Gallery: Christmas Ads You’ll Never See Again

Flash back to a simpler time when marketers presented a world in which dads and little boys care only for having fun, moms want nothing more than a clean house, and Santa is smokin’!

Woman happy that she got a iron for Christmas in this magazine ad

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Big Boys, Little Boys — They’re All the Same!

In mid-century America, men (supposedly) ruled the roost but were frequently portrayed in ads as juvenile, no different from the pint-sized gunslingers at below.

Magazine ad of two grown men playing cowboy and indians
Textron Menswear, December 11, 1948 (Click to Enlarge)


Two young boys wearing cowboy hats with their pjs on Christmas morning
Sears, December 1, 1956 (Click to Enlarge)

The Facts of Wife

Ideal gifts for the high priestess of home and earth? Why, more cherished tools of her trade — vacuums, dishwashers, refrigerators — of course!

Woman working in the kitchen while her family enjoys television in the den.
Hotpoint, December 2, 1950 (Click to Enlarge)


Woman being excited for a vacuum she got for Christmas
Premier, December 2, 1939 (Click to Enlarge)


Woman happy that she got a iron for Christmas in this magazine ad
Proctor, December 7, 1946. (Click to Enlarge)


Little girl excited to get a toy refrigerator
Electrolux, December 5, 1931 (Click to Enlarge)


Family happy that mom got a fridge for Christmas in this magazine ad
Frigidaire, December 5, 1936. (Click to Enlarge)

Where There’s Smoke …

Some of us recall making ashtrays for Dad and Mom when the world was a whole lot smokier, but who knew that Jack Benny and Santa himself were in on the action!

Jack Benny smoking cigarettes in this magazine ad
Lucky Strikes, December 6, 1958 (Click to Enlarge)


Santa Claus smokes cigarettes in this ad
Lucky Strikes, December 14, 1935 (Click to Enlarge)


Wife is shocked that her G.I. husband got her cigarettes for Christmas
Old Gold, December 16, 1944 (Click to Enlarge)


Santa Claus holding a package of Camel cigarettes
Camel Cigarettes, December 15, 1951. (Click to Enlarge)


Santa Claus selling tobacco products in this magazine ad
Camel Cigarettes and Prince Albert chewing tobacco, December 6, 1947. (Click to Enlarge)

This article is featured in the November/December 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. Even though I saw this feature in the current issue, it’s nice seeing it online too. Bob, I always love your comments on all the various articles where I see them. Thank you for your insights on each of these here to which I agree, by the way. Especially the ones for cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Cute art work but that’s about it. It figures a tobacco lover would take an offensive comment swipe. Just consider the source and ignore it.

  2. I see that the Lucky Strikes ad was pre WWII. I wonder how many knew (or remember) that during the War years, The red ball on the Luckies became green. Why, because the Japanese war markings on aircraft, etc., was a red ball.
    As an aside, smoking was the “in” thing back then. Even a small pack of cigarettes was included in all Army C-rations. Look at the magazine ads and later TV ads that were prominent back then, and most all male movie leads (and some female) smoked. You got coupons with Old Golds that could be redeemed for prizes. Any one remember calling the drug store and asking if they had Prince Albert in the can.? Then when answered “Yes we do”, saying well, you better let him out, he can’t breath.

  3. johann, go ahead and have the prince albert in your pipe. no one said you couldn’t. bob’s right about the cigarette ads. i don’t understand though what he’s implying about the proctor and old gold ads. it seems naughty somehow.

  4. The Textron pajama ad at the top is pretty silly and degrading to men, but I like artwork. Looks like Earl Mayan did nice artwork for the (2nd) non-degrading boys Roy Rogers ensemble for Sears. As a man I find the the 3rd Hotpoint ad very degrading to women. It basically says she’s let the dishes get so out of control it’s literally created a wall between her and her family. Very bad.

    #4 (Premier) has beautiful artwork. This one’s harder to gauge. She looks happy to have it, and her husband may have known she needs one, and would love one. I just wouldn’t give it as a Christmas present as such. Hopefully some of those other unwrapped gifts are for her too, and will balance things out. #5 (Proctor) is a judgement call. Times were different then with both 4 & 5. Here again, I’d like her to receive some more gifts suitable to her as a woman for perhaps a different room in the house.

    #6 (Electrolux Gas Refridgerator) This one I find confusing. It looks like a mini-fridge for a child per her gaze of enchantment. Alrighty then! #7 (Frigidaire) I’ll allow it as it really is a gift for the whole family. Forward thinking on the fuel efficiency—just worded differently. I wonder if they were frost-free yet. There are still some today I’ve encountered that aren’t!

    #8 (Lucky Strikes) Those are cancer sticks, Jack Benny; shocking! #9 (Lucky Strikes again). Santa, the fact cigarettes irritate your throat and cause you to cough are cause to pause, hmm? #10 ( Old Golds) The only thing fresh going on here is that soldier with you, my dear! And finally (#11 & 12). Prince Albert has decided he doesn’t want mouth or lung cancer. You’re a nice guy Santa, but stick with the children’s presents. Now be gone with you to the North Pole!

  5. I remember buying Christmas themed cartons of Winstons, RawLeigh’s and other cigarettes for my granddaddy and dad.


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