That’s right, kids, time for another round of Thursday Night LIFE! This week, I’m featuring aviation advertisements. I think that they’re interesting both as an opportunity to trace the evolution of civil aviation in the United States, and as a chance for some pretty ominous foreshadowing. (Background for those just tuning in: Thursday Night LIFE is an ongoing feature in which I’m showcasing images from the 19 June, 1939 issue of LIFE magazine. Why the 19 June, 1939 issue? Because that’s the one I have, that’s why. And also because there’s all kinds of amazingly juicy stuff in here which I feel an urgent need to share with y’all; it’s like watching someone stumble across the screen in a horror movie when you know full well that there’s something terrible just off screen. You wanna see more? Here’s an archive.)
You can click on the images to see enlarged pictures with transcribed text from the advertisements. (Unless readers would prefer that I transcribe the text in the posts? Let me know in the comments!)
This lavish two-page spread profiles the DC-4, which was in development for civil aviation. It was the largest aircraft in the world at the time, able to seat a whopping 42 passengers. (Or sleep 33, in a civilized era when airlines actually cared about passenger comfort.) Several civilian airlines considered the plane and decided it was too large, requesting simpler and scaled-down versions. Before these could go into production, the United States government had a pressing need for aircraft of its own, and the DC-4 was converted to military use. After the Second World War, the aircraft were used for civil aviation for over 60 years, and were particularly famous for being highly dependable.
This advertisement for Sinclair Motor Oil played upon two interests of the American public: movie stars and airplanes. Sinclair is still in existence, and still using a dinosaur in its logo. Witty!
Lockheed, marketing its civil aircraft. The large production facilities lovingly profiled in this advertisement were converted for the production of military aircraft not long after this advertisement was published. Lockheed’s most famous military aircraft was probably the P-38 Lightning, which featured an innovative design; apparently those teams of engineers were pretty clever.