Thursday Night Science

Time to zip back to 1954, when science was filled with heady and exciting ideas. (Click through to embiggen, hover to see transcriptions if you have trouble reading the text at this size. (Which I do.))

A full page, full colour ad. Around three quarters of the page is taken up with a photograph. In the foreground, we see a nurse with dark blonde hair and a spotless white starched uniform looking down at a baby, swaddled in white. The baby is lying inside a clear plastic drawer which the nurse is in the action of pushing through a hole into the room on the other side, which contains the mother, a brunette in a cream-coloured nightgown, who is looking somewhat bemusedly as the nurse and child. The image is dominated with white tones which imply modernity and cleanliness.  Below the image, a caption in large blue letters reads: Now They Keep the New Baby in a Drawer  Below the caption, descriptive text, in black: This two-day-old babys bassinet is a plastic-covered steel drawer that shuttles between hospital nursery and his mothers room (beyond window). The mechanized maternity ward is one of the many new ideas built into a Los Angeles dream hospital that will be described in Popular Science next month.

Like this one. Apparently drawers were the new hot thing to keep babies in. But seriously, this ad seems like a disturbing early entry from the medicalization of childbirth; women were increasingly going into the hospital to have children in the 1950s, and images like this were meant to promote the superiority of the hospital experience. Clinical! Clean! Sterile! Modern! “Mechanized maternity ward!”

Who wouldn’t want to keep New Baby in a drawer, really?

1954 was apparently also a landmark year in men’s haircare, with manufacturers of hair tonic duking it out across the advertising section of Popular Science to inform readers that greaseless hair could be theirs for the price of a bottle of Vitalis. Or Ideal. You decide!

Black and white advertisement.  On the left hand side of the ad, text reads: Are you an Ideal male? What do women say about men privately? 100 models--real pin-up girls, gave the answer. To be an Ideal Male, they said, demands the qualities below. If you have them all your score is 100:  A box insert, headed Score Yourself, lists the following:  A he-man but not a cave-man (20 points) Ambitious--but not a grind (20 points) Sociable--good talker and mixer (15 points Good looking--but not too handsome (20 points) Most important, well-groomed hair kept neat without messy goo (25 points)  Below the box, text reads: Amazing new no grease discover keeps hair neater than gooey oils, creams--keeps hair and scalp cleaner, too! To up your score as an Ideal Male use Fitch Ideal--the hair tonic that helps keep hair good-looking, neat all day...cleaner, too! Not sticky or creamy, it wont trap dirt to clog scalp pores. And its tonic action relieves itching, acts to keep scalp free of flaky dandruff.  Fitch Ideal Hair tonic.  On the right side of the ad, an image of a smiling white man with crispy groomed hair, eyes looking to the left. His head is surrounded with floating text reading Is he good looking? Well groomed? Is he ambitious? Interspersed between the text, pen and ink drawings of women, one in a slinky gown with one hand outstretched and the other held coquettishly to her face, another seated in a similar gown with most of her legs showing, leaning forward in a come-hither manner. A box of Fitch Ideal hair tonic, with eye-catching striped design, is positioned in the middle of the ad, with text At drug counters. And ask Barbers for professional applications.

Partial page black and white ad. A header reads: 'News From Science About Your Hair' Below, an image of a white man with a large mustache, lifting an object I have trouble identifying, seated below a window. Text opposite reads: 'V-7--new grooming discovery outdates messy oils. Not an animal, vegetable or mineral oil, V-7 in new Vitalis Hair Tonic is a completely new greaseless grooming agent.' Another image, of a young white man with short dark hair and a white t-shirt, rubbing his hair vigorously. Text opposite reads: 'PROOF you don't need to grease to correct dryness. New research on human hair shows that even very dry hair retains its normal moisture content faster with new Vitalis than with any leading cream or oil hair tonic.' Large text reads: 'Keeps your hair neat all day--greaselessly.' Image of the head of a smiling man with neatly groomed dark hair, clutching a camera in both hands. A woman wearing a headscarf is positioned to his right, also holding a camera. Text reads: 'Even hard to manage hair stays neatly in place with Vitalis. No gummy film or 'oil-slick' look.' At the bottom of the ad, an image of a bottle of Vitalis, with the text 'New, finer Vitalis Hair Tonic with V-7. Product of Bristol-Myers.

3 Replies to “Thursday Night Science”

  1. A number of my economically disadvantaged families have their babies sleep in a dresser drawer (open). I slept in one myself for the first several months of my life as my parents saved up to buy a crib.

  2. Oh yes, my quibble is not with drawers! I slept in a drawer at first and later in a steamer trunk (with the lid secured open, never fear). It’s more the framing of the whole image…

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