75 Years Ago, Three Young Men …
I've always loved reading old magazines. As a kid in the mid-1970s, I spent hours on rainy afternoons with issues of Look, Sport, and Life saved by my mom and dad from the early 1960s. It wasn't just the pictures and stories about JFK, Willie Mays and the Beatles that pulled me in; it was also the advertising. The cars, the foods, the TVs — a lot of it was already pretty different from what I knew.
The other day, I went further back in time - 75 years - via the March 1935 issue of Popular Mechanics that I had picked up at a yard sale. There are articles on developments in television, solar motors, and around-the-world travel on the Graf Zeppelin and the PanAm Clipper. And, the city of the future (1960!) is shown on the cover: a fantasy of terraced skyscrapers, giant pedestrian bridges and rooftop helicopter buses. (See image in the media player to the right.) Oh, well ... "The future," said French poet Paul Valery, "isn't what it used to be."
So, then I turned to the ads. Some of the brands are still around (Ford, Harley-Davidson, Simoniz), even though their products have changed in some big ways since then. And there are companies that have disappeared over the decades (LaSalle Extension University, Plymouth, Midwest Radio Corp.).
But for most of the ads, whether full page, fractional or classified, there was only one reply option: the mail. That's right, no websites, no Twitter or Facebook, not even a phone number … just a mailing address for the prospect to reply to. Many of them even had a clip-out coupon.
Because only the inside and back covers were in 4-color (selling cigarettes), many of the rest have to rely a lot on their copy (and the emotional appeal behind it) to draw a response. "Send for FREE BOOK," "Become a RADIO EXPERT." Legendary bodybuilder Charles Atlas promises salvation with a new physique: "I'll prove in ONLY 7 Days that I can make YOU a New Man!"