Let’s Read The American Home, December 1941!

The American Home magazine appears to have dependably chugged along for about fifty years between the late 1920s and late 1970s without a lot of fuss, but also without much going on to make it a must read. It went through a few rebrands over the decades but was solidly a middle-class woman’s homemaking magazine. I couldn’t find much background on it, which is a little surprising given that it ran monthly for almost half a century.

Note the tagline on the cover: “second line of defense.” It’s 1941 – welcome to the home front years! Where everything is grimly smiling and gently scolding and covered in scraps of pretty colored paper to distract from the ever gathering and smothering doom cloud above. The draft has been in place for over a year at this point. England was already rationing food – America would begin rationing food by the following spring. Tires would already be rationed by the time this issue hit stands, and new cars would be unavailable by January. And of course, in December of 1941 America declared war on Japan.

Textiles like fabric for these towels would not be rationed until the end of the next year, so – everybody get your ugly easter egg colored towels while you can! And if the color doesn’t offend you, those ugly boxes sure will! I like the tiny little people in the bottom corner looking overwhelmed and even scared by the giant looming tree of hosiery boxes.

“Defense” is evidently the buzzword of 1941 that everyone probably never wanted to hear again for the rest of their lives, because it comes up a lot in this magazine. Nobody wanted to call it a war while it was actually a war, I guess. Either that, or it took until Pearl Harbor for people to really get settled into this whole “war” thing. This is written for middle class women, after all, and we know they’re delicate about these things. Anyway, merry Christmas to you, Billy, from this strange telephone handset…doll…elf…hallucination.


The 1940s were a time when the phrase “marvelously mild, yet its flavor is rich and teasing, too” was used to describe both Swift’s Premium Ham and Lucky Strike Cigarettes.

What would you call this monstrosity? In case you can’t read the tiny print, it’s bananas dipped in canned pineapple syrup and rolled in coconut and then topped with pineapple slices and broiled. I’m torn between “At Least The White People In The Illustration Aren’t Doing Anything Outwardly Racist”, or “Thank God The Coconut Hides The Dog Hair Because An Air Raid Siren Went Off And I Dropped This Thing On The Floor”. I think I might win the prize with that one.

Some DIY gift suggestions, including the truly elegant idea to make a cigarette holder out of a pine cone with a coordinating smaller pine cone to hold matches. They don’t give explicit instructions on how to make these things, so I presume it’s just something you were taught to do as a child in school in the 20s and 30s, like making valentines out of construction paper and gingerbread houses out of milk cartons and cigarette holders out of pine cones.

A nice article in the “if you’re not too busy being useless while your man is overseas dying for liberty, why don’t you do your part to help out once in a while” style of the time about being nice to soldiers and inviting them to hang out with you for the holidays. But “remember, the chap that you invite has a home somewhere: he isn’t an aborigine.” Wait…WHAT?

They fired four copywriters before this one because none of them could write the ad without making a joke about how the war will be over “when pigs fly”.

I don’t have much to say for this one other than I wanted to post some more color pages, even if these cookies are all rather ugly, and I want whatever delirious fever dream text going on in that paragraph to become the new lorem ipsum filler text.

Remember, Windex is a quality and NON-INFLAMMABLE cleaner.

Crying over the kitchen sink because you can’t stop worrying yourself sick about never seeing your sons again? Why don’t you bake a cake and push away all that despair? Why, you could pack it in popcorn or even marshmallows for an extra gay little treat!

Joking aside, sending goodies from home was something certainly deeply appreciated by troops during the war, and if you ever feel like doing an “adopt-a-soldier” thing I can’t recommend it enough.

Magazine subscription cards, my fave! What a cute illustration. I love that it folds up into its own clever little envelope.

Whatever context you choose to take this ad in is up to you.

DEAREST Priscilla,
If you’re going to continue wasting your prime bridal years as some executive manager’s little plaything, typing up his memos and ordering his lunch, it’s all I can do to continue telling all the neighbors that you never come home to visit because you’re busy keeping house for your husband, whom I have named after Jimmy McDonald – do you remember Jimmy? the two of you went steady and he would have given you the moon if you had just taken him seriously – but of course since I am never to have a son-in-law, let alone any grandchildren, I will endeavor to cover our family’s shame with this letter full of my shattered dreams of a dutiful daughter who visits her friends with her lawyer husband and leaves impeccable thank you notes. We miss you so. Mother.

Dearest Mother,
Please stop doing this. Just stop, please.
See you at Christmas.
Love, Priscilla.

“Menfolks go for its lively fruit flavor! And it kind of looks like a boob!”

One should never miss an opportunity to gay up an ivy wall bracket.

Helen smirked and waved mockingly at the stove in her slinkiest funeral suit on her way out the door. Goodbye kitchen, hello widowhood!

I thought at first that Chatham blankets came in a gigantic decorative person-sized box with a hinged lid, but on closer look apparently it comes in a normal sized but still quite fancy box with a doll that wears a coordinating fancy gown? And if you question your own ability to buy a blanket you are encouraged to really take the time you need and think hard about it, and Chatham is here to help with all of the informational pamphlets necessary to thoroughly educate you in the art of intelligent blanket purchasing. See that glamorous lady in the glamorous pink robe who for some reason felt compelled to put on a fancy little hat to go with it? Look how she studies her pamphlet.

Susie pushed her steamed broccoli around her plate and tried not to pout. Maureen at school was always bragging about how her family had canned Prem and broiled mayonnaise-stuffed pears on Sundays. Who did Maureen think she was, anyway, Elizabeth Taylor?

I appreciate that every generation thinks that they’re setting the world on fire by making ice cubes out of the beverage in need of cooling. Your move, Pinterest.

So apparently the concept of a Chia Pet is a lot older and a lot more xenophobic than anyone wants to acknowledge. I’m sorry for the nightmare, let’s just move on from this as quick as we can.


“Don’t fuck with me, I’m suffering my functional monthly disturbance” has a nice ring to it.

I’m not entirely sure why this was at the very end of the issue when normally the editorial letter is the first thing you open the magazine to, but here we are. I sort of glazed over after the first couple of rah-rah-America paragraphs, but the illustrations were charming and the author name-drops Einstein on the second page so that’s cool.

And finally the back cover. I couldn’t find much that was easily available about Leslie Morris, but she appears to have been a fashion designer for the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman for something like 40 years – um, what!? How have I never heard of this legend! Where’s this woman’s prestige biopic period drama tv show? I want to know every single detail about her life and career! Move over Marvelous Miss Maisel!

Well, thank you as always for reading. And thanks for dealing with whatever awkwardness I have yet to figure out with Imgur, since this is my first time using it for images. I wish I had a holiday-adjacent magazine to review that wasn’t from quite so dour a period of history, but who doesn’t love some steely wartime forced cheer? It makes me thankful that we live in a time when people can be open about feeling anxious and sad without having to pack it all away in little care packages padded with popcorn. Best wishes to you and your loved ones this holiday season, and here’s to shuffling off yet another bleak year in hopes of a brighter one to come.