One reason that I love my collection of 1930s magazines is because of the advertisements. The range of ads is fairly diverse. I'm not particularly interested in the down home style of ads, especially those that feature grandma rocking in her chair while shivering underneath an afghan because the water heater is broken. (Or whatever the 1930s equivalent of the water heater was.) Some are a little hokey like the linen ad which featured Snowy the cat snuggled in bed with his head on a pillow while covered in a percale top sheet.
The ones that really catch my eye, though, are those ads that are all about high style and glamour. Car advertisements from this era usually showed men in tails and top hats and women in satin gowns and fur jackets. Cigarette ads also tapped into this sense of glamour by featuring socialites and debutantes who touted the smooth taste of their favorite cigarettes. But it wasn't just glamour and luxury that advertisers used to sell their products. These ads promoted a type of aspirational living in which elegance and civility were the rule rather than the exception.
What about ads today? What many of today's advertisers and consumers consider to be luxury and aspirational living is far different from that of the 1930s. Case in point: this 1935 ad for Listerine toothpaste. I find it utterly amazing compared to the ads that we're used to today.
The woman featured in the ad was Mrs. Kendall Lee Glaenzer, "member of the immortal Lee family of Virginia...noted for her beauty and talent- her reputation as a hostess in Paris and New York. Adores music. Has many friends among modern composers. Loves the outdoors and has a shooting box in the Adirondacks. Her sister is married to Rockwell Kent, famous artist." Yes, that was a mouthful, but the typical female reader of the day would have been captivated by Mrs. Glaenzer's glamorous lifestyle. Why, I'm captivated by it too!
The ad went on to say, "All hers...the appointments of luxurious living- yet the beautiful Mrs. Glaenzer pays only 25 cents for her tooth paste." Mrs. Glaenzer is quoted as saying, "It gives my mouth a new-born feeling... and a sense of well-being." But the most interesting thing about the ad were the examples of Mrs. Glaenzer's luxurious lifestyle. There was a photograph of her mink cape and her 10 karat diamond ring, but even more incredible is the fact that the ad included examples of the woman's antiques collection! Can you imagine an ad today featuring a celebrity's rare Louis XV French commode? I guarantee you that the Kardashian sisters don't own one.
It fascinates me that you used to be able to sell toothpaste with photos of diamond bracelets and Ming dynasty porcelain. It's really a shame that we can't sell it that way today. If aspirational living in 2011 means pricey vodka and even pricier handbags, then I'll just read my old magazines and fantasize about Ming dynasty porcelain and French commodes. Oh, and 25 cent toothpaste that gives one a sense of well-being.
"Corner console of the Louis XVI Period in Mrs. Glaenzer's apartment. Also Chinese crackle glass porcelain jar from the Ming dynasty."
"Rare Louis XV French commode. Behind it a rich Ming Period Chinese painting on silk, together with porcelain vase of the Chien Lung Period."
"Mrs. Glaenzer's 10 karat diamond ring and solid gold cigarette case given by Napoleon to a Russian princess, and her three diamond bracelets."
"Rivaling Mrs. Glaenzer's ermine and silver fox evening wrap in grace and beauty, is her mink cape, constructed of beautifully matched skins, collected over a period of twenty years by a famed furrier."