Groovy Chicks on Vintage Motorbike Ads: 26 Fascinating Scooter and Motorcycle Adverts from the 1960s
Before ‘political correctness’ was ever invented, the motorcycle industry loved to target males (sorry ladies) using some good old fashioned ‘sex sells’ tactics. They’d usually do it with headlines filled with sexual innuendo and many, many beautifully seductive women. Women that stared you in the eye and said “Purchase this fine motorbike and you will find yourself swimming in a ocean of pre-feminist, lose-moraled women in see-through clothing without any buttons.”
Here’s a collection of magazine ads from the 1960s and a few from the early ’70s that pay homage to those golden days of advertising. Enjoy...
15 Amazing Vintage Photographs That Capture America’s Great Depression from the 1930s
The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created in 1937 from an earlier agency named the Resettlement Administration, or RA. The RA had been created by a 1935 executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help struggling farmers and sharecroppers by providing loans, purchasing depleted farmland and resettling destitute families into government-designed communities.
Rexford G. Tugwell, a former Columbia University economics professor, was chosen by Roosevelt to lead the RA, and Tugwell appointed his former student and friend Roy K. Stryker to head the agency’s historical section. Stryker’s mission was to document the hardships and conditions around the country, particularly across the Midwestern states and into California. In all, Stryker’s team of photographers produced over 175,000 black and white negatives and 1,610 color transparencies, as well as several films.
These photos are just a small sampling of their work.
Soda jerk flipping ice cream into malted milk shakes. Corpus Christi, Texas, 1939. Photo by Russell Lee.
Frame Houses and a Billboard, Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph by Walker Evans, March 1936.
Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Lyman, Polish tobacco farmers near Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Photo by Jack Delano. Published September, 1940.
Saturday afternoon in London, Ohio, “the main street.” Ben Shahn, Published: Summer, 1938.
“Toward Los Angeles, California.” Photo by Dorthea Lange. Created / published: March, 1937.
Farmer and sons walking in the face of a dust storm. Cimarron County, Oklahoma, April, 1936. Photo by Arthur Rothstein. PRINT made in the 1930s.
Allie Mae Burroughs, wife of cotton sharecropper. Hale County, Alabama. Photo by Walker Evans. Date Created: 1935 – 1936 (approximate). ADD NY pub.
Home of sharecropper Floyd Burroughs, showing washstand in the dog run and view into the kitchen. Photo by Walker Evans. Created / Published: 1935 or 1936.
Floyd Burroughs, sharecropper. Photo by Walker Evans. Alabama, 1935 or 1936.
A man goes up the stairs to the “colored” entrance of a movie house on a Saturday afternoon in Belzoni, Mississippi. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Dated as possibly October, 1939.
Washington, D.C. Government cleaner. Photo by Gordon Parks. August, 1942.
Fur buyer from New Orleans waiting for FSA (Farm Security Administration) supervisor to open the bids at auction sale of muskrats in dancehall on Delacroix Island, Louisiana. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Probably creation / publication date: January, 1941.
A man drinks at a “Colored” water cooler in streetcar terminal, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Photo by Russell Lee, July, 1939.
Graveyard and steel mill, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Photo by Walker Evans. Created / published: November, 1935. (Possibly St. Michael’s Cemetery.)
Untitled photo, possibly related to: Inhabitants of Marked Tree, Arkansas. Created: October, 1935. Negative has a hole punch made by FSA staff to indicate that the negative should not be printed.
30 Interesting Color Photographs Capture Street Scenes of Hong Kong in the 1970s
Hong Kong in the 1970s underwent many changes that shaped its future, led for most of the decade by its longest-serving and reform-minded Governor, Murray MacLehose. These 30 interesting vintage photographs captured everyday life in Hong Kong during the 1970s.
Beautiful and Rarely Seen Color Photos of Brazil in 1957
Color photos of Brazil from the 1950s, when the beautiful, troubled nation was enduring "growing pains" not dissimilar to what it's going through today.
Beautiful Rio sits in its great bay.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1957.
Decrepit engines, such as this 1904 wood burner on the Belem-Braganca run, plague railroads. Because eucalyptus logs they burn give off fragrance of cough medicine, engines often seem to have colds.
Covering a third of the land is the Amazon rain forest. Below Manaus the river flows in many channels.
Scene in Brazil, 1957.
Scene in Brazil, 1957.
U.S.-built Dam, Peixoto, was built on Rio Grande by subsidiary of U.S.-owned American and Foreign Power Company. It has cost $41 million, will serve industrial centers outside Sao Paulo.
Scene in Brazil, 1957.
Rio beach, 1957.
Scene in Brazil, 1957.
Old Capital was Salvador, north of Rio in the sugar-growing country. It lost its position to Rio in 1763 after gold was discovered farther South. Salvador is a double city, the lower part (foreground) built along the harbor, and the upper part, with churches, monasteries that date to 17th Century, on a high bluff.
Picking cotton, Brazil, 1957.
Coffee plantation stands in the terra rosa (purple earth) territory of the state of Parana.
Future capital is being built by workers who live in a cluster of 2,000 temporary wooden buildings, near the site of Brasilia. Traders from the nearby cities come to sell dry goods and razor blades from suitcases on the streets. There is no finished road to the site and practically all traffic in and out is by plane.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1957.
(Photos: Dmitri Kessel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
A Collection of 28 Memorable Movie Posters of Bill Gold
Bill Gold (1921) is an American former graphic designer best known for thousands of film poster designs. He began his professional design career in 1941, in the advertising department of Warner Bros.. Gold became head of poster design in 1947. His first film poster was for Yankee Doodle Dandy (1941), and his most recent work was for J. Edgar (2011).
“I know what movie posters should look like, instinctively,” he told the New York Times “I looked at everything that MGM and Paramount and all the companies did, and I never liked anything that I saw. I always found fault with the fact that they showed three heads of the actors, and that’s about all the concept they would use. And when I started to work, I thought: I don’t want to just do a concept with three heads in it. I want a story.”
During his 70-year career he has worked with some of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers, including Laurence Olivier, Clint Eastwood, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Elia Kazan, Ridley Scott, and many more. Among his most famous film posters are those for Casablanca and A Clockwork Orange.
Hawaii in 1945 Through A Spanish-American Soldier's Lens
These amazing color snapshots were taken by Rogelio Alberto Casas, a Spanish-American soldier who served in the U.S. Army with the 30th Engineering Battalion, Company B, which was tasked with map making. They documented everyday life of soldiers, sailors and Hawaiian people in 1945.
Take a look.
Annie's Lei Stand at Moana Hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii, 1945
Beach in front of Royal Hawaiian Hotel at Waikiki, Hawaii, 1945
Beach umbrellas with Diamond Head, Hawaii, 1945
Bishop Street in Honolulu, Hawai, 1945
Fields near Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, 1945
Hawaii Pier in 1945
Hawaii sidewalk scene with Servicemen, Honolulu, 1945
Hawaii Sunset in Waikiki, 1945
Hawaiian Beach with servicemen, 1945
Hawaiian Beach, 1945
Hawaiian Port, 1945
Hawaiian sunset, 1945
Hawaiian sunset, 1945
Hula dancers, Hawaii, 1945
Hula performance, Oahu, Hawaii, 1945
Hula performance, Oahu, Hawaii, 1945
Hula show at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel every Sunday, 1945
Japanese Hula dancer in Hawaii, 1945
Local boy on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, 1945
Local boys diving at Waikiki, Hawaii, 1945
Looking toward Royal Hawaiin Hotel in Hawaii, 1945
Maluhia Enlisted Men's Club in Waikiki, Hawaii, 1945
23 Remarkable Volkswagen Ads of the 1960s by New York’s Doyle Dane Bernbach
How many brilliant ways can you sell a car?
In 1949, William Bernbach, along with colleagues, Ned Doyle and Maxwell Dane, formed Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), the Manhattan advertising agency that would create the revolutionary Volkswagen ad campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s.
Bernbach's artistic approach to print advertising was innovative, and he understood that advertising didn't sell products. The strategy was to keep customers by creating and nurturing them as brand ambassadors, rather than attempting to attract the attention of those who were uninterested in the product. Bernbach's team of "agency creatives" was headed by Bob Gage, who hired Helmut Krone, as an art director in 1954.
Krone owned a Volkswagen before the agency pitched for the account. Krone, Bernbach and the first copywriter on the account, Julian Koenig, were impressed with the "honesty" of the car. Krone was an intellectual among art directors - seeking ways to lay out an ad campaign to stand-in for the product itself. He took the simple, straightforward layouts of agency principal David Ogilvy of Ogilvy and Mather and adapted them for Volkswagen. Krone's repeated use of black-and-white, largely unretouched photographs for Volkswagen, (as opposed to the embellished illustrations used traditionally by competing agencies), coupled with Bob Gage's bold work for Ohrbach's, spawned consistently witty and unique print ads that met DDB's goal of making a stark departure from existing advertisement techniques.
The corporate headquarters and factory that produced Volkswagens was located in Wolfsburg, Germany. Because Volkswagen’s advertising budget in 1960 was only $800,000, DDB’s bare-bones, black-and-white approach, coupled with a projected common theme of irreverence and humor, fit Wolfsburg’s needs well. Each Volkswagen ad was designed to be so complete that it could stand alone as a viable advertisement, even without addressing all aspects of the automobile.
Taken as a sign of the campaign's runaway success, research by the Starch Company showed that these Volkswagen advertisements had higher reader scores than editorial pieces in many publications, noting that Volkswagen advertisements often didn't even include a slogan and had a very subdued logo. (Krone didn't believe in logos, and there is some evidence that their inclusion followed a disagreement with the client.) The Volkswagen series of advertisements (which included the 1959 Think Small ad) were voted the No. 1 campaign of all time in Advertising Age’s 1999 "The Century of Advertising."
Following the success of Think Small, the advertisement titled "Lemon" left a lasting legacy in America - use of the word "Lemon" to describe poor quality cars. "Lemon" campaign introduced a famous tagline "We pluck the lemons, you get the plums.
In episode 3, Season 1 of Mad Men, "The Marriage of Figaro", Don Draper and his associates discuss the "Lemon" advertisement at the beginning of the day. Draper is not amused at the ad but nevertheless concedes that it has retained their attention despite appearing in a copy of Playboy. Roger Sterling, his associate, scoffs. Sterling acknowledges the role Volkswagen will play in Germany's new industrialization initiative. Being a World War II veteran himself, he fails to show any appreciation for the advertisement.
1960 Volkswagen Beetle Spare Parts original vintage advertisement. There are 5,008 parts in a Volkswagen Beetle. Each authorized dealer has them all in stock or on call.
1961 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white negotiating a huge puddle. "Last one to conk out is a Volkswagen."
1962 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. Explains why you will never see an over-chromed two-tone Beetle. Photographed in black & white.
1963 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. Illustrated in black & white and features each model year from 1949 to 1963. "The Volkswagen Theory of Evolution."
1963 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. Recounts the story of Albert Gillis who owned a 1929 Model A Ford for 33 years and chose a 1963 VW Bug as his next new car.
1964 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. "It makes your house look bigger."
1964 VW Volkswagen Station Wagon Bus original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white. "Got a lot to carry? Get a box."
1965 Volkswagen Beetle outline original vintage advertisement. "How much longer can we hand you this line?"
1966 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white. Explains the mathematics of how buying a new Beetle is cheaper in the long run than buying a used vehicle at half the price. Innovative marketing strategy given the time.
1966 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white. "You're missing a lot when you own a Volkswagen." Such as a driveshaft, radiator, water pump or hoses.
1966 Volkswagen Beetle Police Car original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white. Purchased by the town of Scottsboro, Alabama for Officer H.L. Willkerson to run parking meter patrol. Rare VW ad!
1967 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. "We made the car go faster. And the engine go slower." Photographed in black & white.
1967 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. Photographed in rich color. This Beetle floated for 42 minutes. Best copy: "...keep in mind... even if it could definitely float, it couldn't float indefinitely. So drive around the big puddles. Especially if they're big enough to have a name."
1967 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white. Copy: "Pick the right day to test drive a VW and you'll have the road to yourself".
1967 Volkswagen Bus original vintage advertisement. Photographed in vivid color at the local car wash.
1967 Volkswagen Fastback Sedan original vintage advertisement. Photographed in vivid color. Replacement rear fender: about $37 not including labor. Extremely innovative ad to show a damaged vehicle.
1967 Volkswagen original vintage advertisement. Pictured are the VW Beetle, VW Squareback and the 21-window Bus. It comes in three economy sizes.
1967 Volkswagen Formula Vee car original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white.
1967 Volkswagen Squareback Sedan original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white.
1968 Volkswagen VW Beetle original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white. "Live below your means.
1968 Volkswagen Beetle original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white. Now available with stick shift automatic transmission.
1968 Volkswagen Bus original vintage advertisement. Photographed in vivid color. And the beans? There are exactly 1,612,462 beans in this bus!
1968 Volkswagen Fastback & Squareback original vintage advertisement. Photographed in black & white.
More Than Just The Woman in Adolf Hitler's Bathtub – Lee Miller’s Stunning Images of Women During World War II
Raped aged seven. Spotted by Conde Nast aged 19. Muse to Man Ray in her twenties. Painted by Picasso aged 30. And the woman in Hitler's bathtub in 1945, aged 38.
She is Lee Miller, a model who left the world of fashion to become a fearless war photographer during the dark days of the 1940s.
Lee Miller photographed innumerable women during her career, first as a fashion photographer and then as a journalist during the Second World War, documenting the social consequences of the conflict, particularly the impact of the war on women across Europe. Her work as a war photographer is perhaps that for which she is best remembered – in fact she was among the 20th century’s most important photographers on the subject.
Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub, Munich, Germany, 1945. Miller’s friend David Scherman took this photograph, and it’s very carefully staged, from the picture of Hitler on the tub to the slightly kitschy statue on the right, to the boots on the bathmat beside the tub. These are the boots Miller had worn to visit the concentration camp at Dachau earlier that day, and the dirt on the bathmat is dirt from Dachau. (Photograph: David E Scherman/Lee Miller with David E. Scherma. All rights reserved.)
Bringing together a number of iconic and never before seen images, IWM London’s major exhibition Lee Miller: A Woman’s War tells the story beyond the battlefields of the Second World War by way of Miller’s extraordinary photographs of the women whose lives were affected.
Anna Leska, Air Transport Auxilliary, Polish pilot flying a spitfire, White Waltham, Berkshire, England, 1942.
A French woman is accused of collaborating with the Germans, Rennes, France, 1944.
ATS officers getting changed in Camberley, Surrey, 1944.
An exhausted nurse at the 44th evacuation hospital, Normandy, France, 1944.
A tired mother and son wait at a crossroads for transport, Luxembourg, 1945.
Homeless children in Budapest, Hungary, 1946. Miller’s first assignment after the war.
Women in fire masks, Downshire Hill, Hampstead, London, 1941.
Irmgard Seefried, Opera singer, singing an aria from ‘Madame Butterfly’, Vienna Opera House, Vienna, Austria, 1945.
two German women in ruined Cologne, 1945.
FFI Worker, Paris, France, 1944.
Model shot with the backdrop of bomb damage in London, 1940.
The daughter of the Deputy Mayor of Leipzig after the family committed suicide on 20th April 1945 as American troops were entering the city.
Surgeons at a field hospital in Normandy in 1944.
Mlle Christiane Poignet, law student, Paris, France, 1944.
Lee Miller in steel helmet specially designed for using a camera, Normandy, France 1944 by unknown photographer Photographer Unknown (c) The Penrose Collection. All rights reserved.
The Good Old Days? 12 Crazy Vintage Ads That Prove We've Come A Long Way
The good old days, when life was simple for married couples because everyone understood their own place. Those who didn’t know what was expected from them would be reminded by offensive and obscene advertisements everywhere; setting the moral standard extremely low. It can leave many wondering what our own descendants may think of us as they look back in history.
Although it is always embarrassing to look back, there are pieces of history scattered all around that remind us how we once were. The following collection of vintage adverts can be humorous at times, but in some cases quite dark and disturbing to think that this was our mind-set back then...
1. When Children Were Sex Objects
Love’s Baby Soft was a product which was very popular with girls from the 1970s right through to the mid-90s. This fragrance was for young girls who didn’t want to be viewed as children anymore but were not yet old enough to become women. The limbo between leaving childhood behind and discovering their more mature identity.
The company marketed their product in an incredibly creepy way, using the tagline: “The new way for big girls to baby their bodies.” There was even an awfully awkward advert which had a male-voiceover declaring that the scent captures, “a cuddly, clean baby… that grew up very sexy.” This brings most people to a shudder.
They really went all out in the creep charts when this advert ran with the tagline, “because innocence is sexier than you think.” The main image being the youngest and weirdly – sultriest – girl they could find. There is no doubt that magazines would refuse to print this if it was a campaign running today.
2. When A Bad Hair Day Would Make You Consider Suicide
Women were convinced not to kill themselves over a bad hair day by this charming advert. They were frustrated for a lot of reasons and it’s probable that their hair style was the last thing on their minds. In another extract from the 1950’s American High School Home Economics book ‘How To Be A Good Wife, it explains how women should behave:
“Have dinner ready. Prepare yourself. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. Clear away the clutter…run a dust cloth over the tables.”
Women were not trusted with money, even their own husbands would manage the finances and give them an allowance. Their role was not to have a career or their own earnings but instead be an obedient wife, a doting mother and an excellent homemaker – this was the social standard back then.
It is all an illusion that women enjoyed living up to this stereotype as they were often bored and depressed; lacking stimulation. Their looks and house-keeping skills were all society would praise them for. Adverts such as the above would be constantly reminding them that beauty was a life or death matter.
3. When There Were Cigarettes That Could Cure Your Asthma
In the old days, smoking wasn’t seen as damaging to your health but as a benefit. If there were adverts everywhere with doctors recommending them – how harmful could they be? Joy’s cigarettes didn’t contain tobacco but instead an array of crushed and dried herbs including; solanaceae, datura strammonium, atropa belladonna, the hyoscyamus niger and Lobelia inflata. Sounding basically like witchcraft.
The cigarettes strangely enough did not cure asthma and instead would bring on a bronchial attack; which is likely to happen to anyone who inhales herbs. Although the advert does read ‘they may be safely smoked by ladies and children,” it is always best if you’re suffering from breathing difficulties to just stay clear of smoking at all.
4. When Women Didn’t Have A Clue How To Drive
The respected and popular motoring company Volkswagen have come a long way since the time they announced, “women are soft and gentle, but they hit things.” The target market: American men who were petrified their wife would get behind the wheel of the car and cost him a fortune in repairs. In those days a new fender would you set back ‘$24.95 and labour’ so it was always good to be prepared.
Volkswagen clearly hadn’t been listening to the National Traffic Highway Safety, as they published the following statistics: “Males of all ages accounted for 61 percent of all vehicle crashes and females 33 percent (where sex was reported).” Men are also three times more likely than women to be killed in a car crash.
Although it was unusual throughout this era that a woman would be behind the wheel of a car, it was always advised for her to learn. This was just in case of serious emergencies such as she needed extra butter from the store or her husband was too drunk to walk home.
5. When Mother and Baby Really Needed A Beer
Never had a beer been advertised before with the tagline “obviously baby participates in it’s benefits.” Sometimes you do have to question the common sense of our ancestors and ask – did anyone actually believe such ridiculous sales copy? Did they really think a baby would benefit from malt and hops? Just to be very clear; alcohol when you are nursing a baby is not, and never will be, a good idea. No matter what the vintage beer adverts once told us.
Nowadays there are state and federal laws in place which help to protect naive consumers from this form of false advertising; any deceptive claim is illegal. So it’s fair to say if this advert was ever published today, the beer company would certainly land themselves a court date.
6. When Wrapping Babies In Cellophane Was A Cute Idea
Cellophane was first introduced to the public in 1927. Throughout the 1930s the stuff was flying off the shelves as every housewife thought it was the greatest invention ever made, which turned it into a huge money-spinner for company giant DuPont. The idea behind the product was that no more food had to be wasted as everything could now be kept fresher for longer.
Sadly there are downfalls to marketing the product as wrapped up pieces of food just don’t look ‘fresh’ and ‘tempting’ enough when in print. So they thought: What level of cuteness will stop ladies from turning the page and pay attention to our great product? The answer was: Let’s wrap a baby in cellophane and slap a slogan on it reading, “The best things in life come in Cellophane”. Their maternal instincts will surely kick in and they’ll read more about the product.
The thought of any company producing an advert now with a newborn baby wrapped in a bag of cellophane to market their product is unbelievable; MumsNet would be going insane.
7. When Buying The Wrong Coffee Would Have You Beaten
Don’t cry over split milk and certainly don’t let a pot of coffee result in domestic violence. The advert reads, “If your husband ever finds out you’re not ‘store-testing’ for fresher coffee… if he discovers you’re still taking chances on getting flat, stale coffee… woe be unto you! For today there’s a sure and certain way to test for freshness before you buy”.
During the 1950s it appears Chase and Sanborn believed the best way to sell coffee would be to place the fear of spousal abuse in women. Their message is clearly – this is what a woman deserves if she dares to serve stale coffee. The solution to the problem? Buy their coffee and save yourself from a beating.
Young ladies were taught a good wife was a submissive one. Those who were set to marry could read the following extract from a 1950’s American High School Home Economics book titled ‘How To Be A Good Wife’ – their duties would include:
“Don’t greet him with problems or complaints. Don’t complain if he is late for dinner. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Listen to him: You may have dozens of things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first. Make the evening his. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or other pleasant entertainments.”
8. When We Were Told What Wives Are Really For
In the 1950’s advert’s used female stereotypes to sell their goods that were just preposterous. During this decade Kenwood launched their food processor which is still popular now – this image of a stay-at-home wife hasn’t stood the test of time thankfully enough.
Before the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s, sexism was not only expected but was also encouraged through many adverts such as this one that would scream out exactly what women were good for; which was mostly just getting the dinner on the table. The idea seems incredibly dated now but at the time it was a way of life.
These advert’s are normally used in social studies to give an example of how far we have progressed in modern society. If this was printed today, or shown online, there would be absolute uproar and a trending hashtag on Twitter to boycott Kenwood products completely – the power has been restored to the people.
9. When Only Girls Could Spread Syphilis
The poster which was circulated during World War II was one from a large campaign warning soldiers against contracting VD. An innocent looking woman is depicted with the screaming headlines “She may look clean, but pick-ups, ‘good time’ girls, prostitutes spread syphilis and gonorrhoea.”
Every advert is this series was set in this propaganda-like, anti-women style which scared soldiers into believing their enemy wasn’t just on the battlefield; but they also had STD-spreading women to worry about too. The campaign set out to urge young soldiers not to go anywhere near this type of woman and risk their health.
In other adverts women were portrayed as the ultimate seductress, wearing heavy make-up and smoking cigarettes. Each image entices the males to not trust women, all they want is to give you deadly diseases. One even showed a lady with a gun along with the tagline “loose women may also be loaded with disease.”
The adverts were created when the military, during the First World War, discharged more than 10,000 men because they had contracted an STD. This was the biggest case of loss of duty next to the great spread of influenza throughout 1918 -1919.
10. When Your Doctor Would Recommend You Smoked
If you weren’t already a smoker back in the 1940’s, then the tobacco industry was always thinking up smart new ways to turn you into one. The public were worried that, if rumours were to be believed, smoking could be damaging to your health. How did they deal with it? They pictured doctors in their adverts because, well – everyone trusts a doctor.
However, here’s the trick: any doctor caught engaging in advertising would lose their licence so the image of the trustworthy man above telling you to grab a packet of Camels is someone who doesn’t actually exist. The campaign ran throughout the 1940’s.
The claims the brand made would have to be true if they wished to have the advert printed. In order to gain the statistic, the surveyors would give doctors free packets of Camel cigarettes. Then when they exited the building there would be another surveyor outside asking them which brand of cigarettes they carried in their pocket. This then showed that many doctors did prefer camel cigarettes as nearly all questioned were surprisingly carrying a packet, what are the chances?
11. When Babies All Loved A Bottle of 7UP
The idea today that high in sugar, fizzy drinks could be promoted as a healthy option for babies is unbelievable, but in the 1970’s 7Up encouraged mothers that their product was so wonderfully pure – it was completely safe for newborns. The adverts tag line boldly declares they have “the youngest customers in the business”.
The smaller print on the advert actually reads:
“This young man is 11 months old and he isn’t our youngest customer by any means. For 7Up is so pure, so wholesome, you can even give it to babies and feel good about it. Look at the back of a 7Up bottle. Notice that all our ingredients are listed. (That isn’t required of soft drinks, you know — but we’re proud to do it and we think you’re pleased that we do.) By the way, Mom, when it comes to toddlers — if they like to be coaxed to drink their milk, try this: Add 7Up to the milk in equal parts, pouring the 7Up gently into the milk. It’s a wholesome combination — and it works! Make 7Up your family drink.”
The campaign came after several unsuccessful attempts to market the drink (they tried everything from using ‘7UP to freshen up’ and also claiming it was an incredible hangover cure) the company finally struck gold when they targeted mothers.
Throughout the years the company has changed ownership many times; originally owned by Philip Morris, then Cadbury-Schweppes, and then becoming part of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. During the change of hands the adverts were pulled as the executives of each group wouldn’t dream of showing a soda-guzzling toddler in their adverts.
12. When Your Husband’s Mistress Had Better Breath Than You
Advertising is at it’s most influential when it follows these three easy steps: 1) Find a problem, even if it’s a problem people didn’t know they had; 2) Exaggerate anxiety around the problem; 3) Sell them the cure. This is often referred to as ‘advertising by fear’ and during the late 1920’s/early 1930’s one of the most common anxieties women had was poor dental hygiene.
Chlorodent toothpaste then ran with this genius idea. The anxiety was a woman may feel as if her breath, especially first thing in the morning, isn’t fresh enough. They exaggerate the problem by bullying the consumer into believing their husband is running off with a different fresh-mouthed fancy. Then in for the kill: simply buy Chlorodent toothpaste and get one up on your husband’s mistress; it’s a no-brainer.
The tagline under the main image reads, “No wife wants her husband to carry the memory of her morning breath to work with him. The attractive women he meets during the day don’t have it.” This also entices the emotion that women are constantly in competition with each other and may the freshest woman win.
Get Back In Front Of The Camera, Here’s What Playboy Models From The 1960s and '70s Look Like Today
Playboy models are known for their beauty and gorgeous figures. However, like everyone else, they also age with time. New York Magazine has compiled a series of photos showing how Playboy models who were famous in the 1960s and 70s look now. They also interviewed the ladies about their experience working with the magazine.
Dolores Del Monte - Miss March 1954
"I had done some pinup modeling, wearing a two-piece bathing suit. On a calendar shoot, the receptionist gave me a robe and said, “When you’re finished undressing, come out.” I thought, Who’s going to see it, anyway? I’d only ever seen a calendar of a nude gal in an automotive shop. Later, I was notified that they wanted to use a photo of mine in a magazine, but I thought it was some other picture—I had worn a bathing suit that was cut all the way down past the navel. I’m so proud of that Playboy picture now. It hangs in my house and it hangs in a lot of other people’s houses. It can fit in a boudoir, a den—maybe not the living room."
Laura Aldridge - Miss February 1976
"Most men weren’t interested in what was in my head. I think they just wanted to get laid. I was a Playmate, and that would be a notch in their belt. My ex-husband [Alan Aldridge, who did graphic design for the Beatles] might be the only person who didn’t think Playboy was cool. He thought Hugh Hefner exploited women. When my oldest daughter, Lily, was 10, she found a Playboy in her dad’s room, so I told her I was a Playmate. She asked if she could see it. Thirty minutes later I knocked on the door. She was watching TV. I said, “What do you think?” She said, “Oh, it’s great.” Both my daughters are supermodels—Lily is a Victoria’s Secret Angel. They’ve done it with confidence and a feeling of entitlement."
Marilyn Cole Lownes - Miss January 1972
"A friend of mine had gone to London from Portsmouth, where I was working as a clerk. She said, “There is a club. All you have to do is smile and you will earn a lot of money.” For the interview, all you had to do was bring a bikini. It was my husband [Victor Lownes, manager of the London Playboy Club, whom she later married] who spotted me in the lineup to test for Playmate. A big advantage of being a bunny girl was the fact that we had enough money in our purses to get on a plane if we felt like it. We could buy our own drinks at Trader Vic’s and go to any club we wanted to and we did it all with our money, and that gave us a sense of power and liberation. We were all promiscuous. And we were all very much our own people."
Helena Antonaccio - Miss June 1969
"After high school, I went to modeling school in New York. They thought I was too virginal, not sexy enough. But I got a job at the Playboy Club. I knew it was a stepping-stone to get into Playboy. Gosh, I didn’t even go to bunny-training school. When you go to the Playboy mansion, you get a butler and a maid and you’re driven around in a limo and somebody does your laundry. It’s great. I work out three hours a day. It’s our temple, so why not take care of it? My newest book is called Helena, the Ultimate Ageless Pinup. It’s photographs of me in my 50s and 60s. I still don’t see myself as a sexy woman, because it’s all just fantasy and smoke and mirrors. You’re in that position forever, and your back is just killing you."
Candace Jordan - Miss December 1979
"I was the valedictorian of my high school in Dupo, Illinois. I had a scholarship to St. Louis University but I was absolutely bored to death and swore I had to find a different path. A girlfriend of mine told me they were hiring at the St. Louis Playboy Club. I’m an only child so all these girls were like the sisters I never had. Feminists always say, “I can’t believe you’re objectifying yourself.” And I would say, “Do you think I was forced at gunpoint to do this centerfold? No, it was my free choice, and that’s what women’s lib is supposed to be about.” After Playboy, I worked as a model, and I was in Risky Business with Tom Cruise. I played one of the hookers. A lot of us still go to these autograph shows. Playboy fans are very, very respectful."
Janet Lupo - Miss November 1975
"I got a job working at the Great Gorge Playboy Club in Vernon Valley, New Jersey. It was a family place! We served a lot of children. That’s where I was asked to do the centerfold. My Playboy shoot started as only semi-nude. I was wearing grandma lingerie. And one day my robe slipped off and [photographer Pompeo Posar] kept shooting and showed me the photographs the next day and said, “See, it doesn’t look dirty or bad,” and I said, “You know, it really doesn’t. I guess we can do it that way.” Pompeo won my heart over. He talked to me as a human being. It’s a photo of myself but I just don’t feel like it’s me somehow. I just can’t explain it. I was very popular after that, that’s for sure."
Propaganda Art for WWI and WWII: 18 Fantastic Victory Garden Posters
To ensure enough food for American service members and civilians, the U.S. government promoted home gardening as a patriotic gesture that would also support those on the home front contending with food rationing.
During World War I and World War II, gardening took on a distinctly martial air. Citizens were encouraged to grow their own backyard produce (dubbed “war gardens” in WWI and “victory gardens” in WWII, which shows how far the art of positive spin had progressed in just a few decades). At the same time, food rationing was in effect domestically to support overseas troops — “An army marches on its stomach,” goes the quote by Napoleon Bonaparte — and citizens were encouraged to think carefully about food waste and watching what they ate.
“It gave everyone a sense of contributing to the war effort, sometimes in the most minuscule ways,” Dr. Paul Ruffin, Distinguished Professor of English at Texas State University, who has written about victory gardens, told Modern Farmer. “If they could grow a few vegetables, even just to feed their family, that meant they weren’t taking away from national resources. And in many cases, they would grow a sufficient quantity of vegetables they could contribute directly to the war effort.”
The Belles of Brooklands – 20 Fascinating Vintage Photos of Remarkable Women in Their Racing Machines in the 1930s
When Brooklands opened in 1907 it was the first purpose-built racetrack in the world, enabling the great marques to compete against one another. But initially the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club (BARC) did not permit women to race on the circuit.
Following the Bracelet the BARC took the decision that women would not be permitted to race at their meetings, declaring there were no lady jockeys, so why should there be female racing drivers? The press were outraged but the officials remained resolute.
It was not until 1928 when the BARC finally conceded by allowing women to compete in Ladies-only Handicaps and after yet more pressure, they were finally allowed to test their skills against the men in 1932.
There is no doubt that after WWI, during which time women had served their country and were expected to take on men’s roles, Brooklands helped 'launch' them further and thus provided them access to a male-dominated sport which was initially only for the affluent rich.
Kay Petre at Brooklands, March 1930. Only 4’10” tall she’s seated in her huge 10.5 litre V12 Delage.
Fay Taylour at Brooklands in 1930. She was born in 1904 in Ireland and known as ‘Flying Fay’. She was a champion speedway rider but switched to racing cars in 1930. She was interned as a fascist during the Second World War (and was said to have had an affair with Oswald Mosley) but after the war continued racing in the UK and America. During the 1950s, she was still racing with a 500 cc Cooper at major British circuits like Brands Hatch and Silverstone and competing against a new generation of young drivers including Stirling Moss and Peter Collins.
Violet Cordery, 1930. She won races in a 2.5-litre Invicta and had to be discouraged from driving a 4.5-litre version for 25 miles round the track – in reverse. She was told the car wasn’t up to it and that the BARC would take a dim view of her antics. In 1929, Invicta wanted to prove the reliability of its cars so she and her sister drove a 4.5-litre model round the track for 30,000 miles at an average speed of 61.57mph.
Elsie Wisdom at Brooklands in 1930. Elsie “Bill” Wisdom, confounded the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club sceptics to master the unpredictable 7.2-litre Leyland-Thomas and who won Britain’s first 1,000-mile race at an average speed of 84.41mph, partnered by Joan Richmond.
Miss J Alwynne, a motor mechanic at Brooklands race course, July 1931.
Kitty Brunell tunes up her AC Ace Sports engine, 1932. Kitty was known as a rally driver and would be the only woman ever to win the British RAC Rally, in 1933. She never raced competitively at any track, but did use Brooklands for tuning and circuit testing her car.
Mrs Elsie “Bill” Wisdom and Miss Joan Richmond, July 1932.
A Big crowd turned up at Brooklands Whit Monday for the fine Holiday motor racing programme. Miss Paddy Naismith pushing her car onto the track for one of the events at Brooklands, England on June 5, 1933.
Eileen Ellison in a Bugatti during the ‘mountain race’ at Brooklands, 1934.
Mrs Gordon Simpson and the young racing driver Joan Richmond sitting in the latter’s 1921 3-litre GP Ballot racer, July 1934.
Doreen Evans taking over the sash during a relay race at Brooklands, July 1935.
Gwenda Stewart in 1935. She took the ultimate Ladies Outer Circuit lap record at 135.95 mph.
The three racing MGs were entered for Le Mans by land speed record breaker George Eyston and nicknamed the ‘Dancing Daughters’ after a popular variety act of the time. The drivers were : Car 54 – Margaret Allen & Coleen Eaton, Car 55 – Doreen Evans & Barbara Skinner, Car 56 – Joan Richmond & Miss Joan Simpson. July 1935.
(L-R) Racing drivers Gwenda Stewart, Doreen Evans, Kay Petre, Elsie Wisdom. September 1935.
Doreen taking a refreshment at Brooklands in July 1936. One of the leading female racing drivers of 1930’s. Doreen Evans was the youngest child in a motor-racing family whose business, the Bellevue Garage in Wandsworth, was a leading MG agency. With her brothers Dennis and Kenneth she competed in MGs in the Bellevue team, and at Le Mans in Captain Eyston’s ‘Dancing Daughters’ team.
Kay Petre poses with her V12 Delage, July 1937.
A Brooklands’ mechanic fastens the buckle on Miss Dorothy Turner’s helmet, July 1937.
Kay Petre at Brooklands, March 1938. It was the first time at Brooklands since a terrible accident the previous September. During practice for the 500 Mile race, the driver Reg Parnell misjudged an overtaking move, lost speed, slid down the banking and hit her Austin Seven from behind. She crashed badly and was seriously injured and she never raced competitively again. Years later Petre ended up designing fabric patterns for the interior of the Mini and was a motoring journalist. She died in 1994, at the age of ninety-one.
Mrs Aclace signals from the pits during the JCC 200 mile race at Brooklands, August 1938.
Miss Patten, Baroness Dorndorf sits on the door of her Peugeot, May 1939.
I have the Absinthe edition of Modern Drunkard tucked away in a plastic sleeve. One of these days I'll put it on ebay.
“Ah! the Green Goddess! What is the fascination that makes her so adorable and so terrible?”—Aleister Crowley
Absinthe arrived at its station as the toast of the Belle Epoche by a roundabout route. Though there is some controversy as to its lineage, most historians agree the modern version of absinthe can be traced back to the modest Swiss laboratory of Pierre Ordinaire, a resourceful French doctor who’d fled to Switzerland in the wake of the French Revolution. In 1792 he combined local herbs, wormwood, anise, fennel and hyssop among others, in an alcohol base. He prescribed and sold the 136 proof concoction as a cure-all medicinal tonic. It soon garnered the nickname the la Fee Verte (the Green Faerie) due to its translucent hue and the strange effect it had on its imbibers. The doctor’s only proof that it worked as a health tonic was his patients kept coming back for it, and the way Pierre figured it, the customer was always right.
It remained a local remedy for small-town ailments until Henri-Louis Pernod, founder of the famed Pernod Fils distillery, acquired the recipe by a fortuitous marriage and began producing large quantities of absinthe in 1797 in Switzerland, before moving to a larger French facility in 1805.
It didn’t catch on as something you’d confidently order in a café until it was issued to French soldiers fighting Muslim insurgents in Algeria in the 1840s. They used it to spike their canteen water and claimed it was grand for warding off tropical fever, dysentery, harmful bacteria and “to recruit exhausted strength.” When the boys came marching home, victoriously, I might add, they apparently brought their fear of fever and germs back to France, where they found it was also good for warding off sobriety and the ennui of civilian life.
The intellectual elite of Paris soon became enchanted—some say enslaved—by the Faerie’s strange charms. The potent liquor’s reputation and use spread rapidly among artists, writers and professional café habitués, who claimed it raised their perceptions and consciousness, allowing them to turn out more inspired work.
But what set apart humble absinthe, the product of a small Swiss village, from the many and varied liqueurs, brandies and liquors of the time? Glad you asked.
Secrets of the Faerie “The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things.” —Oscar Wilde
The power and attraction of absinthe lies in its inherent contradictions. Though
fortified with a formidable measure of alcohol, a depressant, it is also infused with powerful herbal stimulants, creating a psychic tug of war in the mind of the imbiber. Alcohol relaxes inhibitions and invites in new ideas, and the stimulants allow you to logically process the new data.
Foremost of the stimulants is thujone, the psychoactive chemical at the heart of the herb wormwood, which, along with anisette, gives absinthe its bitter, black liquorish taste. While once thought to instigate simular reactions as marijuana’s THC, recent research suggests it modulates the neurotransmitter GABAA, which plays a vital role in cognitive thought. Subsequently, absinthe provides a level of clarity not usually associated with alcoholic drinks, and what artist worth his beret could pass that up?
The Cult of the Wormwood “Absinthe has a wonderful colour, green. A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world. What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?” —Wilde
With the promise of inspiration, clarity and a hell of a drunk, it was no wonder it became the darling of the auteur gang. And what a gang. To say absinthe was the major influence and inspiration of the Impressionist Movement is not such an
outrageous claim when you consider most of the movement’s pioneers and stars swore fealty to the liquor. Manet, Rimbaud, Jarry, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso were all heavy users, and if asked, they would tell you they needed the narcotic properties of absinthe to get out of their head enough to render art that had never even been thought of by more conventional artists. Lautrec carried his supply in a hollow cane, Jarry paid homage by painting himself green, Verlaine’s presumptuous manner of saying hello became, “I take sugar with it!” Van Gogh was probably the most prolific user, not to mention the most outside his head: when he couldn’t get a hold of a bottle he’d sometimes drink turpentine as a substitute. It inspired his latter paintings as much as smack inspired Burroughs’s fiction. It also inspired him to cut his ear off.
The literati of the time found absinthe useful as well. Verlaine, Rimbaud, Poe, Wilde, Mary Shelly (she wrote Frankenstein while in the Faerie’s grips), and later, Hemingway, Somerset Maugham and Jack London were all enthusiastic disciples of the la Fee Verte. Hemingway wrote a large body of his work under the faerie’s influence, and it’s no wonder his short stories and novels are steeped in the stuff. His characters ordered it by the bottle and drank it for entertainment, enlightenment, and sometimes as a makeshift barrier between the presence and memories of war and women they wished to forget.
“One cup of it,” Robert Jordan, the protagonist in For Whom The Bell Tolls mused, “took the place of the evening papers, of all the old evenings in cafes, of all chestnut trees that would be in bloom now this month.” Jordan always kept a flask of absinthe in his pocket in case he forgot to pick up the paper on the way home.
Hemingway took his first taste while visiting Spain in 1920. He fell head-over-heels in love with the Faerie, continued the habit in Paris (though it was illegal at the time), then carried the practice home to the U.S. He smuggled bottles from Spain and Cuba and kept it by his typewriter as a means of instant inspiration.
Strange Rituals and Green Hours “The absinthe made everything seem better. I drank it without sugar in the dripping glass, and it was pleasantly bitter. I poured the water directly into it and stirred it instead of letting it drip. I stirred the ice around with a spoon in the brownish, cloudy mixture. I was very drunk. I was drunker than I ever remembered having been.”—Ernest Hemingway
Without question, absinthe owed a great deal of its popularity to the elaborate ritual that goes along with drinking it. Because of its high proof and bitter taste (the Greek word for absinthe translates into “undrinkable”) it had to be diluted and sweetened to make it palatable to the average drinker. And who would have guessed the hassle of making a drink drinkable would become a stroke of marketing genius? Here’s the traditional method:
First you pour roughly three ounces of absinthe into a heavy parfait-style stemmed glass. A perforated spoon (sometimes very elaborately so) is set upon the rim of the glass and on the spoon is placed a cube of sugar. Ice-cold water is ever so slowly dripped from a glass carafe designed specifically for that purpose, onto the cube. The sugar dissolves and you continue pouring until the ratio of water to absinthe is two to five parts, depending upon your taste and fortitude. The emerald liquor releases a floral bouquet and clouds into a pale opalescent green or yellow right before your eyes, filling you with a sense of creation and mystery. The clouding effect is called la louche (pronounced loosh) and occurs because the herbal oils are not soluble in water. Give the mix a spin with the spoon and drink like you dripped—slowly.
If that’s not dramatic enough for you, some aficionados like to dip the sugar cube in the absinthe and set it aflame, allowing the sugar to caramelize. A testament to its proof, absinthe is very flammable and burns with a pleasing blue hue.
Any drink with that kind of presentation is bound to impress. Even those who are revolted by the taste are likely to be silenced by the sheer spectacle of the event. There is a certain sense of superiority that goes along with the ritual: while the peasants in the corner merely pour their booze in a glass and lap it down like wild animals, we, the smart people, the insiders in the know, are engaging in nothing less than alcoholic alchemy!
This spectacle helped create a social phenomenon that became known as l’heure verte, the green hour. The yokels watched the hipster elite exercise the ritual and soon enough everyone wanted in on it.
The Faerie Spreads Its Wings “The most delicate, the most precarious adornment, to be drunk on the magic of that herb from the glaciers, absinthe! But only to lie down afterward in shit!”—Arthur Rimbaud
The only problem was the price. Initially it was only monied socialites and artists who could afford absinthe. Capitalism hates a vacuum, however, and a plethora of distilleries popped up almost overnight. To keep prices low and profits high, they eschewed the superior distilled wine base Pernod used and switched to cheaper grain and potato alcohol. They cranked it out as fast as they could and still the demand rose.
The expansion of absinthe was further aided by a severe wine shortage that swept
France, the consequence of a grape blight that had decimated the nation’s vineyards. With the price of wine skyrocketing and the price of absinthe plunging, the bourgeois jumped in wholesale. The working class soon followed, finding the community of the green hour and powerful effects of absinthe a perfect counterweight to the mundane drudgery of the factory jobs offered by the Industrial Revolution.
Furthermore, absinthe became one of the first liquors to crack the gender barrier, much as the speakeasies did during America’s bout with prohibition. Unlike the established and conservative liquor companies, the young turks of the absinthe trade directed advertising at women. Consequently, absinthe cafes and clubs promoted a level of drinking equality previously unknown in France.
By the mid-1870s the green hour had become a daily ritual at many of Paris’ 366,000 bars and cafes. From l875 to l913 the annual consumption of absinthe per inhabitant in France increased fifteen times, by 1913 drinkers were consuming 10.5 million gallons a year. The French referred to this wild era as “the great collective binge”, for it seemed as if the entire nation was drunk on absinthe.
Soon even the hobos wanted a taste (they were probably more interested in the high proof than the cognitive benefits). To serve their smaller budgets, a vast underground of illicit bootleg stills flooded the streets with a vile version comparable in quality to the near-poisonous bathtub gin of America’s prohibition days. This evil new breed of absinthe contained solvents, wood alcohol, dyes and worse; and it was about this time dark tales of absinthe causing epileptic fits, madness and death started circulating.
Caging the Faerie “The Prohibitionist must always be a person of no moral character; for he cannot even conceive of the possibility of a man capable of resisting temptation. Still more, he is so obsessed, like the savage, by the fear of the unknown, that he regards alcohol as a fetish, necessarily alluring and tyrannical.” —Crowley
The rapid spread of absinthe came much to the alarm of the already well-established prohibitionist movement. They hated alcohol in general, but saved their particular wrath for absinthe. For a number of reasons. First, it was a staple of bohemians and the idle rich, who seemed decadent and immoral to begin with. Second, the ritualistic nature of the drink seemed, well, sorta satanic. What’s more, the drink had the reputation of being an aphrodisiac and you know where that leads: sex. And since a lot of bums were drinking it (the cheap moonshine version of absinthe was the Thunderbird of the day) it was obviously the catalyst that made the bums act like, well, bums.
To add weight to their outrage, the temperance and religious groups sponsored a series of medical experiments that involved injecting animals with thujone and studying its diabolical effects. No tests were done on human beings, but dogs and rabbits, if injected with a massive enough dose of the chemical, would experience epileptic fits and other calamities. For a human to ingest the same amount of thujone he would have to die of alcohol poisoning many times over, but no matter. They now had their proof: absinthe was not only thoroughly immoral, but also a dangerous health risk.
Then the newspapers got into the act, especially the powerful Parisian daily La Matin. Co-opted by the prohibitionists and always hungry for a scandal, the editors made certain any crime committed while under the influence of absinthe ran as front page news, ignoring more insidious crimes committed by those who had the gall to commit their crimes stone cold sober. Much as drunk driving accidents get many times more press than those committed by sober drivers (who get in accidents forty times more often than drunks), absinthe became the media’s Judas goat.
Adding political intrigue to the general hysteria, the teetotalers, pseudo-scientists and newspaper barons were aided and abetted by, at first glance, an extremely unlikely co-conspirator: the wine makers. Though they tried to paint themselves as moralists, their motives were purely financial. The vineyards had beaten the blight by the turn of the century and were eager to recapture the turf lost to absinthe distillers. It’s akin to a financially ailing Budweiser suddenly launching a vicious media attack against Jack Daniels because hard alcohol is sinister and makes good men do terrible things, while beer makes its drinkers want to pull crying children out of burning schoolhouses.
Fall of the Faerie “What is there in absinthe that makes it a separate cult? The effects of its abuse are totally distinct from those of other stimulants.”—Crowley
The final nail in absinthe’s coffin was driven by a drunk Swiss farmer named Jean Lanfray. In August 1905, the Swiss farmer and known absinthe drinker murdered his entire family. Though thousands of murders were committed in France each year, many much more gruesome, the story made headlines the world over. The evil Green Faerie made him do it, the newspapers trumpeted, ignoring the fact Lanfray drank, in addition to two glasses of absinthe, a crème de menthe, a cognac and soda, two bottles of wine, and two belts of brandy the day of the murders.
The crime had an inordinately powerful effect. That year over 400,000 French men and women signed a petition declaring “everywhere the green water appears, crime and insanity soon follow.”
Lanfray, and by extension, absinthe, were convicted of murder the following year. By 1910 absinthe was banned in the nation of its birth, Switzerland. Dozens of countries followed suit and France, the last holdout, declared the manufacture and consumption of absinthe illegal in 1915. The Pernod distillery was sold in 1917 after 110 years of production.
In Defense of Absinthe “Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like absinthe, muddles it.”—Alfred Jarry
Little of the evidence used to declare absinthe a health hazard has withstood the test of time. Is thujone, in large doses, dangerous? Yes. If you give a rat the human equivalent of thousands of servings of absinthe it will cause an epileptic fit. If you eat enough Vitamin A it will kill you. The same goes for most vitamins and chemicals. The 19th Century medical studies used to condemn absinthe were skewed for political reasons and its ban was subsequently used as a stepping stone to the total prohibition of alcohol in a number of countries. The madness and seizures attributed to absinthe were more likely attributable to drinking large amounts of high proof alcohol and the caustic chemicals the bootleg absinthe distillers included in their recipes.
You’ve probably already had some experience with thujone. It’s a common ingredient in many salves, perfumes and creams. Vick’s Vap-O-Rub contains thujone, as does Absorbine Jr. Like martinis? Then you’ve probably drank thujone, as most vermouths contain a small amount.
Countries in which absinthe remained legal, such as Spain, Portugal and Czechoslovakia, report no epidemics of madness and violence attributable to its use.
As to the claims made by absinthe distillers in its tenure as a medicinal tonic, a recent study proves the French soldiers in Algeria weren’t just using it for kicks: wormwood does indeed inhibit the growth of some strains of dangerous bacteria. More recent studies also attribute a hepatoprotective effect to wormwood, which means it helps defend the liver against toxins.
The Return of the Faerie “Let me be mad, mad with the madness of Absinthe, the wildest, most luxurious madness in the world.”—Marie Corelli
Nearly a century after its near global ban, absinthe is making a dramatic comeback. Most members of the European Union now allow the sale of absinthe, with a limit of 10 milligrams of thujone per kilogram (some of the absinthes of yesteryear boasted up to six times that amount). You can buy it in grocery chains in the Czech Republic and in liquor stores in Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand and Japan. Bars and restaurants in Britain began serving it when they discovered it was never formally banned in the country. Activists in France are trying legalize it, claiming modern production techniques have removed the dangers that were present in 1915.
Closer to home, it recently became legal in the Canadian province of British Columbia. In the U.S., thujone is still banned, but as a food rather than a drug. You aren’t allowed to distill or commercially make absinthe, but you can legally own a bottle and even make your own so long as it isn’t distilled.
Conservative maven Martha Stewart collects antique absinthe paraphernalia, absinthe subcultures have sprung up in nearly every major city in America, and the Green Faerie has recently become a popular Hollywood plot device, making appearances as a party drug in Moulin Rouge, as an investigative tool in From Hell and as an accomplice for the wicked and wealthy in Deceiver.
At present, the nation’s law enforcement agencies don’t make any special effort to interdict small quantities entering the country for personal use. It is widely available on the Internet and many dealers are more than willing to ship to the U.S.
Which is how I got mine.
My Dance with the Faerie “Got tight last night on absinthe. Did knife tricks.”—Hemingway
I became acquainted with the idea of absinthe from reading Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald novels as a teenager. The books didn’t describe exactly what it was, but they went into great detail about what it did to you. I came to learn it was the Lost Generation’s LSD, it was what took the book’s characters, be they writers, soldiers, artists or socialites, out of their minds and transported them to a better, smarter place.
Fanatical fan that I am of Hemingway, it was with almost obscene anticipation I awaited my bottle of absinthe. Instead of parlaying with shady characters and strange currency in some dim Eastern European alley, I parlayed with a computer and my fiancee’s credit card. I surfed to www.absintheoriginal.com, typed in my information and a scant week later a package arrived from the Czech Republic. It was so easy and undramatic I felt vaguely guilty telling friends how I got it.
I clawed open the box and there it was—Absinthe! The Green Faerie, the mystical liquor that lent Hem and Fitz special powers, the liquid light of the Lost Generation, the boon and bane of generation upon generation of artistic genius! I could scarcely believe it. I’d long used a burgundy/whiskey/coffee combination to help me write (alcohol for inspiration, coffee for structure) and here was the whole shebang in one compact, illicit package.
I dove right in. I followed the ritual described by Hemingway (I’d ordered a fancy spoon as well) and marveled at the transmutation, it was precisely as he’d described it. To complete the ritual, there was only one thing left to do.
The taste comes on with all the subtlety of a freight train, and unless you’re a fan of Pernod or anisette, it takes getting used to. Even with the sugar and ice-water dilution, the flavor is full-bore, uncompromising and, for lack of a better phrase, right up in your face. It wasn’t designed by marketing execs trying to kiss your taste bud’s collective ass. It’s not one of those new liquors that roll out every month that you can shoot, think, “That’s cool, I guess,” and move on with your life. You drink absinthe and you think, “Holy Christ, what the fuck is that?”
I drank the glass and repeated the ritual, and yeah, I’ll admit it, the ritual adds to the event, it provides the same paraphenaliac fetishism that separates the heroin addicts in the art schools from crackheads in the alley. The second glass went down easier and by the third I decided that, yes, I liked the taste of absinthe. I poured a fourth, then a fifth, because I knew to get the real effect you had to drink a lot of it. Back in the day, the hard boys drank 10 to 20 glasses a day, and, as I’ve said, back then it had a much higher thujone content.
Eight glasses in and I was starting to get drunk—and something else. If you’ve had your way with modern hallucigens like LSD and psychedelic mushrooms and expect the same out of absinthe, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The effect is much more subtle, it’s difference between being fired out of a cannon and hang gliding.
After my tenth glass I sat down to write, and that’s when I got a grip on what that difference was. I was drunk, yes, but not whiskey or wine drunk, I was drunk and clear-headed. I discovered I could write with a strange sense of cognizance when I should have been scratching unintelligible ravings on bar napkins. The alcohol wave was rolling through me, but instead of drowning, I was somehow above it, coolly observing. No hallucinations, no madness, just drunken clarity.
So there it is. Absinthe provides you with a surfboard (thujone) and a wave (alcohol) on which to ride. That is the singular appeal of absinthe over normal alcohol. While alcohol provides a valuable escape, a vacation from one’s self, if you will, absinthe offers the same journey (on a fast, high-powered aircraft, I might add) with the promise of a window seat with a superior view. For the drunkard, it’s a fast ride with a twist. For the writer? It’s the alcoholic muse on a leash.
And, yeah, I’ve got three more bottles on the way.