Thursday, August 7, 2008

Murad Cigarette Ads, Marimekko, and the Women of WWI

Let me start this post off by sharing a bit about my nerdy and unusual job, which will partly explain why I am obsessed with old advertising and why I plan to share with you, from time-to-time, interesting advertising from the early 1900's. I currently work part-time as a research assistant for the Modernist Journals Project. The MJP digs up rare, old magazines (mainly literary magazines) and digitizes them so people can have free access to them online. Right now, we are working on digitizing our first American "mass market" magazine -- Scribner's Magazine. Scribner's had almost 100 pages of ads per issue, and I'm always on the lookout for interesting fashion tid-bits (and I also like to keep my eye on the various ways women are portrayed in the ads...or how it changed over the years).

I am particularly intrigued by these Murad Cigarettes ads from the time America was in the First World War -- the women and the color palettes are so striking! The stripe/floral motifs and bright colors remind me of a weird fusion of Marimekko fabrics and the pop art of Takashi Murakami. It is fascinating to see such "modern" design elements being used even before the 20's -- things we associate with the 60's (like Marimekko) were often inspired by designs being played with more than 40 years earlier. The first two ads are actually from Taschen's new book: All-American Ads 1900-1919" (yet another thing to add to my wish list). I found the second two in issues of Scribner's Magazine from 1919:

From Taschen's "All-American Ads 1900-1919".
Both from 1919.

See any similarities? The colors, circles, and swirls remind me of the Marimekko-inspired designs from H&M last year.

From Scribner's Magazine, Sep. 1918

The design on the pillows in the above ad remind me so much of Murakami's smiley-face flowers.

From Scribner's Magazine, July 1918. It is interesting to note the way the ladies outfits mimic the soldier's uniform.

What about those striped pants in the Murad ad? ...more Marimekko designs come to mind.

Aside from the wonderful design elements, the women in these ads are quite unusual for the time -- exotic, sexual, strong. They seem very avant-garde, wearing their hair short and smoking cigarettes. All of this makes me wonder what was going on here: Was it simply the tobacco companies' provocative attempt to expand the market by appealing to women? Was it because the war made women want/need to feel more independent and the ads are reflecting this new social climate? I would love to know how people at the time responded to these ads... What do you lovely readers think??


Sam said...

so cool! I love all of the prints.

Sharon Rose said...

Wow, thanks for sharing, these ads are fabulous-so vibrant and stylish!

Anonymous said...

I think that the first two ads focus on exotic women and dress to point to the exotic/foreign appeal of Turkey (since the cigarettes are meant to be composed of Turkish tobacco); in war time, however, the emphasis had to shift to American interests as to not alienate consumers--hence the focus on the War-time uniforms and the women's fashion as soldier couture. The exotic focus of their previous ads are no longer featured as the primary focal point, but as mini-ads in the bottom corner in order to maintain the company focus while showing the company's primary loyalty to America--especially necessary in war time. But that's just my two cents.

I am also very interested in ads--specifically the portrayal of women in ads throughout advertising history (I teach modern ad analysis in my pop culture writing course). Feel free to send me any interesting scans--I would be happy to have them and to enlighten the unenlightened about the depiction of women (and more recently men) and the concept of the male gaze—women as objects for men to gaze. Who knows, maybe we can write a book together one day about this!

ant said...

Yeah, those are beautiful. What a great job.

Laminated Fragments said...

I totally love that you've found these ads. I wander if you remember Barbara and I's presentation when we did Loos last semester. I went through several issues of Harper's Bazaar, and they have so many interesting things about fashion (perhaps even more than Scribners because it was aimed for female consumption). I know you have like no time, but you should totally check it out. [And on a sidenote...when working on a project for the library this summer, I came across some interesting ads for gas using dinosaurs in the Tulsa World, August 1960. Haha. They were quite wonderful.]