A Flit gun is a hand-pumped insecticidesprayer used to dispense FLIT, a brand-name insecticide widely used against flies and mosquitoes between 1928 and the mid-1950s. Although named after the well-known brand, "Flit gun" became a generic name for this type of dispenser. Once commonly found in households, hand-operated Flit guns have been replaced by aerosol spray cans and fallen out of common use.
A Flit gun consists of a pneumatic pump cylinder with a hand-operated piston to force air through an air nozzle in the front. Below the front of the pneumatic tube hangs a cylindrical container which acts as a reservoir for liquid insecticide, this reservoir being set at 90 degrees to the pneumatic tube. In early versions, the reservoir is permanently secured to the pump and equipped with a removable, gasketed screw cap for filling. In later, improved versions, the insecticide reservoir is secured to the pump with a coarse screw fitting and a seal of cork composite or gasket paper, so that it can readily be unscrewed for filling. A siphon tube extends from the pump cylinder downward into the reservoir and the upper end of the siphon is positioned in front of a nozzle on the air pump. When a jet of high-velocity air exits the pump and streams across end of the siphon tube, it lowers the pressure in the siphon (Bernoulli's principle), drawing insecticide upward from the reservoir, which then atomizes the liquid as it is entrained in the air jet (it is an atomizer nozzle). With each vigorous forward stroke of the pump handle a burst of spray is produced, similar to that of a modern aerosol spray can.
Uses in popular culture
- In 1927, Dr. Seuss gained wider exposure after one of his cartoons in the magazine Judge featured Flit, eventually securing Seuss a 17-year ad campaign for the company, which supported his family through the Great Depression.
- In the 1930 Marx Brothers film Animal Crackers, Harpo Marx pours a chloroform-like substance into a Flit sprayer. Although the movie apparently didn't secure rights to show the Flit logo on-screen (the words "FLIT" on the sprayer are colored over directly on prints of the film), Flit used its appearance in the film for its print advertising, in an early example of film tie-in advertising.
- In Ernest Hemingway's 1938 short story, "The Butterfly and the Tank", the central character uses a flit gun to spray patrons of a bar in Madrid with Eau de Cologne during the Spanish Civil War, setting off a melee that ends poorly.
- In Roald Dahl's 1972 book Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the spray for aging was delivered in a Flit gun while in Minusland in the 3rd edition with Quentin Blake's illustrations.
- "The Flit Gun" is a poem by Pam Ayres, first published in Some More Of Me Poetry (1976).
- In the second prologue of Stephen King's 1979 book The Dead Zone, Gregory Stillson uses a Flit gun to spray ammonia in the face of a farm dog, establishing Stillson as the book's villain.
- Stanley, the main character in the 1983 videogame Donkey Kong 3, sprays insecticide from a Flit-style sprayer.
- Schwartz, a character in the 1983 American Christmas comedy film A Christmas Story, tells his friends Ralphie and Flick on their way to school that he's getting his Old Man a Flit gun for Christmas.
- Sarah questions Hoggle as he uses a Flit-style sprayer against minuscule fairies in the 1986 film, Labyrinth. The fairies are resentful, as the one Sarah cossets, bites her in reply.
Every now and then, I come across an item among an array of stuff in a box lot that surprises me. What a surprise I got recently when I pulled an old bug sprayer out of one of them. Why would anyone keep such a thing, I wondered.
Rust had sealed the cap, but the color and graphics on the tin sprayer were brilliant. When I shook it, I heard a swishing inside so I handled it carefully. There was still bug spray in it. The tin looked old, so I’m sure this stuff had been around a long time, and I wasn’t taking any chances. I wrapped it in newspapers and put it aside.
I remember this type of sprayer from my childhood. We’d unscrew the long neck from the body and pour in the liquid poison. Then we’d do battle with roaches, wasps, yellow jackets, flies and any other tiny creatures that were tormenting us.
Yellowjackets were among the worst. I grew up in a rural area – in the country, as it was called then – just outside Macon, GA. In the summertime, wasps and yellow jackets were as common and as plentiful as the flies. They all acted like they owned not only the summer but for us. Our home, our yard, our everything was their playground and they were just allowing us to hang out for a while.
The bug sprayer and its deadly fluid were our weapons. Even though I do not like guns, it was like a .45 in our hands. We’d pull out the plunger and push it back in quick spurts, blasting away at the yellow jackets and their nests. Both were gone after a few dousings.
I was familiar with the trusty Black Flag(which also had its own sprayer), but the Harry Brand was new to me. The colors on the sprayer were the patriotic red, white and blue of the American flag, and the maker had taken that symbolism a step farther. Its logo was a battle-ready boy with a feather in his cap and a sprayer in his hand, squirting at five different types of bugs. Around the side of the sprayer, the body was the words “Harry Brand.”
The long arm of the sprayer carried the logo and the name ‘Harry Brand Sprayer. Kills Flies, Mosquitoes, Cockroaches, Ants, Bed Bugs, Moths. Caution – Do not spray into or near an open flame.” If you’re currently dealing with an infestation in your home, have already tried this spray but you haven’t noticed any improvement, it may be worth getting in touch with professionals like an Olathe pest control company (if you live in and around this area of Kansas) to finally get this resolved. It is best to do this sooner rather than later, as no one wants pests in their homes.
Today, killing bugs is a little less dangerous. I just buy a plastic bottle of bug spray from just about anywhere, squeeze the spray nozzle and shoot away. No spills or fumes. I can also buy products that protect me as I kill them. One eco-product advertised itself as a wasp killer using all-natural plant oils that “attack insect receptors only.” Is that a more humane way of killing? Or I can make my own natural killer. If the thought of getting rid of the bugs yourself sounds appealing, at least you have options such as getting in touch with cailfornia pest control companies (or ones closer to where you live) to get rid of any pest invading your home. We can all do with a helping hand once in a while.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the sprayer. Like a scarecrow, I could sit it on my porch as a warning to any bug that would even think of finding a tiny opening to crawl into my house. That happened recently. With the rain and cold, I had a few small black visitors appearing near my front door.
I was curious to see if there was a market on eBay for vintage bug sprayers. I found one auction for Harry Brand but it didn’t sell, and neither did plenty of others like it. An industrial sprayer, though, sold for more than $200.
What did sell were two vintage Valentine cards. One showed a puppy pumping a sprayer aimed at what looked like a bee. On the front of the card: “I tried to kill the love-bug by spraying him with Flit –.” Inside the card: “but he’s the toughest insect and so help me, I’ve been bit.” I found a magazine ad for Flit bug spray and sprayer from the 1920s.
The other card showed a little girl aiming hers at what looked like a yellow jacket: “I’m buggy about you,” with an inscription and the date 1936 written in pencil on the back.
—Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Cartoon characters still use old-fashioned "flit gun" bug sprayers, in much the same way they still use Cartoon Bombs, Plunger Detonators, and Big Electric Switches.
Flit guns were in common use from about the late 1920s until the mid-1950s, which coincides almost exactly with The Golden Age of Animation. While Golden Age cartoons with flit guns are just reflecting contemporary technology, it's their use of such devices which established flit guns as the Universal Cartoon Symbol for Bug Sprayer and they've remained so long after the technology became obsolete in the real world, replaced by the aerosol spray can.
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- The name "flit gun" is a Brand Name Takeover, referring to the insecticide company Flit. Flit rose to prominence in the early 20th century due to a highly successful marketing campaign. The campaign used humorous cartoons, drawn by none other than a pre-fame Dr. Seuss, and spawned a popular Catchphrase, "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" So successful was the campaign that, at one time, crop dusters were nicknamed "flying flit guns".
- Tintin: The Calculus Affair has Tintin and Captain Haddock cross a mosquito-infested lake, with Haddock wielding one of these to little effect. Then he hears a particularly loud buzz, looks for the Giant Mook... and sees a helicopter instead.
- In The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion arms himself against the Wicked Witch with one.
- In Animal Crackers, Harpo uses one at the end of the movie. It knocks everyone out, including himself.
- In Labyrinth, Hoggle uses one of these against flying fairies.
- Used by Don Corleone's grandson in The Godfather.
- Willy Wonka uses one in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Roald Dahl explicitly lampshades it as the kind you'd see "before Aerosols came along," part of Wonka's trademark eccentricity and anachronism, but he also clearly expects his young readers to be at least dimly familiar with the things.
- A very early version appears in one of the Borrowers books; it takes the form of a bellows once used to stoke a fireplace, but with a mixture of herbs which got rid of pests.
- Mr Brooks the beekeeper in Lords and Ladies has one, filled with a green liquid made of old tobacco and herbs even the witches don't know about, which he uses on wasp nests. It also works on The Fair Folk, who Mr Brooks sees as just another kind of wasp.
- Buggs Zapper carries one of these in Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?.
- In the Lizzie McGuire episode "When Moms Attack", animated Lizzie uses one during one of her interludes.
- Hawkeye and co. have one of these inside the Swamp on M*A*S*H.
- Ellery Queen: One of the comedians in the burlesque show uses a comically oversized one as a prop in his act in "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils". It was also the murder weapon; used to spray poison in the face of the Victim of the Week.
- The 2002 remake of Resident Evil requires you to use one on the massive hornet's nest before grabbing the key beneath it.
- This is what your character uses in Donkey Kong 3, and in the Game & Watch game Greenhouse.
- Mr. Game and Watch went on to use the same bug sprayer for one of his attacks in the Super Smash Bros. series.
- Lots of time management games that involve either farming or flower growing will invoke this trope when fighting off bugs. There are a bunch of them on Big Fish Games.
- In Legend of the Crystal Skull, Nancy Drew must use one of these against wasps to gain access to a tree's fruit.
- Blood 2: The Chosen features one of these as a weapon, with a lit Zippo lighter attached to the top - primary fire shoots out extremely-acidic bug spray, secondary turns it upside-down to use it in the same manner as an Aerosol Flamethrower.
- Appears briefly in a cutscene in Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!. A robotic farmer uses one of these to clear a swarm of bugs. A larger bug then shows up and uses its own cartoon bug sprayer on the farmer. And that's the last the player sees of the farmer, except for his hat.
- One appears in the apiary in BioShock, presumably as a smoker for the hives. It's actually an in-joke among the developers; the model was originally going to be a usable weapon that would fire the equivalent of the Insect Swarm and Enrage plasmids among other things.
- The 1934 Betty Boop cartoon Theres Something About A Soldier has an Army regiment battle giant mosquitos. The soldiers have middling success with giant swatters and peculiar artillery until Betty Boop arrives at the front with a huge flit gun. It takes four men to pump it, but its gas cloud eradicates the mosquitos, for which Betty is given a hero's parade through town.
- Countless episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The page image is from Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too.
- That Tom and Jerry episode, "Trap Happy", with the Mouse Exterminator cat.
- Mickey Mouse uses one in "Mickey's Garden". In "The Worm Turns" he uses one to dispense Super Serum.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Applejack has one during the defense of Sweet Apple Acres in "Swarm of the Century".
- One of the common methods of attempting to dispatch the cockroaches in Oggy and the Cockroaches. Jack has a tendency to fill them with his own homemade pesticides, which often end up turning the odds even further in the favor of the roaches.
- The Joker uses one of these briefly in the first episode of The Batman to disperse his trademark Joker Venom.
- King Koopa used one to try and spray the Mario Bros. with pesticide in The Super Mario Bros Super Show! episode "Princess, I Shrunk the Mario Bros.".
- A Bullwinkle's Corner segment has Bullwinkle reciting "Morey Had a Little Lamb" (the name changed from Mary since Rocky, who is participating in the visual, is a boy). Bullwinkle's sheep costume has fleas that cause him to scratch frantically until Rocky applies bug spray to it.
Bullwinkle: So if you have a little lamb,
Just take a tip from me.
If it has fleas as white as snow...
Rocky: Just use some DDT!
- You can still find these in Ace and True Value hardware stores, but they're quite obscure.
- They're oddly linked with Nickelodeon, at least in toy form. The first instance was a small water-sprayer in a Happy Meal series; the second was a larger water-sprayer.
Rabbit with Bug-Sprayer
Rabbit uses an old-fashioned "flit gun" sprayer on the bugs in his garden.
Alternative Title(s):Flit GunSours: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CartoonBugSprayer
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Fashioned spray gun insect old
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Stripping naked, I stood in front of the pot and began to write, listening to what was happening in the kitchen. Luckily for me, Vasilisa was still busy making breakfast. Shaking the last drops into the pot, I walked over to a chair and began to dress in a hurry, amazed at how awkward I had.
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Like yours, and Irina Vladimirovna's hemispheres do not give us rest, - I replied. Irina Vladimirovna, silently, looked at her friend. Now then, she guessed what kind of hemispheres her students were talking about.