Many years ago, many farmers were reading the October 1940 issue of the Farm Journal and Farmer’s Wife. Calling itself “Rural America’s Favorite Magazine” and boasting a circulation of more than 2,500,000, the Farm Journal carried a cover price of five cents, while a two-year subscription cost fifty cents. On the cover was a mouth watering color photo of a dozen or so Stayman Winesap and Golden Delicious apples. Inside were many fascinating ads and articles. A look at them gives us a glimpse into our country’s past.
A full-page International Harvester ad touts their Farmall A, B, H and M tractors, showing a picture of an A and a one-bottom plow mounted over the caption: “Harold Jones of Charlton, Iowa, is doing a fine job of plowing his tough sod. His tractor is the plucky new FARMALL-A, which is filling all power needs on thousands of small farms today.”
With the headline “Here’s the One for ’41,” is the picture of a Plymouth four-door sedan. “Stunning new 1941 Plymouth, America’s Low-priced luxury car” boasts “Magnificent new Artistry of Design – New Powermatic Shifting – New Four-way Step-Up Performance – New Fashion-Tone Interior – 19 Great Advancements!” The new 1941 Hudson with “Symphonic styling” makes its debut in a full-page ad that brags: “Hudson engineering leadership provides safety found in no other automobile. Patented Double-Safe brakes and Patented Auto-Poise Front Wheel Control, for example, are two of the many features that make a Hudson the safest car built today.” Quoted prices start at $695 for a new Hudson Six Coupe, while the car illustrated, a Hudson Six Deluxe Sedan, is $845. (White wall tires and deluxe running boards are extra.)
Firestone toutes their closed-center ground grip, triple-braced traction bar tractor tires, while Goodyear claims that their Sure-Grip tire with its open center, evenly spaced lugs won’t trap mud and will give an even pull, with no jerking. Goodrich advertises a “golden harvest sale,” offering the 9 x 36 Silvertown Hi-Cleat tractor tire for $40.10 each. A 6 x16 heavy-duty truck tire is $13.85 and a 4 x 15 single-rib front tractor tire is $9.50. A Goodrich Safety Silvertown car tire in 6 x 16 size is $11.11, provided you turn in your old tire.
Timken Roller Bearing Company has a picture of a farmer discing with an Oliver 70, beside a photo of a pretty girl with a big smile, and the slogan: ‘Miles of Smiles.’ Havoline Motor Oil asserts that both growing corn and tractor motors needed expert care, and pictures a Texaco distributor showing his wares to a farmer cultivating corn with a Minneapolis-Moline R.
Prince Albert and Velvet advertise their pipe tobaccos, while Remington, H&R, Winchester, and Stevens offer their guns and ammunition. You can buy a Springfield No. 94 single barrel shotgun in 12, 16, or 20 gauge for $8.70.
Wheaties push the “breakfast of Champions,” Kellogg’s All-Bran invites you to “Join the Regulars,” while Post’s 40% Bran Flakes suggests you tune into “Young Doctor Malone” Monday through Friday on CBS, and remember that “Life is Swell when you Keep Well!”
Zenith advertises a small table model radio with a Bakelite case and a 1000-hour battery pack, readily converted to 110-volt current when you are connected to the electric highline, for $19.95. Philco offers a table-model farm radio for only $18.95, although the self-contained battery block is $3.50 extra.
Fletcher’s Castoria, “The Modern SAFE laxative made especially for children” and Feen-A-Mint, the chewing gum laxative, keep both adults and children regular (if the All-Bran doesn’t do the job). Middle-age women, age 38 to 52 years, are urged to “heed this timely Warning” and to experience the “Remarkable Benefits” of Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. A woman can lighten her complexion by using Mercolized Wax Cream, tighten loose skin with Saxolite Astringent, remove superfluous facial hair with Phelatine Depilatory and attain “Lovelier hair this Medicinal Way” by treating the scalp with Glover’s Mange Medicine and massage, followed by shampooing with Glover’s Medicated Soap.
The Association of American Railroads advertises “See America for $90. Start from your home town now on a Grand Circle Tour of the United States -east coast, west coast, border to border – go by one route, return by another – liberal stopovers – for $90 railroad fare in coaches, $135 in Pullmans.” Greyhound Lines featured 10 typical bus trips: One a round-trip from Oshkosh, Wis., to the National Dairy show in Harrisburg, Pa., costing $20.80 a person. You can also go from Ithaca, N.Y., to the Great Western Livestock Show in Los Angeles, visiting I the Grand Canyon on the way, for only $71.75 out and back.
Metro-Golden-Mayer advertises their new movie “Boom Town,” starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert and Hedy Lamarr. Young girls are advised on how to act on a date, and in answer to a question of what should be worn to a football game, are told: “Wear your best-looking spectator sports dress or tweed suit. If it’s a special occasion, you may dress up with a hat, gloves, and heels. The rest of the time you’ll probably wear ankle socks and saddles shoes.”
Under Farms for Sale in the classified ads are these two gems: “40 acres, near White River (Kansas), unimproved poultry land: $175; $5 down, $5 monthly” and “$500 gets equipt. 65 acres. Splendid low-cost start with horse, 3 cows, pig, farm tools included; 8-rm. house, barn, creek, wood, on macadam road, easy drive to city, only $1,200, $500 down.”
A political ad claims that “We, The People, Real Democrats and Republicans, Want Wilkie as OUR NEXT PRESIDENT,” and asks for donations of $2 or more.
Finally, on the joke page is this, the best of a corny lot:
BINKS: “Do you suppose it is bad luck to have a cat follow you?”
SKINKS: “Well, it all depends – are you a man or a mouse?”
These old magazines are fascinating for the glimpses they give us of what farm life was like before World War Two. Happy Reading! FC
Ever since his days as a boy on a farm in western Pennsylvania, Sam Moore has been interested in tractors, trucks and machinery. Now a resident of Salem, Ohio, he collects antique tractors, implements and related items.