” And he grinned and ran off….and came back with it’s identical twin. We thought it was hysterical (and hey, at 99 cents a piece how could we say no??).

I’m a big fan of the quirky spokesperson/ animals, so this guy makes me laugh! He’s a little bit ugly, a little bit kooky, a little bit spooky and a whole lotta playful! What do you think? Do you love this fella or does he freak you out?? haha. I guess the one thing he isn’t is cuddly!

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Posted in Best of Alix, Best of Modern Kiddo, Vintage Toys + Fun Stuff.

19 Responses

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  1. pilgrim says

    LOVE him! he’s so charmingly rubbish and dashed off in an ah-crap-its-5pm-let’s-wrap-this-character-design-thing-up-and-go-for-drinks kinda way. the nauga is not the work of don draper, but some kind of pseudo outsider art genius hehe

    • Alix says

      hahaha…..Well George Lois was actually one of the inspirations for the character of Don Draper! I’ll have to do a post on him! He’s hysterical. If you read any interviews with him he is a total potty mouth, egomaniac, cig smokin’ character.

  2. lishyloo says

    i had no idea the history behind this!! incredible! how have we never talked about this guy before? i love him and i love this blog. i can’t believe you scored the silver one, genius.

    • Alix says

      oh no, the silver one is one ebay. We scored two identical Naugas! (The silver is amazing!)

  3. Jody says

    I love it! When we moved in Gillian’s bedroom was WALLPAPERED in Naugahyde!

    • Alix says

      That sounds terrifiying!!

  4. Dottie says

    Note to self–Peach’s Halloween costume… C’mon! It will be a hit with the grandparents on the block AND the hipsters! Hee hee!

    Joking aside (OK–I’m only half joking about the costume) I love this guy. And the silver one is totally genius! I wonder if someone is going to start making them again? I totally would!

    • Alix says

      they actually still make them! you can buy repros on the nauga web site….and because the old ones go for so much, there are some counterfeiters out there making fakes!

      i think you will traumatize little P if you dress her as a nauga!!! hahaha. I can see her future self blog post. “My mom was insane. Check THIS out!!” hahaha!

  5. Karen says

    I LOVE my Nauga! I was on the 51 bus in Oakland and saw it in a thrift shop window. I jumped off the bus, waiting 15 minutes for the store to open, rushed in, and asked how much he was. “Oh this funny little guy?” the old lady said. “Two dollars.” I was half an hour late for work and in trouble but sooo worth it!

    My friend Carrie Swing and her then beau were Naugas for Halloween one year!!!!

    • Alix says

      You are my kinda gal!!! I’d love to see Carrie’s costume! Dottie should borrow it and then make a wee one for Georgia and go as that ad up there!!!! hee!

  6. ashley says

    No way, seriously, you found TWO? I’d say I hate you, but I don’t hate you at all.

  7. Jenny Goldsmith says

    I have a red and yellow creature that is really similar. He has Waldo the Great by Koszegi printed on his foot. Do yours have names too?

    • Alix says

      Waldo the Great???? That’s amazing!!! Mine don’t have names. I love that!

  8. Jenny Goldsmith says

    Thank you so much for this post. We have had Waldo for a couple years now and I had no idea what he was, now I know that he is a Nauga. Everything I need to know I learn from Modern Kiddo.

  9. Connie | Daydream In Color says

    He’s so awesome! I had seen this little guy before, but I never knew his history!

  10. Rebecca says


Continuing the Discussion

  1. Nauga, Cute Monster Dolls Made for a 1960s Naugahyde Ad Campaign linked to this post on September 26, 2012

    […] of Modern Kiddo recently posted about Nauga, the series of cute monster dolls made of Naugahyde synthetic leather fabric […]

  2. EL NAUGA NO MUERDE | EL VÓRTICE linked to this post on April 15, 2013

    […] fabulosa historia formaba parte de una campaña de marketing muy popular en los años 60. La existencia de los Naugas llegó a convertirse en una leyenda urbana en aquella […]

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