Christmas Advertising: LIFE Magazine, Nov. 30, 1959 (Xmas#5)

BLOG PROCTOR SMILE

Just look at that radiant smile!  And it’s all because of (find out below) …

 

Originally published on OpenSalon.com on November 30, 2013

NOTE: I occasionally post off-topic entries, especially during the Christmas season.  I’ll be taking a breather from the My Life — In Concert! series for December to make way for three or four Christmas-themed entries to come in the the next few weeks.

A couple of yuletides ago, I published an entry highlighting Christmas-related ads spanning 1949-2011 that were culled from my magazine collection, focusing on gift-giving suggestions from throughout the years as well as with ads relating to seasonal social activities and entertaining.

While I love old magazines in general, I am particularly fond of and seek out issues of LIFE (something I chronicled in this piece on the first issue of LIFE on the 1950s).  In this entry, I am zeroing in on one particular issue, with a newsstand date from exactly 54 years ago today: November 30, 1959.

BLOG LIFE NOV 30 1959 COVER

What was being proffered up as gifts and seasonal accoutrements during those final weeks of the 1950s, and how were they being depicted and sold?  I love what ads tell us about a particular place and time, and these specimens bark out the rigidity and restrictions of the day, as the epoch of the 1960s was about to commence.

BLOG LIFE COST DATE AND CIRCULATION

Six of the ads below appeared as part of the compilation entries from two years ago, but I am running them again so that they can be seen in context.

As a side note, this issue has a lengthy (and unsurprisingly condescending) article on the then-current beatnik scene.  I plan on doing a whole entry on that piece at a later date.

And with that … let’s go shopping …

HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE GENDER-ROLE-SPECIFIC CHRISTMAS (AND A DECIDEDLY STRAIGHT, WHITE ONE TOO)

These were the closing moments of the 1950s, many years before the civil rights and women’s and gay rights movements took hold.  As per the society it was trying to reflect and snare, strict gender roles by (presumed) straight and white people proliferate (although the issue does have a positive article on basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, and that aforementioned counter-culture-negative one on the Beats).

FOR THE LADIES:

Most ads aimed at women stress the joy and desire of … household products and beauty aids.

BLOG PROCTOR FULL PULL OUT The inner front cover pulls out to a three-panel ad for Proctor appliances.   Just look at that radiant smile!  And it’s all because of …

BLOG PROCTOR IRON

 … Mary Proctor irons??? ….

BLOG PROCTOR TOASTER

 … and a mighty … toaster?  I’d love to see the written agreement defining what constitutes “perfect toast.”

Note m’lady’s glowing face reflected in the appliances, and the (literal) crown jewels associated with these fine products.  Hey Mary!

BLOG BROOKPARk

If dishes were wishes, they’d look like these kitsches.

BLOG FRIGIDAIRE

Bill Cullen was then-host of the original Price Is Right, one of many game shows of the time aimed squarely at a housewives audience.  Here he is shilling for Frigidaire and wearing a smart Santa hat to boot.  For me, I remember Cullen as a panelist on To Tell the Truth.

  BLOG FRIGIDAIR DETAIL

BLOG PURITRON

Puritron: It sounds like the name of an early ’80s electropop band.  Just look at how thoroughly delighted Mom is to have an odor-free kitchen.  And you can give this to Dad too, for his ciggy smoke.  As for Arthur Godfrey telling the “amazing Puritron Story” every Monday night on CBS … oh, heart be still.

BLOG BULOVA

A Joan Harris prototype?  Visually, I love the colour scheme used in this ad as well as its layout of repeating rectangles.

BLOG JEWELITE BRUSH SET

Look at that accessory on her wrist: clearly, she doesn’t have an eye for elegance.  I also love that it’s via the Pro-Phy-Lac-Tic Brush Company: does this mean that the brushes come wrapped in condoms?  The dudes even get a mention in this ad as well.  Speaking of whom ….

FOR THE GENTS:

BLOG ACCO MOWERS

 It’s a lawn mower!  It’s a an Outboard Motor!  Does it make you breakfast as well?  Below are some of the fine Acco models.  There’s nothing quite like wrapping up a lawn mower and discretely chucking it under the tree.

ACCO MOWERS details

BLOG BOSTONIAN

Hmmm … Hunter … Race Car Driver .. Gentleman.  Yep, there’s no crack addicted, ranting buffoon of a mayor hanging out with extortion-friendly criminals, so I guess Rob Ford wasn’t part of Bostonian’s target audience.

TRANS-GENDER ADVERTISING:

BLOG CORDOMATIC

Him and Her household items, with fab graphics.  I would say that the lady in the illustration has been made to look more than a bit like Mary Tyler Moore, except that this was almost two years before MTM hit the big time on The Dick Van Dyke Show.

BLOG SCHICK WOMEN

In another set of his and hers pitches, Schick’s ladyparts model works a Jane Russell vibe in retail celebration of “96 blades … (to) shave underarms immaculately clean.”  Let’s not forget the electric razor’s “slender, alabaster beauty … touched with jewels and tapered for a lady’s hand.”  It reassuringly gushes that it makes for an “inspired gift … completely feminine.”  This colourful ad really jumps out at you when viewed across the two oversized LIFE pages.  Meanwhile, below, some dimpled, gurning schmuck gets the simple b&w treatment.   “14 Day Free Home Trial Starts Christmas Day!,” it sez here.   This guy reminds me of someone but I can’t put my finger on just who.  Any suggestions, dear readers?

BLOG SCHICK MEN

  BLOG LEESURES

Leesures?  Groan! Although you can kind of see the 1960s starting to come in here a bit.  Check out her waist — she could give Vampira a run for her money.  Although I doubt Vampira would have ever be caught dead in “Frontier Lady” slacks.

‘TIS THE SEASON FOR …

BLOG ANGEL PINE

Nothing says Yuletide quite like a “twinkling, stainless metal” Christmas tree.  And what if the promised “Merriest Christmas Ever!” doesn’t bear out?  As with that suspect Five Years Guarantee of Perfect Toast for Lady Proctor, things here could quickly turn litigious.

Life Nov 59 Holiday Sprinkles BLOG

And if your stainless metal Angel Pine “natural shape” tree isn’t quite silver enough, you can tinkle Holiday Sprinkles all over the tree.  Just don’t inhale in the vicinity.

Life Nov 59 Bell Red Phone BLOG

When voicing your Christmas wishes to loved ones around the world, ensure that the colours of your lipstick, nail polish, and top match that of your phone and Christmas cookies.  Also ensure that the phone accomplishes the unrealistic feat of floating in space, ahead of the cookie jar.  This ad is also proof positive that crossdressers were alive and well in the conservative ’50s.

BLOG GOODYEAR TIRES

The 1950s was the era when suburbia exploded, and if you’re one of those snow-belted burb dwellers, you’re going to need some tires to get around in the gleaming white stuff.  These Suburbanites from Goodyear should do the trick — they were even “tested way up in Canada’s Hudson Bay area.”

  BLOG GOODYEAR detail

GIVE THE GIFT OF LIFE

BLOG LIFE SUBSCRIPTION

“It’s easy to give LIFE,” this ad clolyingly announces, although I wouldn’t say no to an annual subscription to LIFE, particularly circa 1959 editions, for a mere $4.95 a year.  And it’s easy too! “To give LIFE for Christmas just fill out the order form at the right and mail it today” (see below) …

BLOG Life Subscription order card

BLOG LIFE SUBSCRIPTION XMAS CARD

… and you get this fetching card/decoration specimen to hang on your tree AND …

BLOG LIFE subscription Good Life special issue

… this subscription-only special edition, The Good Life.  I know that I’d be making a beeline straight for “The Gay Old Days,” although it must be said that “How the Famous Use Their Leisure” and “How to Play with Your Kids” promise to be the most fun you’ll have with your clothes on.

BLOG WEBSTER NEW WORK DICTIONARY

And what if you encounter big words while reading all those issues of LIFE that will be arriving on your doorstep?  What if you find yourself face-to-face with perfidiousness or pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis?  What then?  It’s Webster’s New World Dictionary to the rescue!  And not only has it been “Tested” (could I have that qualified, please?), it’s used and recommended by wordsmith “Experts” such as  James Thurber and Marianne Moore.

BLOG WEBSTER DETAIL

AUDIO/VISUAL CORNER

BLOG ARGUS

It seems that home movie cameras, slide projectors and advanced snappers were really taking off as consumer goods at this time as evidenced by the copious number of ads that populate magazines from the era.  In this issue alone, here are three such ads for Argus (above), Kodak and Keystone (below).  I never thought I’d live to see the day when Kodak would file for bankruptcy.

  BLOG KODAK

BLOG KEYSTONE

Life Nov 59 Zenith products BLOG

I included this this Zenith ad in KA-CHING-A-LING.  Below are some details of the graphics, as well as the then-cutting-edge technology available for under the better-heeled Christmas trees of 1959.

BLOG ZENITH DETAIL 1

  BLOG ZENITH DETAIL 2

BLOG ZENITH DETAIL 3  BLOG ZENITH DETAIL 4

BLOG ZENITH DETAIL 5

BLOG ARVIN

Indeed, just as with the movie cameras, the emerging stereo systems  of the time make a splash across issues of LIFE from this period, as they started becoming more common place as standard consumer goods.  Above, we have a precoital couple groovin’ with their Arvin (above), as well as ads for RCA and Webcor (below).  You know what I want for Xmas?  That Nipper figurine in the RCA ad.

Life Nov 59 RCA Nipper Record Player BLOG

BLOG WEBCOR

BLOG LONDON RECORDS

Once you have that new HiFi, you’ll need some music to play on it.  Why, just look at the exciting choices that London Records was offering that Xmas.  Top Polkas, Hollywood Cha Cha Cha, Famous Continental Marches … it’s hard to know where to start, really, given such breathtaking audio selections.

 Life Nov 59 MB Games BLOG

 Maybe you and the tots could play a game or two while listening to those Continental Marches.  And remember: always wear a tie when playing Racko.

ENTERTAINING

Life Nov 59 Samsonite port BLOG

If you’re going to be doing some entertaining, then perhaps this Samsonite portable furniture may come in handy.  Somehow, those dresses don’t seem Samsonite-table appropriate.

BLOG OLD GRANDDAD

 Of course, you’ll need plenty of liquor, too.  As I had mentioned in KA-CHING-A-LING, these holiday issues are fairly teeming with booze ads.  “Old” seemed to be the thing of the day, such as with Old Grand-Dad above, and …

BLOG OLD CROW

… the high quality bourbon that is Old Crow.  Check out the toast below.  Have an “Old Crow in your glass” … now there’s a revolting thought.

  BLOG OLD CROW DETAIL

BLOG MARTINS

I believe it’s also being suggested that Martin’s may be the most virile scotch too.

  BLOG LORD CALVERT

  My, Lord Calvert is a shifty looking fella.  Nice hat, my lord.

BLOG VO

Here’s Seagram’s V.O. with swanky accompanying accoutrements, our old standbys of jewels and furs.  Who needs ’em, when you can have a Mary Proctor toaster.

BLOG LM CIGS NYE 1959 1960

“Oh look, it’s a cigarette.”  This beaming couple boogie down and welcome in the Swingin’ Sixties at a most merry fiesta, potentially contemplating key parties to come circa ten years down the line.

This woman has huge nostrils.  Is that William F. Buckley that she’s with?

NON-SEASONAL ADS WORTH NOTING

There are plenty of non-Claus-oriented ads in the issue too, and I’ve selected a few favourites to highlight.

  BLOG PONTIAC

Classic-style illustration for a car ad from this era.

BLOG MISS CLAIROL

Clairol were still using that “only her hairdresser knows” line a decade later in ads from when I was a kid.

BLOG ANGEL FACE

Nothing quite like changing your skin tone to match your outfit.  What if she’d been wearing gingham?

  BLOG TUSSY

Gotta love this illustration — and tag line — for Tussy Pink Cleansing Cream (it also ended up as an Elvis Costello LP title).

BLOG COKE

This backpage Coke ad explodes with colour — and I want his striped shirt.

BLOG CANADIAN CLUB

On behalf of this ad and me, a couple of Canadians, we wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and Terrific 2014.

Previous Christmas-Themed Entries:

Xmas #1: December 1986: My 3 Xmas Weekends From Hell Snuggle in for a heartwarming seasonal tale of being a store manager and having to endure armed robberies, flouncing Christian employees, slap-happy Santa helpers, and looting mall rats. Merry Christmas to one and all!

Xmas #2: Twisted Seasonal Sounds: A John Waters Christmas The Pope of Filth curates what is probably the most “unique” collection of seasonal tunes on the market, filled with redneck children singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, ornery tourette-inflected C&W, Theremin-driven toe tappers, and other joyfully questionable sonic Christmas delights.

Xmas #3: Ludicrous Seasonal TV: Star Wars Holiday Special George Lucas once said of this special “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.” Read here and find out why.

Xmas #4: KA-CHING-A-LING: Xmas Advertising Highlights 1949-2011

Previous Magazine-Related Entries:

Mid-Century Modern: Life Magazine, January 2, 1950

Mad Men -Era Artefact: Maclean’s Magazine, Sept. 4, 1965

Sing Out!: Highlights from the Folk Music Bible, 1964-1966

 

Text © 2013 VariousArtists

Comments From the Original OpenSalon.com Posting

How many kids wanted that record player? 🙂
Brought back memories..
HUGGG
 

VA, wonderful trip back in time here and thanks for putting this together…just the scanning alone had to a time consuming project! Besides the cultural issues raised, it’s interesting to see what companies shown here are still around and which ones either merged, went out of business, or became more obscure versions of their former selves.

When Bing Crosby sang “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” he probably had a copy of a holiday edition of Life Magazine not far from his mic! Looking forward to more X-mas themed installments!!

 
Wow. A mind-blowing trip down memory lane like no other I’ve found at OS. I guess a picture (or, in this case, an advert) is worth a thousand words.
Good thing the guy in the kilt also had his sporran on to hold down the front of that kilt in the photo. LOL 😉
The Tussy ad was a hoot, but they all are indicative of where we were being jerked into spending money back in ’59.
Fascinating.
R
 
This was a fun and scary peek back in the day (and a lot of effort on your part!) – although I do admit I’d like one of those old Bulova watches – beautiful!
 

Linda, I *still* want one of the record players in the ads. HUGGS back at ya.

designanator: The point you raise about what happened to various companies depicted is exactly what was going through my mind when I was putting this together. Coke is still a colossus, Kodak is a shadow of its former self, while LIFE magazine itself no longer exists. As for Bing, he appears as part of a seasonal Chesterfield cigarettes ad that I included in Part 2 of the KA-CHING-A-LING (http://tinyurl.com/p4s8e7u).

Poor Woman: I always find advertising in all forms fascinating, especially from a distance of time, as it really says so much about any given culture as it has to reflect that culture back at itself in a visual language a consumer will understand in order successfully shift products.

That Tussy ad has particularly terrific graphics. Thanks for stopping by.

Just Thinking: That’s the thing, it was such an oppressive era yet I’m almost fetishistically obsessed with mid-century modern design. I find a number of these items retain high aesthetic appeal, at least for me.

 

Aw crap. Scenes from my childhood.

Love the Frigidaire ad — “as little as $1.45 a week*” Yes, that all important asterisk, which no doubt points to a four-point disclaimer at the bottom of the ad that includes: “$1.45 a week … for the rest of your life.”

And good ole Canadian Club, still distilled in Windsor by the corporate descendants of notorious rum runners.

 
Boanerges: I checked out the asterisk, and it reads “*After a small down payment. See Your Frigidaire Dealer for his price and terms.” In other words, pony up for most of it and then it’s $1.45 per week for the rest of your life, although that would be a good deal right about now. You can’t say “asterisk” without saying “risk.” And thanks for the history lesson re: Canadian Club. Did not know that.
 
I love these walks with you through the advert past. I picture Mad Men-esque moments as I read through them. Graphics from this era were great, and it’s also a nice reminder of how far we’ve come, baby!
 
lschmoopie: One of the things that the distance of time affords us is that we can look back an appreciate the good aspects of the era, such as design, layout, etc., yet also be aware of how toxic and restricting it was for many as well. Great to see you here as always.
 

I love looking at retro adverts…like you say, the artistic expression is wonderful, the toxicity, not so much. There’s a lyric to a Sinead O’Conner song…’listen to what I’m not saying’ …there’s a lot left unsaid in these ads, so much that they are practically screaming.

kudos como siempre, VA ~

 

catch-22: Ah, “Just Call Me Joe” — one of my favourite Sinead songs.

I love what you wrote about that ads, how there is “a lot left unsaid … so much that they are practically screaming” … that observation could pertain to the society in general of that time.

 
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2 Comments on “Christmas Advertising: LIFE Magazine, Nov. 30, 1959 (Xmas#5)”

  1. How many kids wanted that record player? 🙂
    Brought back memories..
    HUGGG


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