I’ve been busy with non-blog-related writing projects lately, and over Easter weekend I found myself feeling homesick for 100-year-old artwork. So I looked through the April 1919 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal in search of some springtime color.
I found it in abundance. With wartime paper restrictions lifted, the magazine had swollen to 190 pages, up from 128 in April 1918, and the number of pages in color had increased from 30 to 50. As usual, the best part of the magazine was the ads.*
The women of 1919 were hard at work, cleaning up their (or their employers’) homes,
choosing summer fabrics,
and cooking disgusting-looking food,
maybe for a big party
at which people would stay all night, dancing to dashing music that sets a swift and joyous pace.
For more simple fare, there’s delicious-looking bread
and Cream of Wheat.**
In an ad for Nashua woolnap blankets, the child is, for a change, not packing heat.
Soap and perfume ads feature rich people
and traditionally dressed Japanese people***
and the Middle Eastern oasis where Palmolive soap was born.
Women leap out of cars
and fairies flitter around****
and chewing gum ingredients appear to movie stars in crystal balls.*****
The war was over and the world was celebrating.
Then I saw this ad, drawn by Coles Phillips.
It’s been haunting me, a reminder–in a hosiery ad!–that peace, for some, came at a terrible price.
Not to end on too sad a note, there were signs of social progress. The young woman in this Lady Sealpax ad leaps joyfully, wearing underwear that gives her “the same ‘Free as the Air’ feeling that ‘brother’ enjoys.” Cast off those corsets, so constraining to your golfing or nursing! The Roaring Twenties are on the way.
*The best illustrations, anyway. There are also a lot of surprisingly feminist articles that I haven’t had a chance to read yet.
**The model for the photograph on the poster was, apparently, Frank L. White, who was born in Barbados and was working as a master chef in Chicago when it was taken. It’s still used on the Cream of Wheat box today. (I say “apparently” because, while he said in later life that he had posed for the photograph, his name wasn’t recorded at the time.) Some early Cream of Wheat ads doctored the photograph in racist ways or used racist language, but the photograph as used here is, for the time, an unusually realistic depiction of an African-American.
***Jap Rose soap had a racist name but gorgeous illustrations.
****I wondered about Djer-Kiss, the unusually named French perfume. Unlike Bozart rugs and Talc Jonteel, it isn’t a fractured French spelling. These people, who have given considerable thought to the matter, aren’t sure what it means either, although they provide interesting information about the Parisian company that produced Djer-Kiss.
*****This is, if memory serves, the first celebrity endorsement I’ve seen.