Vintage Ads: Popular Presents from the 1940s

These ads from the pages of The Saturday Evening Post show what presents one might find under the tree in the 1940s.

Child looks at angel ornament in a Christmas tree

Weekly Newsletter

The best of The Saturday Evening Post in your inbox!

SUPPORT THE POST

The 1940s was a decade shaped by war, but the Christmas spirit and the act of giving was still important to Americans, even in times of hardship.

For access to our complete magazine archive, including all of the advertisements from 1821 to present day, subscribe to become a member.

Advertisement
Pliofilm
December 7, 1940

Pliofilm was a clear rubber-based plastic developed by Goodyear in 1938. As seen in this ad, it was marketed as a protective covering for food, clothing, and humans. A few years later, Pliofilm would play an important role in World War II, protecting weapons from water and sand on D-Day.

 

Advertisement
Royal Portable Typewriters
December 7, 1940

The Royal Portable company exhorted parents to “Give your child a career for Christmas” (well, male children, anyway). Seventy-five years later, we type on a different device, but it’s still very true that there “are but a few of those who thank their lucky stars that they know how to type.”

 

Advertisement
Firestone Gifts
December 4, 1943

Sure, you could buy car batteries and tires from Firestone, but they also offered rocking horses, dolls, and ice skates through their catalog. In 1943, they were also busy making artillery shells and rubberized military products through their wartime production contracts.

 

Advertisement
Crosley Products
December 4, 1943

During the war, many American manufacturers shifted their production from bicycles and refrigerators to tanks and bullets. Crosley, a radio and appliance manufacturer, was one of them. But they wanted to assure Post readers that when the war was over, they could be counted on for ranges and washers once more.

 

Advertisement
Canada Dry Ginger Ale
December 8, 1945

Even Santa could be affected by the war, and counted himself lucky to sip on a glass of ginger ale. Sugar rationing affected drink manufacturers as well as families, making sweet treats harder to come by.

 

Advertisement
Old Spice
December 4, 1948

Old Spice is still sold in gift sets today, but in 1948 Shulton made versions for both men and women.

 

Advertisement
Life Savers
December 4, 1948

During World War II, other candy manufacturers donated their sugar rations to keep Life Savers in production so that they could be shipped to the Armed Forces overseas. Life Savers created their Sweet Storybook in the 1940s, and it’s been a favorite stocking stuffer ever since.

 

Advertisement
General Electric Refrigerator
December 4, 1948

Don’t buy your wife a refrigerator for Christmas, no matter how nice it is.

 

Advertisement
Remington Shavers
December 4, 1948

If magazine and television ads are any indication, electric shavers have been a perennial popular gift for men. The brand that Bob Hope sold ranged from $17-$26. Today, they’re about ten times more than that much.

Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now

Comments

  1. I enjoy seeing the old ads. I wouldn’t mind a lot of the gifts shown, though the toys in the firestone ad may explain why they dropped that part of their business. The artwork in the ginger ale ad was nearly as good as a Post cover.

  2. December 15, 2018
    Beverly J. Byington says:

    This is wonderful, I hope it comes again in my copy of the Post. I am 89 and remember all these
    things at Holiday times. I love this magazine and am giving Jack & Jill for Christmas this year
    to two boys who take piano lessons from me. Merry Christmas everyone.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *