Week of January 27, 1947
The East Coast in Winter
I was very fortunate to find a set of bound volumes of LIFE Magazine for the year 1947. Since 2004 is just beginning, I thought that it would be appropriate to meander through 1947 one week at a time to see how things have (and haven't) changed in 57 years. By the way -- the bound volumes came from the library of Bridgewater College (in Bridgewater, Virginia...) Are there any alumni out there who would like to share campus lore from this august institution -- especially during 1947?
Click here to see excerpts from other LIFE magazine issues during 1947
Thanks to Google Books, you can click here to read the entire January 27, 1947 issue of LIFE Magzine. You can look at some of the images that we refer to but cannot post due to copyright.
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The January 27 issue featured the entire Atlantic Coast with had very nice panorama of photos from Maine to Florida. Although the article was nearly 20 pages long, it left some places out. This provided for weeks of Letter to the Editor from local booster groups complaining that their hometown was left out. The article is a wonderful source of regional diferences that were prominent in the 1940s -- looking at the 20+ pages, one can certainly notice the degree to which America has become homogenized. Of note is the Hatteras lighthouse which was recently picked up and moved because its foundation was being eroded.
"Fixers and commercialism" were endangering American sports, reported LIFE in an editorial. The article railed against attempts to bribe football and basketball players and complained that college sports were a thinly veiled variant of professional sports. (Nothing is new...) However, LIFE was courageous enough to condemn "Jim Crow" as antithetical to American values (no major sport was integrated in 1947). They mentioned that there were 4 negro players in the minor leagues as an indicator of progress...
The adventures of Countess Marga d'Andurain was arrested for murder. The "Mata Hari of the Mideast" had a checkered past, suspected of murdering three of her husbands, one of which was a Bedouin chief. Her life was a dramatic blaze painted across the Sahara desert.
LIFE commissioned celebrated author John Dos Passos to go to a typical midwestern city to analyze the trouble between Labor and Management. This is a very well-written article that certainly has stood the test of time. It is one of the few pieces that I have seen in LIFE magazine that accurately portrays the complexity of the average workingman's life in adjusting to peacetime. I reccommend that you read this article in it's original form
LIFE magazine loved to make fun of corrupt Southern politics (see the article on Theodore Bilbo in the January 13 Issue, and the "Senator Claghorn" ad discussed below.) This week, there wwere electoral high-jinks and shennanigans associated with wassuring the succession of the Talmadge Dynasty in Georgia. The drama unfolded around the race for Governor. In those days, the Republicans were so few that they generally did not run a candidate. hence, the winner of the Democratic primary in June was the de-facto winner of the election in November. In this case, family patriarch Eugene Talmadge was on his way to the governor's mansion. Unfortunately, he died before the election. The only other candidate was a perennial nutcase named D.T. Bowers. Hurredly, political henchmen around the state got their friends to write in the name of Heman Talmadge, the 33 year old heir apparent who shared his father's view on White Supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan. Of all things father Eugene, the dead man, won the election by a landslide. The Georgia legislature was called upon to decide between Herman, Bowers, and Melvin Thompson, who had actually been elected Lieutenant Governor. The photos show plenty of high jinks including midnight sessions of the legislature, state troopers breaking up fistfights, and the swearing in of a midget as the labor commisioner. Of all things, Herman Talmadge went on to become a well-respected and effective senator into the 1970s...
A fairly long article profiled Clark Clifford as he began his meteoric ascent in Washington politics. He was an inordinately tall, handsome and intelligent man who had a knack for making himself indispensible to persons of authority. He must have been very handsome, because the first 8 column inches of the story are dovoted to his good looks ("his hair the color of butter taffy looks as if it were waved with a micrometer") After a military career of being indispensible to admirals, he became a central figure in the Truman administration. Over the years, he served many different presidents in various capacities -- ambassador, secretary of Defense to name a few. He continued into his 90s as a back-room influence when he was struck by scandal in the 1990s -- younger men had used the senescent Clifford in a bank fraud scandal. We shall hear much more of pretty boy Clark Clifford in 1947...
Airplanes were flying less than half full due to a spate of plane crashes in foul weather. It was surprising to note that as late as 1947, very few airports were equipeed with instrument landing aids and there was no network of air controllers. The article provided some informative technical discussion of the two major approaches to instrument flying: (a) The Instrument Landing System (ILS) and (b) The Ground Controlled Approach System. Of note, BOTH systems, critical to modern aviation were developed by the same man, Alfred Lee Loomis, a remarkable self-taught engineer. Loomis was a very successful Wall Street financier who gave up Bonds and built a vast private laboratory that made pioneering developments in ultrasonics, electroencephalography, high energy physics and Radar. Mr. Loomis is profiled in Pamela Conant's book Tuxedo park
Henry Knox Sherrill was installed as the presiding Bishop of the US Protestant Episcopal Church. Mr. Sherrill was from an upper class background and was thoroughly heterosexual. This is certainly in contrast to the leadersip in the Episcopal church of 2004... Bishop Sherril made a lot of his deeply religious opposition to swearing. His nonclerical interest was fishing.
A VERY BIZARRE article described the use of laboratory rats in studying radiation sickness. Normally, I am not bothered by this stuff, but one experiment where rats were sewed together to be sort of artificial conjoined twins for studying exposure to radiation was particularly appalling. I am not alone -- this particular article generated LOTS of letters to the editor.
Robert Osborn was featured as a budding cartoonist (they were right...) who had a knack for capturing concepts in pictures. Osborn had just finished a hitch in the Navy and his drawings lampooned the stupidity and red-tape associated with the military. For example, he characterized "propaganda" as a an unending line of egg-shaped creatures marching blindly off a cliff... Osborn spent his war designing training manuals featuring a long-suffering character named "Dilbert" who was, in fact the inspiration for the Scott Peterson character that graces our comic strips today.
King Jupiter was a 1,380 pound steer that had been raised by the students of Oklahoma A&M College. As a publicity stunt, the Firestone company bought the fellow for $15,000 and paraded him around the country in a specially desgned van. It was noted that the cow was greatly partial to the strains of "The Blue Danube" which soothed him as he was whisked from place-to place in the van. When he left for his tour of gas stations and 4-H clubs, the Oklahoma A&M band and cheerleaders gave him a big sendoff. At the end of the tour, he was consumed by Firestone executives. $15,000 in 1947 is something like $300,000 today. (a steer is a neutered bull, so there was no possibility of King Jupiter reporducing... R.I.P. and bon apetit
A regular feature was photo coverage of a celebrity party. This week, LIFE followed a bunch of happy college kids to a ski party in Vermont. "They spend the whole day riding up and zipping down the slopes, practicing one maneuver after another. From time to time they unclamp their skis and go into a nearby lunchroom and eat hot dogs and listen briefly to the juke box. At night, they change their clothes and sit at big open fires singing and playing games." From what I could see,the equipment has gotten a lot better, but the typical "Ski Weekend" is about the same now as it was in 1947
This week, LIFE profiled the fashion creations of West Coast designer Susan Dannenberg whose specialty were hand-kintted sweaters decorated with appliques. She started small and became a favorite of film stars and clothes horses like "Slim" Hawks (see the January 20 Issue. Her creations were sold under the brand name of "Suse"; Ms Dannenberg may well have been the first person to use a poodle applique, which remains an icon of the mid 1950s after her concepts spread to the vast masses. However, in 1947 this type of garment was only available to the rich -- her sweaters sold for $50-$70 [about $1,000 - $1,400 in today's dollars].
LIFE went to the Ballet this week and prviewed an avant garde work called Facsimile with score by Leonard Bernstein (an up-and-comer in the 1940s). LIFE forecast that "ths year, the fasion in art will be subjective with the accent on upswept libidos and streamlined abstraction." The Ballet had three cast members who occupied most of their time in prolonged choreographic kissing. LIFE's reporter noted that "their grappling produced a moment which looked more like what went on in a wrestling ring than on a ballet stage." LIFE hated Jitterbug as well, so maybe this was a great work of art...
LIFE previewed a "Down Under" Western called The Overlanders. The author wrote"This is probably the most successful film ever made in which the principal protagonist is a lunging, bawling 1,500 head herd of Bullocks." [In 1947, there were still enough literate people that you could use a word like "protagonist"] As detailed in a three page spread, the film shows how a tiny band of Australians in 1942 moved the above-mentioned herd across desert, mountains, and crocodile-infested rivers to keep the beef away from the Japanese whose invasion was imminently expected. The film stars Daphne Campbell and Chips Rafferty, neither of whom had acted before and neither of whom acted again.
Ads for the following films were run:
Listerine ran a "scare" ad showing one fellow sneezing on another in the close confines of a commuter train. The ad said "When you're in line for his COLD -- Look Out!" The ad goes on to show some photomicrographs of some evil little Streptococci, only some of which spread airborne disease, and none of which spread viruses like the so-called "common cold". The ad claims that the product kills 96.7% of these "germs" within 15 minutes (leaving 3.3%, who can reproduce to back up the original number within a matter of hours...) Smith Brothers cough drops also ran an ad about the etiquette of coughing: "Didn't your mother ever tell you about SMITH BROTHERS?" says a Mom to a fellow who is spraying germs on her two-year old...
Record ads: Columbia records published a full page ad with bandleaders Kay Kyser, Buddy Clark, Eliot lawrence, Dick Jurgens and Frankie Carle. Photos made it appear that the bandleaders were running around on top of a moving record. None of the songs mentioned in the ad have survived with the possible exception of Kyser's schmaltzy "The Old Lamp-lighter."
Get the Girl Ads: Colgate toothpaste used a baby to clue Pop into why Mom wasn't so warm to him (bad breath...) Meanwhile Vitalis suggeted that their hair tonic could improve your bowling and "scoring" with the ladies... Pete finally got Ann to accept his marriage proposal when she found out that he wore Arrow shirts
Radio Ads: An ad for a Stromberg-Carlson radio-phonograph shows some happy teens "cutting a rug" while Mom and Dad watch. The ad promises that investing in this gadget would keep the kids out of nightclubs and taverns...
Ladies in undergarments: Goldstripe Nylons, Seamprufe Slips, Flexees Foundations, Sitroux Tissues, Bestform Girdles, Holeprufe Underthings, Barbasol Shave Cream
There is a half-page ad featuring Al Capp's popular cartoon character Li'l Abner (and the buxom Daisy Mae) pitching for Cream of Wheat
Cream of Wheat ad with Li'l Abner
Personna razor blades features Kenny Delmar who played a radio character named Senator Claghorn who was a parody of real life horrors like Eugene Talmadge and Theodore Bilbo. The senator is quoted as saying "I only shave downward -- South that is.." [The good Senator was the prototype for Bugs' and Daffy's cartoon friend "Foghorn Leghorn".] Meanwhile, the Williams Company tried the highbrow approach by claiming that "actors faces are extra sensitive" and got Jose Ferrer (costumed as Cyrano DeBergerac) to endorse their shaving cream.
The Bendix Home Laundry System promised that the housewife of the futurethat "While you go out to market your clothes wash themselves sparkling clean". This was the same Bendix Company that made gyroscopes, bombsights and turrets during WWII, simply adjusting itself to the realities of postwar American life. All those servos and relays were put to good use liberating the Houswife.
The back cover is an ad for Luck Strikes showing a craggy farmer personally inspecting a tobacco leaf for quality. The ad repeated the Luckies catch phrase L.S./M.F.T, or "Lucky Strikes Means Fine Tobacco." The Freudian themses continue: So Round, So Firm, so fully packed, so easy on the draw..."
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