Thursday, May 3, 2012

3 May 1943 “Thrift, Wartime, New Kitchens and What it Meant in Advertising”

thriftad During the War years Thrift and Conservation became words used often. The idea of it being an ‘Old Fashioned’ value is present in this ad. That Grandmother’s generation, or that of the last century, valued savings and conservation. In many ways the actual amount of available products just weren’t there in her time. What is interesting in this ad is that advertising is using the idea of Patriotism and saving for the war effort as a way to sell the homefront homemaker new towels. Not thrifty at all, in fact.

Here is an article from this same 1943 magazine which opens with tugging at one’s heart strings for what the soldier longs for home. In his desires for the wing chair by the hearth and that ‘old bed’ to sleep in, really we see a complete doing over of the house. New things bought, post war, with War bonds bought now. Or to do so now would be, in a way, Patriotic. When in fact, the returning soldier would most likely want to see the old things as he left them and as he recalled them. The comfort of home is constancy not change.


 youngstownad I look at such war time ads with different eyes than I did when I started my 1955 project. Then I was keen to see what we had and what was new in the post war years. Now, I see us beginning to be told how we, as Americans, define ourselves through our things rather than our deeds. The idea that the old kitchen wasn’t good enough and that such luxury is not considered so or that our freedom is somehow tied to purchase rather frightens me now.

In some ways it makes me shutter for those older people during those years, the grandmothers, that wondered at their own value system dying away. I am sure, much as we see today with older people to today’s youth with constant need of new phones/computers etc, the same thing. Yet, that idea of flux and constant change. The very business model of constant growth was rather foreign in 1900 yet by WWII we really see that changing.

The idea of saving, though here in war bonds for future use, is already changing. The setting aside for a rainy day is beginning to blue a bit. And today savings is an almost unheard of concept. Add to that the 0% interest rates, which are meant to somehow help the failing economy, actually punishes saving. With no interest on money set aside, there almost seems little reason or incentive to do so. And many young people today most likely live only on debt from credit cards.

There is most likely not one element that has lead to the rapid change in our concept of who we are as American’s, but one has simply to step back one decade at a time to the turn of the last century to get a feel for how it has been greatly affected.

Though we had concepts of thrift as a national idea during the last World War, we today, though the US is involved in many wars, have no such national idea. We are told to spend to be American. I feel for our soldiers today and those left at home. And I feel for all of us, homemakers alike, who live in a world of flux, constant change, and continual disparaging and contradictory news and realities as espoused by whatever channel we are tuned into. When really, is any of it actual reality? We get our reality through programming while our own lives go unlived in ways unthinkable hundreds of years ago. In many ways I feel like that mythical soldier in the article above who simply wants to leave it all come home to a comfortable bed and feel safe in the constancy and comfort of home. Have we all, as a nation and a world, lost our home? Is the concept of Home even alive anymore for us to get to or is it just a marketing idea only achieved through discount shopping? I hope not.

Let’s not let Home be a product to be bought but lets make home a place of frugal savings and comfort of love not things. The comfort that comes from less and easy living because of camaraderie and not picking sides of being part of a clique is Home. Let there not be Them and Us, but let our homes be We. Let’s not be branded like cattle into our little pigeonholes, lets be happy industrious home loving families who revel in knowledge and skill. Who look at challenges as tasks to be overcome with grace and study and not to ease or overstressed life with ‘shop therapy’ or to ‘get away from it all’. A new kitchen won’t bring as much feeling of safety and home as will some savings and a meal made through thrift and skill. Getting more and getting it cheaper isn’t always the answer. Having less and caring for it and ourselves is.

Happy Homemaking.


  1. Putting your money in the bank in savings really is not any win win is it....what with no interest and the wonder if the bank might loose stability too. :( Yes I agree on what we should be doing is making our homes a haven and not worrying about making it for style or show. Home is about the best place to be on earth and should be a place where we feel the most comfortable. Each family has their own idea of what they would be. It usually consists of a few elements that are extra special to us..the rest is fluff. Take that fluff..that clutter is just taking up space and making us work more and perhaps enjoy our homes thus less. For me one of the essentials would be books and the garden. To others it would be different. When I think of the homes of my many older relatives I was in and out of often they never changed. The same basic furniture and a few pictures and such. They never mentioned anything about or acted like they were not perfectly content with their homes as they were. The homes were filled with love and comfort.They were a real example for me. Their lives were even more so. What they had they took care of. If it got worn they repaired it. If it was beyond that they used anything they could from it for another project. They kept what they had clean and neat. Their homes were always open to company and They made everyone feel special who entered. I know for a fact most of their lives they had only a tiny amount of money to live on but they never mentioned it and gave and did all they could for anyone who needed it. They kept all bills paid and owed no one. They kept their private affairs to themselves. They loved this country and were grateful to it and God for letting them live there. They knew what was important in life and lived it out. Thank you for this great article. I understand from what you have said that you will be looking for a new home yourselves. I pray you find just the one that will be a haven for you. Sarah

  2. I found this article really interesting. I collect homemaking books (from 1790 to 1955) and advertising and editorials in many post war books emphasise the idea of making a home, just like in the American ones you discuss. However, in the UK there simply was no money in the economy and young couples still had to buy Utility furniture, make do and mend and so on. So in homemaking books aimed at the upper working classes there were lots of articles on re-upholstery, making a kind of honeymoon bedsit in your parent's spare room, what wonders a lick of paint can more middle class publications (Good Housekeeping) there are articles on mixing inherited Victorian furniture with more modern Utility pieces.
    My great aunt married an American GI. She used to send my grandmother photographs of her new babies AND her new fridge, washing machine etc. I think buying new things for your home is a very natural insinct for a woman. Particularly if her man has been through hell and back...she wants things to be just right for him and her family and advertisers were obviously exploiting the prevailing cultural mood of a kind of exhausted relief. Do I think that definining ourselves by what we buy is wrong? Yes, I do and I agree with you , I think modern selfish capitalism did begin in late 1940s America. However, if I'd just been what they'd been through and had the opportunity to but a bright new fitted kitchen I wouldn't blink. It would somehow symbolsie a new start, fresh beginings and so on.


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