And yes, in the early days of explosives, bombs consisted of a cast-iron spheroid filled with gunpowder, either with a trailing fuse, for use as a planted or thrown bomb, or with some kind of compact smouldering fuse for when the thing was fired from a cannon.
::shakes fist at Mangetout::
oh well I’ll post it anyway:-
IIRC the first bombs using gunpower were indeed round with a fuse sticking out - earthenware pots then iron (WAG the chinese where the first). Gunpowder is a low explosive - it just burns fiercely unless it’s confined in a strong container.
Guess that the cartoonists stuck with a known cliche - like robbers in stripey shirts and bags marked “swag”
And for some reason bombs in films always have curly wires for the “cut the red… no the blue… er I mean…” scene.
The use of ACME is also quite common as a product identifier (even if the company making it was called something different) - particularly in Victorian times, products were given impressive-sounding names such as ‘The Acme safety lantern’ or ‘The Veritas Handbasin’ (or the [Patent Reliable Photo-Automato-Graph]((i.e. is there some already-available lens filter)) (I’m making these up, BTW).
Chuck Jones commented in his book Chuck Amuck that a lot of upstart businesses would take the name Acme because it would put you near the top of the phone book listings. He commented that nowadays, it wouldn’t be unusual to see things like AAABBBCCCDDD Cleaners (which sounds like a Porky Pig outfit, sez Chuck).
Acme is a funny-sounding name. Some people believe that in the case of the Warner Bros. animated shorts, it is an acronym for “A Company Making Everything” or “A Company that Makes Everything.” This rumor is false.
He mentions that Acme was also the name of a Greek nymph, and widely used by Sears Roebuck for in-house brands during the early 20th century (like they use “Craftsman” today). He claims Warner Bros. lifted it from Sears. A nice example, particularly apropos to the world of animation:
Some years ago I heard Chuck Jones speak at Webster University in St. Louis (or, actually, in Webster Groves, Mo.). As a previous poster noted, Jones acknowledged that it is an established cliche for companies to use the name “Acme” to get a place towards the front of phone listings.
Not that it matters, but when an executive of Warner Brothers Television started a company which operated a chain of television stations, he named it Acme Broadcasting.
Jones mentioned that once on a cross-country plane trip his wife became excited and told him to took out the window. In the middle of the desert, surrounded by nothing but barren sand, was a long straight road which ended at the entrance to a huge plant with dozens of spewing smokestacks. “Look!” she said, “it’s the Acme factory!” I have come to regret that I didn’t tell him to check out a local landmark; on the south side of Forest Park Blvd., just west of Grand in midtown St. Louis is the old and massive Acme Warehouse. Teddy bears and related items are stored there.
As for “Acme” being a funny word, H. L. Mencken observed in The American Languagethat a disproportionate number of “funny” words have a “K” sound in them. Hence Acme, pickle, Kaiser roll, Keokuk, Cowabunga, “a wrong turn at Albuquergue”, and Anaheim, Azusa and Cuca-mun-ga…
As for the “Tom and Jerry”-style bombs, I recall that when I was a boy in the 1960s several of my friends had a game called “Time Bomb”; it consisted of a toy with just this appearance which “went off” after an interval. The idea was to play “hot potato” with the toy, passing it from one player to another until an internal timer ran down and the toy made a banging noise. Whoever had the bomb in their hands at the time lost.
This image for a bomb was, of course, already a cliche by that time.
In the early 20th Century some explosive devices actually looked like this. A year or two back there was a great thick book of news photographs spanning the entire 20th Century which was given prominent display in chain bookstores. The book displayed pictures one to a page, listing them in chronological order. Included was a news photo from about 1910 (I am guessing), showing a black spherical bomb which had been seized from a European anarchist. The caption said “the cartoonists have not lied to us”. It may be this was a common design for home-made weapons at one time, a precursor to the modern pipe bomb.
It is perhaps also worth noting that the French word for pomegranate is “grenade” (hence “Grenadine” as the name for a pomegranate-flavored liquore); apparently there was a time when explosive grenades were commonly shaped like pomegranates–that is, spherical with a stub or stem on the top.
There have been any number of bombs, grenades, and petards, historically, that resembled a bowling ball with a fuse stuck in one side. I suspect their popularity in Looney Tunes cartoons is tied to the fact that “bomb-throwing anarchists” were often depicted in editorial cartoons as spooky foreigners in trenchcoats carrying exactly that sort of bomb…