We’re back with a final look at the captivating advertisements printed in the Howard and Jane Frank Collection of Science Fiction Pulp Magazines in UMD Special Collections. We previously took a look at patriotic, employment, and novelty advertisements in Part 1 and beauty and wellness products in Part 2. Now we take a look at mid-century consumerism, fashion, and technology!
Advertisements in the 1950s highlight the cultural shift after World War II, emphasizing consumerism and the American Dream of a nuclear family with a beautiful home full of the latest appliances. The “Kalamazoo Direct to You” advertisement, offers readers “rock bottom factory prices” and the convenience of catalog shopping, as seen in the ad below from the October 1940 issue of Astonishing Stories.
The mail order advertisement layout that typically featured dozens of small novelties like magic sets (as seen in The Strange and Fantastical World of Sci-Fi Pulp Advertisements, Part 1), can be found again in an advertisement in the April 1952 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Instead of penny toys, must-haves for the automobile owner are showcased including seat covers, sun visors, and the “new miracle automatic auto washer”. The familiar “send no money – mail this coupon” line is given top billing, with a small print reminding the reader that payment for the item plus postage is due to the mailman upon delivery.
Portable garages, car radios, “readi-cut homes”, and “haircuts at home” are just a few of the products advertised to the American family. What family could resist an inexpensive way to keep everyone “barber -fresh” with “a complete haircut at home.” At only $0.98, the Sta-neet “magic knob” trims, shaves legs/underarms, thins, cuts and “pays for itself after first time used.”
In the 1950s, the Cold War led to a real fear among Americans that nuclear war with Russia could happen at any time. One of the most unusual advertisements we can across was a plain advertisement printed in the August 1951 issue of Super Science Stories for “Flash-Ready” mask and mittens that protect its wearer from nuclear fallout.