Oh, how the times have changed. Things which seemed totally acceptable and not at all unusual in 1939 are definitely viewed askance now. This issue of LIFE magazine is literally bookended with sexist and racist ads which would certainly raise some eyebrows today, and there’s some juicy stuff inside, too. As always, click through to embiggen and read transcriptions of the text.
First up, we have an advertisement from the Ethyl Gasoline Corp., telling us how awesome leaded gasoline is and managing to be totally sexist at the same time:
The next advertisement is one which I am tempted to copy and put on the windshields of all drivers in San Francisco. It’s an ad for Shell, informing drivers that “traffic boners” which result in stop and go traffic cost other drivers money, because fuel economy while idling is woeful. I’m pretty sure that Shell is suggesting that drivers should personally take action against ‘screwdrivers,’ even though this might not be such an advisable activity today. My father informs me that “boner” meant the same thing in 1939 that it means today, so the advertisement was clearly intended to be a double entendre.
General Motors, recent beneficiary of a multibillion dollar bailout from the American taxpayers, wanted to inform readers of LIFE Magazine in 1939 that its financing plan was entirely transparent; so much so that you can even check the numbers for yourself! There’s a whiff of ageism about it which qualifies it for entry into the Unfortunate Advertising Edition, rather than the Deliciously Ironic Edition.
And, as promised, get your racism while it’s hot!