From starring in Oscar-winning movies to performing hit songs, the Muppets have had an illustrious career. It's easy to forget that Jim Henson's colorful characters got their start selling coffee on TV in the 1950s. For a sample of Henson's early work, check out the video below.
Before the Muppets got their big break on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, Jim Henson's puppets starred in commercials for Wilkins Coffee. These black-and-white ads from 1957 to 1961 show a Muppet-like creature named Wilkins convincing his fellow puppet Wontkins to drink Wilkins Coffee, often through extreme means.
Hints of Henson's later work are apparent in these brief clips. The voice he uses when playing Wilkins is similar to Kermit's voice, and the character even resembles the famous frog puppet. The edgy humor that defined the Muppets comes through as well. Each ad ends in a violent gag, with the coffee-hating Wontkins getting beaten with a club, run over by a wagon, and shot in the face in different commercials.
Several of the Muppets debuted in television commercials created by Jim Henson. An early iteration of Cookie Monster called "The Wheel Steeler" starred in an IBM training video, and Rowlf the Dog first appeared in a dog food commercial. Here are more facts about Jim Henson and the Muppets you should know.