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An artist in residence (she can afford)

Jun 24, 2019

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Marketplace
Brought to You By

Christmas gifts were all about grown-ups, in post-war America

Daisy Palacios Dec 16, 2016
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A holiday advertisement for Westinghouse, 1950s. Reproduced with permission.
CBS Corporation

Christmas gifts are usually about kids. Advertisements for toys, video games, and other electronics are everywhere this time of year, but it hasn’t always been this way. Back in the 1950s and 60s, companies and advertisers geared their products and their work toward grown-ups.

 

An advertisement Cosco Metal Furniture, 1958. Reproduced with permission from Ameriwood Industries, Inc. (L), and an advertisement for General Telephone System, 1957.

Design historian Sarah Archer explores Christmastime during the war, as well as post-war, in her new book “Midcentury Christmas.” She brings us the next installment of our “Brought to You By” series.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, GE advertised its array of products for both inside and outside the home, from portable hair dryers and television sets in fashionable colors to waffle irons and strings of electric lights for holiday decor. Though the company was strongly associated with particular kinds of goods, particularly light bulbs, GE made an effort in its advertising to promote the ideas of technology and newness as its own signature selling point, knowing that the gadgets of any particular holiday season would be nearly obsolete a few years later. In one double page ad from the mid-1960’s promoting portable TVs, the tagline read: “Progress is our most important product.”

 

Print advertisement for a General Electric portable television set, 1960s. Reproduced with permission from GE Lighting, a business of General Electric Company.

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

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