THE BEST ADS FROM THE DECADE THAT FIRST SAW AMERICA EMERGE AS A SUPERPOWER. IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE THAT THE COMPANY WHO MADE YOUR ULTRA-COMPACT MOBILE PHONE WAS ONCE ADVERTISING PORTABLE RADIOS WITH MOTOROLA: MORE RADIO PLEASURE FOR LESS MONEY, OR THAT ONCE UPON A TIME, ELECTROLUX DIDN’T HAVE ANY QUALMS ABOUT USING MANDY, THE PORTLY BLACK MAID, TO PROMOTE THEIR NEW SILENT REFRIGERATORS: “”LOR-DY, IT SURE IS QUIET!”” AMONG THESE SURPRISING AND CONTROVERSIAL 40s ADS, YOU’LL ALSO FIND SOME FAMILIAR PRODUCTS THAT, AMAZINGLY, HAVEN’T CHANGED AT ALL OVER THE YEARS, SUCH AS JUICY DOLE PINEAPPLES AND WHOLESOME CAMPBELL’S SOUP. YUMM.
Like a pop-cultural walk through time, All-American Ads of the 40s covers the breadth of print ads from the World War II era. As one might expect, the ads look very different from ads today. Most are illustrated, and even the selling of innocuous products like candy bars taps into public interest number one, the war. The book is divided into chapters by product including alcohol, fashion, entertainment, travel, and automobiles. Saving the best for last, the conclusion of each chapter reveals the editor’s pick for most peculiar ad. Most enticing are the movie posters. Classic pictures like Citizen Kane and It’s a Wonderful Life appear in their original print incarnations as fantastic visions of old Hollywood. Hawking beauty products are famous stars such as Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, Marlene Dietrich, and Veronica Lake. Not surprisingly, gender roles are sharply divided, and race issues stick out sorely. Included is an essay by Willy R. Wilkerson III, “From Rationing to Prosperity, American Life in the 1940s,” tracing the history of wartime consumerism. –J.P. Cohen