Vintage soap ads

On account of an all-day seasonal allergy attack and drowsiness from the pills, I was unable to work on the post I planned for Monday. Instead, here’s a showcase of some of my vintage soap ads. Some of them haven’t exactly aged well, to say the very least, but it’s intellectually dishonest to pretend the past was all sunshine and roses and that people always held 21st century attitudes.

If someone leaves you or contemplates cheating on account of your skin, it’s time to find a new partner!

Lovely artwork, awful name!

Now that I’m over 40, I far prefer the wisdom and experience that only increasing age can bring. Youth and beauty don’t last forever, but deeper qualities remain.


Because all women are beside themselves with ecstasy over the thought of doing laundry.

Quite a lot of vintage soap ads have the premise of dark skin turning white.

As I was saying!

Who wants wafer-thin soap? That’s the kind of soap you cobble multiple pieces of together into a bar!

One second later, the boy was attacked by the righteously infuriated cat.

Many vintage ads also put phonetically-rendered vernacular in the mouths of their African-American characters. I’ve even seen old newspaper articles giving this type of speech to them!

At least this ad’s heart seems to have been in the right place?

It’s jaw-dropping to see evidence of bygone attitudes like this! Also of note is the old-fashioned spelling “mamma.” That was much more common in English in the 19th and early 20th centuries (along with the pretentious upper-class pronunciation Ma-MAAAAA.)

Now this ad is fun! I love the guarantees on the bottom left.

Vintage war posters and ads

Since I ran out of time to put a proper post together, here’s some of my virtual collection of vintage war posters and ads. Most of them are from WWII.

I’m not so sure 90% of all athletes in any discipline would do that today, at least not in North America. So many people have no conception of what it’s like to have a  war on one’s own soil, or very close by.

Homefront services and sacrifices also seem a distant concept to many people who’ve lived their entire lives with the luxury of never having a war on their soil or in a nearby country.

Because we all want pilots high on drugs!

Usually these anti-VD ads tell men to stay away from a certain kind of woman! I also love how my iPhoto is asking me if two of these guys are Tsar Aleksandr III and Jack Dempsey.

Is that Lucille Ball on the top right?

I wonder if there were any ads telling vegetarians they were unpatriotic for not having these surplus fats to give to the war effort. We were a small minority in the West in this era, but we did exist.

How many 50-year-olds or even men over 35 responded to this ad? From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of guys who enlisted were much younger, and older guys who were legally obligated to register for the draft were rarely called.

Things that come across so much differently in the 21st century! Though this ad seemed to have its heart in the right place. If only they’d slightly reworded it, like “I’m Indian, but my heart is Canadian.”

Very interesting juxtaposition of ads!

1940s shoe and clothing ads

Since I’ve been devoting almost all of my writing time these past few weeks to my A to Z posts for my main blog (theme Ukrainian history and culture), and also spent a lot of time watching the World Figure Skating Championships (so much more pleasant to watch without any overscored Russians!), I didn’t have time to put together a proper post for this week. Instead, you can enjoy some of my vintage ads for clothing and shoes!

Clothes of the 1940s just seem so much more sophisticated and glamorous, even when they’re designed for winter sports.

I ran across this ad while looking for images of girls’ trousers from the late 1930s. In Movements of the Symphony of 1939 (the book formerly known as The Very Next), Cinnimin buys several outfits modeled on these at a bazaar in the Bohemian Quarter of her fictional Atlantic City neighborhood. Her mother isn’t very pleased to discover she bought overalls, playsuits, and pants, but ultimately agrees to let her keep them.

I’ve always loved boots that come up really high, though I don’t know if it would be a good idea to wear them with my metal hardware in the left ankle of my right foot. My gimpy leg and the hardware already make it impossible for me to wear shoes with straps around the ankles.

My favorite is the one in the middle of the bottom row.

I’d wear all of these!

I can only wear block or wedge heels because of my gimpy leg and the metal hardware (not that I learnt how to walk in traditional heels before my accident anyway, being as proudly tomboyish as I am). But if these shoes came in a flat version, I’d pick the black ones on the far left on top and the rainbow ones in the middle on the bottom.

Look at all that eye-popping green! The red is great too. I love a good, distinctive jewel-tone green.

I’d love to ride a horse again. It’s been so long, and my last memory of horseback riding shouldn’t be the day I fell off of a galloping horse without a helmet, severely bruised my back, and sustained possible slight whiplash. I’m proud to say I got back on the horse and finished the ride, which really impressed the other people in that outdoors group from UMass Hillel.

I’d also love a good pair of hiking boots.

My favorite is the one on the far left on the bottom. It’s the most modest, and wide straps are a must when you have to carry around a large bust.

In the 1940s, the models for maternity clothes couldn’t actually be pregnant.

Designed for expectant mothers, but not modeled by them!

Maternity clothes have come so far over the last century! Even the ones from earlier in my own lifetime were nothing like what’s available today. If I’m blessed with a child before time runs out, I’ll have so many options.

How to use real estate ads for research

One of the many mistakes I made while researching and writing my abandoned storyline about the Konevs moving back to NYC in 1952 was reading current real estate ads for historic properties as though they’d always been that way. Regardless of which city, era, or type of housing you’re writing about, you should never assume a house or apartment is completely unchanged from the day of its creation.

So you go to a site like Zillow, choose the neighborhood or street you’re researching, plug in age range (e.g., 1880–1930), square footage, number of bedrooms, and style (condo, townhouse, apartment, detached house). You read the descriptions and look at the photos and floor plans, and start basing your fictional homes on your favorites.

Except you may be barking up the completely wrong tree.

Yes, that home physically existed in that year, but it may have looked a lot different. If it’s in a major city (e.g., NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore), and your story is set anytime from the Depression through these cities’ nadirs in the Seventies and Eighties, odds are it wasn’t used as a single-family home and was a lot smaller.

Unless one were lucky enough to already own one’s home and have fully paid it off, the Stock Market crash forced many people into new dwellings. They could no longer afford rent on luxury apartments or upkeep of rambling estates. Many townhouses and rowhouses were split up into duplexes, triplexes, and SROs.

Some townhouses had as many as 29 SRO apartments!

Others were split up in response to the severe housing crisis following WWII. Many large apartments were also chopped up into smaller units, and some tenants were pressured or outright forced into moving or accepting the decreased square footage of their homes.

Likewise, many estates in cities like St. Paul and San Francisco were used as boardinghouses and apartments. People were able to get them for free or cheap, but had a lot of work to do fixing them up.

The same went for townhouses which escaped the division into SROs, duplexes, and triplexes.

And speaking of townhouses and rowhouses, many had entry floor businesses (restaurants, shoe stores, bookstores, candy stores, business classes, photography studios, florist shops, etc.). Even if a single family owned the property, they may not have had residence on every floor.

Many amenities featured in modern apartments and condos didn’t exist until very recently. It’s one thing to create a fictional building with a pool, gorgeous courtyard, a few upscale businesses on the lower floors, and maid service, but things like dog parks, communal treehouses, Yoga studios, and bowling alleys wouldn’t have existed in all but the most contemporary hist-fic.

The above is from 1936, so it’s not entirely implausible for your characters to be well-off during the Depression and have a luxury home. However, that wasn’t very common. Not much new housing was built after the Stock Market crash, and an architect or realtor in touch with reality wouldn’t have built, developed, or marketed such upscale housing.

The former hotel being refurbished into condos in all but name, an urban kibbutz of sorts for an unrealistic amount of my characters to all conveniently live in, was beyond unrealistic. People would’ve been squatting in that hotel, or it would’ve been split up into SROs.

Forget about terraces, a three-story penthouse, sprawling apartments, a steamroom, indoor pool, libraries on every floor, and private-entry elevators! Those would’ve been added decades later, not during such a severe housing crisis.

Co-ops were uncommon until the Sixties, and condos didn’t exist in the U.S. till about the same time. However, some luxury apartments called it even after a certain amount of years paying rent, and became condos in all but name.

Obviously, things like air conditioning, central heating, and electricity were added at much later dates, but those generally aren’t the only changes. Wine cellars, wet bars, private gyms, spa rooms, I’m looking at you! Elevators are also almost certainly very recent additions.

And if that house was built before 1950, you know it wouldn’t have been a tacky open concept originally!

It’s fine to use modern real estate ads as a jumping-off point for creating your own fictional homes, but it’s also important to look up vintage ads.

You also want to look up the average home and rent prices in that area in that era. Plugging modern numbers into an inflation calculator won’t give an accurate price, since the cost of living has gone WAY up over the last few decades.

Vintage bike ads and photos

Since I didn’t have enough time to put together a proper post, here are some of my vintage bike ads and photos to enjoy.

I’m glad they don’t look like that anymore!


I would not want to ride that!

Nor that!

I’d buy that just for the dinosaurs!

Tandem bikes have come a long way since 1869!

Are kids allowed to ride bikes to school anymore, or do their helicopter parents forbid it?

Check out those prices!

No comment!

I’d love a vintage Schwinn bike.

It seems like Schwinn’s best bikes were made for kids, without adult versions.

I wish more vintage bike ads had shown girls.

Speaking of females and bikes! It seems like this ad is saying the Duplex will prevent a sexually stimulating feeling during biking.

As though their competitors weren’t all claiming to be the best too!

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