The Ghost of Christmas (Retail) Past… Part IV

For my winter vacation this year, I’d like to slip inside the December 1948 Ladies’ Home Journal and visit for awhile. The issue captures a seemingly idyllic moment in US history when the nation was really beginning to enjoy its post-WWII boom. It opens with an editorial by none other than First Lady of Journalism Dorothy Thompson on the importance of expanding and strengthening the economy as the only true protector of our national security. And it is a veritable feast for the eyes—page after page of gorgeously executed Christmas ads and features that make me want to buy everything, cook everything, sew everything it suggests.

I apologize for the awkward cropping of many of the pictures in this post; the LHJ was too wide and too long for my scanner bed, and there were a LOT of full page ads! But the images speak for themselves regardless…

Needless to say, there were a slew of appliance ads, beautifully illustrated to depict their knack for leading to domestic nirvana:

This Norman Rockwell-ish if rather quirky ad (which I think is much sadder than it means to be)  depicts the impact of Plymouth ownership on one family (or specifically, on one poor kid), without even bothering to flaunt that year’s Special De Luxe Coupe in it!

The pages are bursting with images of delectable looking Christmas hams and baked goods, whether homemade from the ingredient being hawked or store-bought in a final state, such as this Jane Parker fruitcake:

The magazine itself has a spread on Christmas entertaining, with menus (and recipes, in the back) for a party for 25, a breakfast, and a dinner:

One of the most artistically done ads is for Coke; I wonder what my young father, who at the time was in his early years as a Maspeth, NY Coke bottling plant manager, would have thought of it:

As far as the LHJ features, in addition to beauty advice:

and tips on the latest party frocks to sew (with patterns available for purchase, natch), LHJ did a spread with socialites and celebrities modelling the latest in hostess fashions, including one of Rosalind Russell in a ruby pink moire and green taffeta creation from Joseph Whitehead:

Coty’s attempt to garner a chunk of the Xmas market for its perfumes included both a letter from its president explaining the art of fragrance selection and, many pages later, a full page ad displaying the options to choose from (the model’s red gown is from Traina-Norell):

Here’s another perfume ad, from Bourjois (I remember my mother, a schoolteacher, regularly being given Evening in Paris as a holiday gift in the 1960s):

This ad from Bretton watch bands offered a “Peewee” version of the “sweetheart” expansion bracelets so popular throughout the war:

The kiddie set above came in a lucite-look pocketbook; Pro-phy-lac-tic offered lucite (or “Jewelite”) dresser sets for both men and women:


Don’t know whether this Textron slip ad nods more to “A Christmas Carol” or to Salvador Dali:

Of course, there were ads for products to help with seasonal decor (and giftwrapping):

And ads for year round home goods, as well:

This Community silverplate ad couldn’t decide if it was holiday- or wedding-themed:

LHJ offered ideas for making your own gifts (more patterns to buy), from cloth blocks, dolls and stuffed animals for children:

to quilted satin slipper-and-pouch sets, or leopard velveteen belt-and-mitten sets, for adults and teens:

There was even a column on ideas for gifts kids, from tots to teens, could make/give to Mom:

And though there were no ads for liquor as the ideal gift, there was more than one that proposed sticking a carton of cigarettes under the tree:

However and whatever you celebrate this time of year, may it be filled with the calm and peace of a Victorian Christmas. And, among the delights 2014 holds in store for you, may at least one of them be vintage 1940s and tied up with an enormous bow!

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