Let’s Read The American, June 1940!

In last week’s teaser for this week’s thread, I said that The American was a short lived magazine. Boy, was I wrong. This sucker ran for 50 years. 1906-1956! And it was founded by Ida frickin’ Tarbell! (and some other people but whatever). So, even though no one called me out on it, mea culpa.


I also said that it was a wartime issue, which – whoops, we weren’t officially at war yet. So, enjoy a short period of pre-war indulgence and join me in mentally screaming at the people in these ads to hold on to all of their food and coffee and gasoline while they still have it.


Frederic Stanley was a very prominent illustrator of the time, who did a lot of Saturday Evening Post covers and ads like this. I love the story that this picture tells; the boy is in what looks like a private school uniform but his family can’t afford to take him to the dentist, hence the old string-and-doorknob school of home dentistry. Much more interesting to look at than a can of motor oil, anyhow.


I’d like to see the adventures of Sally Graham the Telephone Girl and her lilliputian friends. They look like a more cosmopolitan version of The Borrowers.

I really wish that toothpaste tubes still looked like that.


The tiny glamorous people also work for General Electric, apparently.

I love the graphic design of the contents so much.


“Better by far than beauty is the glamour of a radiant smile!”


Settle in for an extraordinarily infuriating read on what this douchebag has to say about marriage, straight from one of history’s most famous eugenicists “Doctor” Paul Popenoe.




So, in summary:

  • “Certainly you aren’t living, fully, unless you are married and have children.”
  • Theological school is an excellent place to find a husband, are is male-dominated spaces like ham radio clubs where you can act like you don’t know what you’re doing because you are a feeble-minded woman.
  • Offering to split the cost of dates will make your boyfriend resent you, so to not hurt his delicate widdle ego you should only suggest cheap or free places for him to take you.
  • An article on the viability of marriage counseling is offset with a silverware ad. Subtle, American, subtle.
  • “Aren’t we entitled to a dividend?”
  • “If the wife must work, it should be a source of satisfaction to the husband that she earns a good salary. After all, she isn’t going to work forever, and the more money she earns, the sooner she will be able to quit.”
  • That uneasy gurgle you felt in your stomach when you read “The ‘family wage’, carrying an increase [in salary] with the arrival of each child, is commonplace in Europe” is valid. Because he is totally talking about Nazi Germany.
  • “No sound marriage was ever destroyed by financial worries”.


“and 50 years later, he bought a condo in an assisted living park for them”


Huh, really, because everything I’ve read about Edison seems to insist that he was a colossal asshole.

I, too, enjoy a movie trailer that doubles as a lifetime achievement award review of Spencer Tracy’s career.


Spoilers: she did not.

40 Little Mothers is on YouTube. It’s pretty cute. “Tot” was played by twin baby girls credited as one under the name “Baby Quintanilla”, which begs the question…

Whatever Happened to Baby Quintanilla?


I really don’t know why they have a whole extra page devoted to skipping straight to the advertisements, as if you can go more than a page without seeing one anyway (this week’s review is seriously like 80% ads), but hey.



So apparently the whiskey market in 1940 was purely targeted to the aging fop demographic.


Look Jane, it’s a car
The car goes fast
Let’s play tag in traffic, Jane
No, Dick, no!
Stop, Dick, Stop!
Dick chases the ball into the street


From the man who brought you Ferdinand comes…this. I don’t really know what to think of it. The voice and flow and the narration is masterful and I hate how charming it is on first read because under all that banter is some white-hot misogyny that’s easy to overlook through the humor. Weirdly enough for the tone, it’s way less racist up front than you would expect it to be – but from the language refusing to recognize the culture from which the story originated, that makes it even more racist, right? Aah, it hurts.




These cartoons are all inoffensive and cute, even verging on funny! It’s a miracle!


John’s on the outs with his, uh, “family” at the moment, so he’s looking for some extra protection for his girl Peggy, and that doesn’t come cheap.


Ogden Nash! Being very Ogden Nashy.


From a feature on “America’s Most Interesting People”. This decidedly non-threateningly non-hunky man will teach your wife and children to fish!


I found a clip of the Fred Allen Show that featured an interview with Stanley Falter (skip to about 17 minutes in). Let’s just say that I was not expecting his voice to sound like what I would expect the voice of a young man who designs evening wear for lap dogs to sound like. If you’re expecting a man who designs evening wear for dogs to sound like someone who would be served a knuckle sandwich by Dick Tracy, you’re in for a treat.


Everything about this lady, Mazie Krebs, is amazing.





Worryingly high enrollment of students at UT Austin in 1940: 10,000
Enrollment of students at UT Austin in 2018: 40,000

Tuition at UT Austin in 1940 (assuming board and expenses are included in that total): about $7k in today’s money
Tuition at UT Austin in 2018: About $25k in today’s money


Ok. So, THESE adorable smiling people are the kids of “Pappy” O’Daniel, the Texas governor and later senator. Earlier in Pappy’s pre-political career he was a singer in a band called the Light Crust Dough Boys, which in addition to spreading jolly western swing tunes across the south also worked to hawk his Hillbilly Flour company, from which he got his nickname – a radio jingle catchphrase that went “Pass the biscuits, Pappy!”. After that band broke up, he recruited his two sons in the photo above to be in his next band, Pat O’Daniel and his Hillbilly Boys. At some point in reading this you’re probably like “Uh, isn’t this the plot to Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” and you are absolutely right, because the Cohen Brothers based their character of O’Daniel on this guy. Anyway, among his accomplishments, he made some attractive children and thank god in heaven none of them had similar political ambitions.


University of Texas at Austin, training the beautiful assassins of tomorrow – today!


Apparently Homer Price Rainey was fired from his position as college president just a few years later for refusing to “out” several professors in the Economics department who were accused of being communists.


I’m not going to link to the source, because that seems creepy and invasive, but I will say that these people got married the the next year and were married for over 40 years. Sniffle.

Meanwhile, the campus cactus is still single.


Liz the maid (not Uz the maid, nice choice of font there Drano) was fired between the third and fourth panels for disrupting the party and making the guests aware of her lowly existence as a domestic. Little did they know she had already put Drano in their after-dinner coffee.


I don’t think this is intentional, but all I see is the symbolism of Philip Morris as a company cradling the entire planet in its white-gloved hand. It’s like a self-perpetuating political cartoon.


While this is undoubtedly a god-awful and sexist ad, I’m wondering if this ad came about because of the increasing pressure to send men overseas for war. The draft would be established within a few months of this issue. So if the men weren’t around to make the big decisions, who was going to buy the cars (that they soon would have no tires or gas for, but they didn’t know that at the time)? Come on ladies, your dollar is just as good as his! Now that we have no other choice but to recognize you if we want to sell cars!


Yes, for some reason people thought it was cool if the girl half of a couple proposed marriage on February 29th during a leap year. But thanks to Colgate, her worries were unfounded and the sneaky little minx got her man to think that he “made” her say yes. UGHHH.






Great picture. Agfa is a German chemical company that had a brief foray into consumer photography film. Let’s just say they were forced to do a lot of restructuring after the war.


May the approving head of Clarke Gable float around your serene face as you envision stealing your daughter’s man.

I think we already went over this back in the Good Housekeeping issue, but Pepsodent went through this whole thing with “irium” where it turns out they had just made up a fancy word for something that was already in every toothpaste and cleaning solvent.


Start rationing your lead-filled gasoline now, people!


Which one are you – Virginia French, Jane Bryan, or Jane Hall? One of these women was BFF’s with Ronald Regan, one of these women was a glamourous screen writer who hung out with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and one of these women married the half brother of her brother-in-law, the one who was NOT an Astor, a man named William Force Dick. And apparently all of them have exquisite taste in silverware.



Silly me! I forgot! Men never have to worry about these kinds of things!


What the actual hell, Kellogg’s.


Of all the things off in this ad, I’d say the worst part is that “…” after “alive”.


Look how happy he is in the sixth panel! No reason for not marrying the man now, even if he is a total asshole! That’s what Doctor Popenoe would say!


Where do we even start with this? The bad spelling, the xenophobia, Harry’s thousand-mile saucer-eyed stare…but really, I think the true moment of this ad is OH DARLING, I CAN READ THIS BECAUSE IT’S WRITTEN LIKE A COOKBOOK!


“Bromo-Seltzer helps me endure the pain of long-term brain damage!”


There’s a remarkable lack of recipes in this magazine. I’m going to hazard that this actually isn’t too horrifying, by the standards of the time. No spam, no jello, no mayonnaise? I guess bean, spam, gelatin, and mayonnaise salads had briefly gone out of style.


Well kiddo, I’m sure glad your constipation has cleared up and you’re free to flooze it up around town with strange men again!

Kellogg’s Pep cereal was infamous for containing an additive that functioned as a laxative. Seriously.


“Who you callin’ inbred?”




From the man that brought you the original Shrek, a series that William Steig did for The American on funny divorce stories (no, Myron and Mary Klutz are not real).


Is that a 1940 “your mom” joke?

Musical Americana, from the little information I could find on it, was a radio show that was noted for being “a flag-waver for native music”, native in this case meaning “jingoistic WASP music” and their gimmick was that they would cull ordinary people from all over Pittsburgh to sing and play patriotic songs in a local talent showcase. I don’t know what became of Betty, Bud, Betty’s Mom, or the obnoxious looking fellow with the ukulele and the W on his sweater.


I’m sorry, all I see is this.

God, they sure loved buying refrigerators in 1940. There was at least two other ads for fridges in this issue that I didn’t include.


I don’t know what I like better, “bathtub carpet” or “cheerful whistle tunes to improve the morale of factory workers”.


It’s really concerning how much they have to assure you that their mascara won’t make you cry from pain.


Lux is great for washing out the bloodstains of the people that Sally’s underwear told her to murder.

And that’s it for this week! I did an extra-long one this week because Old Magazines is taking next Friday off and I will be spending the week in the rocky mountains of Colorado, attempting to have fun and not get eaten by bears. Next time will be The Modern Priscilla from 1920, a woman’s magazine that does everything but outright scream how to get by when your husband is dead.