It’s a Mad, Mad, World: Liquor Advertisements from the 1950’s

Last week I stumbled upon a sale of vintage New Yorker magazines at the Brattle Book Shop on West Street in Downtown Crossing. Intrigued by the advertisements, I purchased 20 random issues from the 1950’s with the goal of scanning some of its pages and using the advertisements for future blog posts.

Given the popularity of Mad Men (I’ve never seen the show, although I’ve promised many friends I will start watching it soon) everything and anything that is 50’s and 60’s is very much sought after today. I’ll be the first one to admit it, I am a fanatic of the design and fashion produced in decade of the fifties and sixties in America.  I love mixing fifties and sixties fashion pieces with more contemporary ones and spending countless hours in flea markets and thrift stores searching for that one item someone considered trash, yet to me it’s a treasure (like a 1960’s typewriter designed by Marcello Nizzoli I got for $2! And yes, it works just fine and looks great too)!

This past Sunday I visited the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design to experience an exhibition everyone has been raving about: Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980. This fantastic exhibition explores every aspect of the culture surrounding the cocktail through a variety of media including fashion, jewelry, furniture, barware, textiles, photography and film. If you are in New England, please do not miss this exhibition!

Although cocktail culture today is not as popular as it was in the 1920’s through the 1980’s, classic cocktail bars are definitely making a comeback. 

Advertising is the focus of Mad Men, but again so are the cocktails. Here are a few, mostly full page liquor advertisements I scanned from mid-century New Yorker magazines.

Do you have any favorites? Why? You can click on each image to enlarge it.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ah! very very cool! Do watch Mad Men. I think you’d enjoy it Anulfo. Thanks for sharing your find with us.

    I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on the cocktail culture exhibit in RI. How do the scenes and objects displayed in these ads you found compare with the artifacts in the exhibit?

    1. Anulfo says:

      Thanks for your comment! The exhibit is very comprehensive in the sense that every medium in the show tells the story of cocktail culture. There are magazines and books on display as well, but they weren’t focused on the ads, but on images of high profile parties and the like (it was more to show the dresses, jewelry people wore to these cocktail events).

      Because the exhibition expands a broad period of time, every decade is represented thematically in the show. The images I found, although they are from the ’50’s related to the broader cocktail culture context in that they are all about balance, mystery and have all the right ingredients to delight anyone who looks at these ads (Ad #4 is a good example of this).

      The exhibition at RISD also features barware, mixers, shakers, glasses which is reflected in these ads as well.

      I think for the most part, the liberation of having to go to cocktail parties, wearing all those haute couture dresses, and living “the good life” is reflected in these ads. Most of the ads I found, not only those that are posted here give a sense of the “exotic,” of distant landscapes which I think provide a glmpse of the ideals of the time. It’s on view until July 31st, if you get a chance go see it.

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