Something to be Thankful For

vintage illustration Pilgrim man and son in underwear

Holiday themed advertising has long been popular, and mid-century advertising served up a heap big helping of ads that today we would consider questionable. No Puritans these Pilgrims, they are bravely under-dressed for their first Thanksgiving. Vintage ad Carters Trigs’s for Men

In mid-century America when it seemed the only risk of offending others was to suffer the unforgivable shame of halitosis, Madison Avenue gleefully ran ads that would not only raise a politically correct eyebrow today, but by their offensive nature could very well spark angry protestations.

Today I add some Thanksgiving additions to the collection.

Thankfully, there has been some Pilgrims Progress when it comes to the accurate portrayal of the Thanksgiving story and sensitivity towards Native Americans. We no longer are blase about depictions of racial stereotypes, historical inaccuracies, and insensitivities towards gender and that’s something to be thankful for.


Sugar Coated History

vintage ad Dextrose Sugar Thanksgiving Pilgrims

Racial stereotypes and historical inaccuracies have long been as traditional a Thanksgiving fixture as cranberries and stuffing, though nowadays not quite as easy to swallow. Vintage ad Dextrose Sugar

Guess there’s good reason for bingeing on all those festive pies and candied yams festooned with marshmallows. The poor Pilgrims needed that extra pep fueled by sugar to outrun the angry Injuns on the warpath.

In the 1940’s a great deal of money in advertising was spent by the Corn Products Refining Company promoting the virtues of corn syrup, an inexpensive form of dextrose much favored by manufacturers.

“When you think of Mayflower you think of Pilgrims,” the ad explains and “when you think of energy you think of Dextrose Sugar.”

Just as today the Corn Refiners are trying to re-brand High Fructose Corn Syrup as “corn sugar,” so decades ago the Corn Products Refining Company was fighting a similar battle to have sugar derived from corn accepted as a wholesome, nutritious ingredient, superior to old-fashioned cane or beet sugar.

Through their successful ad campaigns Dextrose became the new wonder nutrient touted for its energy giving properties. It was not just an ingredient or sweetener, it enriched food with the energy of the sun.

Vintage Illustration Pilgrim being chased by arrows

Vintage illustration ad for Dextrose Sugar

Without a hint o’ shame, the ad proudly explains the Pilgrims progress thanks to sugar.

“Through the centuries human energy has conquered continents, harnessed the elements, built empires.” A sugar-coated way of saying – taken land away from its indigenous people, destroyed ecology and killed off the natives.

Although the Wampanoag Indians joined for a meal of Thanksgiving in 1621 the Indians didn’t fare so well at other Thanksgiving observances.

The image of the running Pilgrim trying to outrun the darting arrows implies all was not quiet after the first thanksgiving and the poor Pilgrim has been running from the savages who had been on the warpath since 1624.

The fact is, the second generation of Pilgrims got greedy for land and Indians had to fight for survival.

Without any sugar-coating the truth is  within 50 years the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. Indians living near settlers would be killed or die of disease.

 Pale Face Feet

thanksgiving Indian Scan_Pic0423

Esquire socks referred to their new line of socks as being in 17 full-blooded Indian Warrior colors that could be purchases at your local mens wear tepee.

The blood-thirsty Indian always on the warpath was a long time favorites trope for selling products. What better way for paleface feet to outrun the savages than with full-blooded Indian  Warrior colored socks from Esquire’s  line of socks that could be conveniently purchased at your local mens wear tepee.

“Beware of coward colors that run!

Esquires “brave” shades won’t run, heap big Indian color for paleface feet! Socks make big fashion pow-wow bring back 17 Indian warrior colors for all members of tribe. Only pee wee wampum needed.

I Dreamed I Was a Pilgim in My Carter Briefs

vintage illustration boy and man in underwear dressed as Pilgrim and Indian

Braving the cold of Massachusetts,  the Pilgrim and young brave prepare for their first Thanksgiving. Vintage ad Carter’s Trigs for Men

With equal portions of sheer silliness and questionable taste this ad serves up a heaping helping of Thanksgiving cheer. Nothing comes between them and their turkey but a pair of Carters.

In a nod to Maidenform’s famous “I Dreamed I Was A ..” campaign depicting a woman in an improbable situation wearing only a bra, Carter’s Trig’s underwear  for men put the men folk in their skivvies off to their first Thanksgiving.

No Puritans these Pilgrims,  this gun totin’ paleface hunter and his young Indian sidekick, wear only Carters Trigs as they hunt together for their day of thanksgiving.  Despite the obvious camaraderie shared by the Pilgrim and the young brave  on their hunt, we are reminded of the constant danger and savagery of the Redman, by the ever present  arrows in the Pilgrims hat.

Joining them in their hunt is a  turkey too.

Note to the Pilgrim housewife- careful to remove the long johns on the Turkey before you cook it.


On the Warpath

vintage illustration racist picture of Indian

In a less enlightened time, ads featuring racial and ethnic portrayals in questionable taste raised nary an eyebrow. Vintage ad Rand McNally Road Atlas

“To the early America who read directions in trees and stars a road atlas was perhaps unnecessary,” explains this ad from Rand McNally Road Atlas. “But today’s travelers rely in accurate legible road maps.”

Once the Europeans stole all their land, the poor Indian found himself thrown off land that his ancestors had been living on for centuries. Maybe a road map would be helpful.

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



One comment

  1. Pingback: Happy Thanksgiving | Envisioning The American Dream

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