Teaching the Article
Exercise 4

Demobilization in the Media

Popular magazines and newspapers featured thousands of stories about the conversion to peace, some as early as 1943. Media coverage of demobilization addressed a range of concerns, from retooling factories to veterans' postwar employment to ways to remodel a bathroom once building supplies became more available. Early in 1945, it was hard to thumb through a popular magazine without seeing advertisements preparing consumers for a new world of unleashed consumption. Whereas during the war it was patriotic to conserve, after the war, consumption was a civic duty. People from all parts of the political spectrum believed that mass consumption would save the U.S. economy from a postwar economic depression—that it would provide ample jobs, housing, and consumer goods to all Americans for the long term. As Lizabeth Cohen has written, freedom from want would become freedom to buy in a prosperous postwar "consumers' republic."

Historians often examine World War II advertisemnts as a window into consumer habits and tastes, rationing programs, and wartime roles for men and women. This exercise is a slight variation on that, shifting the focus to popular representations during demobilization. Examine the following ads from two very different popular periodicals, Time and Parents' Magazine. Think about the intended audiences of each magazine. What kind and quality of life are the advertisers promising readers? (Connect your reflections with the working woman in exercise 2 and her cynicism that reconversion would deliver "the more abundant life.") What cultural ideals about gender and family life are expressed in the ads? What messages about veterans’ needs and desires are expressed in the Taylor Instruments advertisement? What does the beer adverstisement seem to promise in addition to refreshment? In the American Gas Association advertisement, how are consumption, modern technology, and women's roles linked to postwar "freedom"?


A. Taylor Instruments ad, Parents' Magazine, July 1945

B. Schlitz Beer ad, Time, April 16, 1945

C. American Gas Association ad, Parents' Magazine, July 1945

D. Campbell's Tomato Soup ad, Time, October 1945