Old Cigarette Ads Evoke Smoky Nostalgia
A phalanx of white-coated doctors endorses Camel cigarettes in an exhibit that opened this week at the New York Public Library.
Movie stars and baseball greats are there, too, in tobacco ads dating from the 1920s to the 1950s. Even Santa Claus is there, puffing on a Pall Mall.
The exhibit, titled "Not a Cough in a Carload: Images Used by Tobacco Companies to Hide the Hazards of Smoking," opened Tuesday and will be at the library’s Science, Industry and Business branch on Madison Avenue through Dec. 26.
It was curated by Dr. Robert Jackler, an associate dean of continuing medical education at Stanford University.
Jackler said he and his wife, Laurie, chose the images from about 5,000 tobacco ads he began collecting when his mother, a longtime smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died last year.
"For us, this was a memorial to her," Jackler said in a telephone interview.
The exhibit features hundreds of ads from such magazines as Life and the Saturday Evening Post, digitally enhanced to restore faded colors.
In a Camel campaign from 1946 to 1952, doctors are seen peering into microscopes, making house calls and announcing, "It’s a boy!"
The ads proclaim that a survey had shown "more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette."
In that survey, Jackler said, doctors attending medical conventions were given cartons of Camels and then asked to name their favorite cigarette brand.
Many of the ads make claims that seem laughable now, when packs of cigarettes come emblazoned with warnings about "serious risks to your health."
The vintage ads claim cigarettes improve your disposition and aid your digestion. "Scientific tests" prove that Lucky Strikes and Chesterfields are milder than other cigarettes.
Jackler said the intent of cigarette advertising is the same now as it was half a century ago - to induce people, especially young people, to smoke.