Last week when I was working on how to research America in the 1950s, I came across a ton of wonderful ads in the magazines I photographed. I thought they were too cool not to share some of this great ad imagery with you this week.
Last week I was flipping through Fortune magazine and Harper’s Bazaar, but since I am often looking at our titles, I have some great images from other mags because I love them. They show all kinds of things about our culture: not just fashions and styling, but also ideas about what we, the consumer, need.
A good example of a need we don’t have much anymore is this ad for women’s gloves. Until the 1970s, women were expected to wear gloves for formal occasions such as job interviews and church.
This ad is also notable because it is in the style of (or perhaps drawn by?) the legendary fashion illustrator Rene Gruau.
Last week I also included an ad for girdles and corsets with boned elastic. We no longer wear lingerie that is that heavily structured, but that style represents the return to an almost Victorian look that fashion took in the 1950s.
I mentioned before (when it was MoW), that Fortune was one of the most highly designed magazines of its day. This is especially visible in its advertising.
Here’s another object we don’t use anymore, the typewriter! Even as recently as the 1990s, students often got an electric typewriter to take to college with them. Personal computers replaced those beginning slowly in the 1980s. By the early 2000s, many universities expected incoming students to have their own as a matter of course.
Speaking of personal computers, I also found an ad in March 1956 Fortune magazine for Sperry Rand for a Univac, which was an early computing system. But it took up a whole room and could really only be afforded by a university or large corporation. The producers used a serious sales pitch in an effort to convince anyone to buy the expensive and unwieldy devices.
But ads from the 1950s were whimsical, too, and show off the design aesthetic of the day. Like this early ad for a Volkswagon Beetle. Aimed at a very different market than Volkswagons are today.
Fortune, as a business publication, had advertising with a business-to-business flavor. And it carried ads for things we take for granted, like cellophane. Cellophane really became popular in the 1930s, but WWII likely slowed down availability of the film for wider commercial use.
Another B to B title we have is Apparel Arts, which was published for the menswear clothing industry. This ad shows a salesperson using industry fabric finishes to upsell piece goods to a female customer. This is from a time when department stores still did alterations on newly-purchased clothes, and sales people had were expected to work closely with customers to direct their purchases. And women often bought their husband’s clothing.
Stop by after break and take a look!