Wednesday, September 7, 2011

7 September 1957 “Air Fresheners and the Scent of Home”

dazyad I always love to come across the new arrival of everyday products here in the 1950’s. This advertisement for Dazy air freshener is such a circumstance.

You will notice here that it uses a pump spray, similar to a window cleaner, to atomize the room. There is no aerosol with this room freshener.

This is an interesting bit of the history of the modern air freshener

The first modern air freshener was introduced in 1948. Its function was based on a military technology for dispensing insecticides and adapted into a pressurized spray using a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) propellant. The product delivered a fine mist of aroma compounds that would remain suspended in the air for an extended period of time. This type of product became the industry standard and air freshener sales experienced tremendous growth. In the 1950s, many companies began to add chemicals that counteract odors to their fragrance formulas. These chemicals, intended to neutralize or destroy odors, included unsaturated esters, pre-polymers, and long-chain aldehydes.

It is rather interesting to me how many consumer products of the 1950’s were born out of the technology and production needed and put into action during WWII. We today know, of course, that many of these componets and the dispensing of some of them are harmful to our environment and our own bodies.

I think what intrigued me about this ad is lead me to think of the levels of daily living that began to build up about a homemaker and her family in the 1950’s. How we lived, even to our housing size, nuclear family, what we ate, male and female roles, were so distinctly invented in this one decade.

Certainly a 1920’s homemaker would have had concern about odors in her home. But, had she been the then middle class, she most likely would have had some help and her kitchen would have been placed at the back of the house separated from the rest of the house by a pantry and then the dining room. Most often odors were kept in the kitchen by sheer placement of rooms.

In the 19th and earlier centuries, it was considered common or not ‘the thing’ to have kitchen or food odors in the home. Kitchens were placed in the cellars in city homes and often in country homes. If not, they were housed in a separate wing housing staff and separated from the main living areas by a series of rooms leading from servants to masters.

The middle class, before the 1950’s, of course wished to emulate the upper classes (As they were often attempting to or often intermarrying into the upper classes). Therefore the idea of an open kitchen with a family room would have been unheard of. Even if mother did the cooking with daughter, it was in the back behind a swinging door, with smells kept at bay until dinner was served in the dining room.

The smell from privies and water closets, beginning to show up in homes in the late Victorian middle class, were often still placed out in the yard and reached outdoors or were stuck upstairs along the back closer to the back stairs. So odors were dealt with, again, proximity.

It wasn’t until the great growth of suburbia and tract housing that the small and open house was a part of the middle class life. Certainly working class people often had to deal with smells but many lived in one room flats in cities or small cottages with rooms opening on one another. They are almost the precedent for the open kitchen, with father and sons sitting at the only table in the kitchen as mother and daughters prepare the food and discuss their days.

Thus, the decrease in house size and openness of rooms to one another suddenly created a need to have a ‘fresher’ smelling home. And, as always, one wanted the idea of perfection which would include aroma. It is almost as if all the longing and hope of those in the WWII destruction of home and country began to fantasize about a perfection of hearth and home that had never truly existed and then, in the 1950’s, set about to create it. And with the added technologies we could, in a very Disney fashion, create an allusion: A European Castle built overnight in Florida to house dreams, a home in the suburbs with perfect lawns and wonderful odors.

Now, we rather like cooking odors and often our ‘deodorizing’ will come in flavors such as ‘fresh baked cookies’, ‘cinnamon buns’ and so on, despite there being very little cooking and baking going on. Our candles, no longer needed for light, also come in such cooking aromas. It is as if the need to create the end product or the illusion without the work or actual content has grown into a very produced sort of life. Large kitchens opened to big family rooms with expensive appliances which get very little use. Food nuked in the microwave or brought in and a quick spray of an aerosol can and ta-dah it is as if mother has been home all day baking or cooking.

It seems to me the more we separate ourselves from the basic at home or in nature way of living our human condition has had to deal with for centuries, the more we use our technology and money to recreate it in some form. We will be frazzled and busy, all working insane hours, having very little time together, yet our big houses sit empty and family group has split into separate rooms plugged into computers, ipods, digital books and so on. Yet, what is it we are all doing with these things? Recreating a world in which we are enjoying the quiet calm of at home. But, if we really thought about it, without half of the things we work for and towards; without the goals of this and that, the simplicity of less and more time together would be the ultimate experience we are all longing for.

Perhaps we can soon come out with a fragrance that recreates the honesty and hardworking quality that we, as a people once felt. Perhaps flavors such as, “neighborliness”, “Safety”, “Family unity” will fly off the market in candle and can form. Or, of course, we might not be that far from a holo-deck, much like on Star Trek, where we can simply recreate the perfect loving family and home.

Perhaps my own time ‘at home’ allows me too much leisure to think, as I have gleaned all of this from a casual glance at a magazine advert. Then again, that might be a nice scent as well, “Time to Think”. Would you buy it?

Happy Homemaking.

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