Ads You’ll Never See Again: The Way We Ate

Based on these vintage food ads from The Saturday Evening Post, Americans’ buying habits and health priorities have changed a lot, and for the better.

Woman in military on motorcycle
Fleishmann's Yeast advertisement
The Saturday Evening Post
December 5, 1942

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Continuing our tribute to vintage ads, we look this week at food advertising.

To judge from this sampling, food ads often focused less on the products themselves and more on happy family members. Advertisers appealed to the consumer — a (presumably) female homemaker — through images of well-fed kids and gratified husbands.

And some of these ads … well, we can’t even imagine what the advertiser was thinking.



Baby asleep at highchair after eating Kellogg's cereal
Kellogg’s advertisement
The Saturday Evening Post
July 18, 1914

Judging from this ad, mothers of 1914 didn’t worry too much about childhood obesity.


Orange Juice

Boy smiling at glass of orange juice
Florida Citrus Commission advertisement
The Saturday Evening Post
March 29, 1952

Drink even more orange juice, advised the Florida Citrus Commission. “Turn those small old-fashioned juice glasses out to pasture.”


Fully Nutritious

Mother and child smiling in Nucoa advertisement
Nucoa Margarine advertisement
The Saturday Evening Post
January 17, 1953

Americans began using margarine during World War II, when rationing reduced the availability of butter. However, margarine in its natural state had a white, lard-like color. Dairy farmers succeeded in getting laws passed that prohibited margarine makers from dyeing their product an appetizing, buttery yellow. Eventually, these laws were set aside, and margarine makers could promote their product in a natural “sunny color.”


My Feet

Baby wincing in hot dog advertisement
Visking Corp. Skinless Franks advertisement
The Saturday Evening Post
May 16, 1953

Cute baby photos were popular among advertisers in the 1950s. They appeared in ads for all sorts of products, including cigarettes. While the photo in this ad was the work of “the one and only Constance Bannister, America’s foremost baby photographer,” it’s hard to see how it sold “skinless” hot dogs.


Wife Beaters

Woman bringing Campbell Soup to men at table
Campbell Soup Company advertisement
The Saturday Evening Post
February 22, 1936

“Women everywhere are cheerfully admitting that Campbell’s beat them at soup making.” Why? What did you think they meant?


“Got a good man? Keep him happy.”

Woman smiling and holding post and cup of coffee
Acme Coffee advertisement
The Saturday Evening Post
February 2, 1963

The small print in the upper corner explained that the very ’60s-looking “wife pleasing” cup and saucer were sold at Acme, back in the days when supermarkets competed by selling place settings, cookware, and encyclopedias.


No Time To Be Frail

Woman in military on motorcycle
Fleishmann’s Yeast advertisement
The Saturday Evening Post
December 5, 1942

Lastly, we offer this wartime bulletin to homemakers: “The dainty days are done for the duration.” Whether you were a housewife or a riveter, World War II was “no time to go easy on such basic food as bread,” according to the makers of Fleischmann’s Yeast. Just three slices would give you enough energy to do an hour’s housework. Four slices would power 30 minutes of wood chopping. Bread would help us win the war.

Coming Soon from The Saturday Evening Post: Ads You’ll Never See Again

A special collector’s edition of The Saturday Evening Post filled with ads from the past that will delight, entertain — and sometimes shock — with images and concepts that are thoroughly inappropriate today. You’ll cringe when you see babies wrapped in then-brand-new cellophane. You’ll laugh out loud at Santa promoting a cigarette brand. You’ll wince at an ad that threatens housewives with a spanking for failing to complete their domestic chores. More than just an entertainment, the special issue offers a snapshot of attitudes about gender, childrearing, and marketing in an era that most readers will remember all too well.

It’s too early to order, but if you might be interested in purchasing this product, please click here and we’ll send you a notice when the special issue is available.

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  1. I would like to see the ad of camel cigarettes features Ken Roberts world champion cowboy

  2. Jeff, love this round of ads as well. Our Kellogg’s child here appears ready for a long snooze after that breakfast; my goodness.

    It does appear the Florida Citrus people were selling the idea of larger glasses—-maybe so you’ll consume more juice? Just a thought.

    The Nucoa ad is great, and with that happy boy at top enjoying his toast, no doubt overrode some things in the ad copy that may not have been true. I had striped short sleeve shirts like his too with the same haircut at that age even though I’m several years younger.

    The ‘Wife Beater’ is a bit puzzling. Perhaps it was meant to be taken for the woman to say “I surrender the soup making to Campbell’s from here on out!”

    The Acme Coffee ad features beautiful artwork. The message is dated, but nothing to get upset over, it’s 53 years old so let’s cut it some slack.

    The 1942 bread ad features a World War ll tough lady that would probably tell her husband if he didn’t like her coffee, tough: go brew your own damn pot of it, mister.

    Lastly, the skinless frank ad really doesn’t make much sense at all, unless it got your ATTENTION enough to read it, right?

  3. Just wonderful Vintage photographs. I can vividly remember squishing the little ‘yellow button’ in the margarine to make it turn yellow. Sure am glad that cows learned how to make butter. Not the positive experience of my growing up years!


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