Monday, August 10, 2015

Special Guest Post - Vintage Ad!

Today I have something completely different for you, courtesy of GDB reader Steve Stuart - you know him as "Nanook"!

Steve acquired this vintage ad for General Electric Mazda lamps some 25 or 30 years ago through an auction. It seems that this ad is from 1941 (according to an online source), and it shows a possibly-rabid Pluto accusing Mickey Mouse of being a "bulbsnatcher"! (When did Pluto start talking, anyway?). I love vintage Disneyana (the older the better), so I am happy to share this piece.

I can only assume that the pilfering of lightbulbs was common back in the 1930's and 1940's, though I had never heard of it until I saw this ad. Incidentally, "Mazda" was the trademarked name for incandescent lightbulbs used by General Electric until 1945 in the U.S. 

According to Wikipedia, "...the company chose the name due to its association with Ahura Mazda, the transcendental and universal God of Zoroastrianism, whose name means light of wisdom in the Avestan language". Well OK!

Somebody on eBay was selling a related ad that could be displayed inside a store.  I guess 10 cents was a lot of money in 1941. Maybe now that people are using expensive LED bulbs, snatching will become a thing again.

A search on Google Images yielded this vintage photo of a billboard with the same artwork as seen in photo #2. I'd like to think that those people just had lunch at a nearby automat. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, followed by pie and coffee.

Many thanks to Steve Stuart for sharing his rare, vintage Disney ad with us!


TokyoMagic! said...

I miss incandescent light bulbs! So what did people do, snatch bulbs when they were in other people's homes? Or did they take them from public places....restaurants, hotels, public bathrooms? That is so odd!

One of the ladies in that last pic appears to be wearing a dead animal.

TokyoMagic! said...

P.S. Thanks to Nanook, for sharing this with us! :-)

Nancy said...

These are so cool! Thanks, Nanook :-)

It always fun to see Mickey and friends in unexpected places.

MRaymond said...

I found some info on Google: The term 'bulb snatcher' was coined by GE to define someone who moves light bulbs from one socket to another to save money. It was a depression era tactic since bulbs were hard to get. GE used the tactic, along with educational info, to convince people that they should buy more bulbs (GE of course).

Melissa said...

My guess was along the lines that MRaymond confirmed - I was thinking GE's message was that their bulbs were so affordable you could "splurge" on one for every fixture in the house.

Since Pluto seems to have only mastered one word, I think it's less of a "dog with the power of speech" situation than a "trained dog" situation. If the Scooby-Doo writers had been in charge, it would probably have been spelled, "Rulb-ratcher!" (My guess is that Minnie did the training, since it seems to have such a surprising effect on Mickey.) Good boy, Pluto, for keeping his claws on the blotter.

Whatevs on the details, these are lovely pieces of advertising art, and a big thank you to Nanook for sharing!

K. Martinez said...

A bulb-snatcher is someone who replaces a burned out or dead light bulb with a working light bulb from another lamp or light fixture, thus G.E. was urging its customers to buy more bulbs to have a ready supply. In other words a campaign for G.E. to increase sales of light bulbs. Haven't some of us been bulb snatchers at one time or another? I know I have.

K. Martinez said...

Looks like I took a little too long to type in my comment. Raymond and Melissa already confirmed the term "bulb-snatcher" as I was typing.


These are wonderful ads. I've always loved vintage advertising from companies that utilized the Disney characters. Especially from this era. Thanks for sharing from your collection.

Melissa said...

The absence of fangs on Pluto gives him the appearance of wearing dentures, and it's kind of weirding me out. I mean, I've seen dogs without fangs before, but they usually just have an absence of fangs, not a perfect row of even teeth in their place. Not sure why I never noticed it before. Maybe it's the combination of that and the talking.

K. Martinez said...

Melissa, From watching the old Pluto cartoons, it always seemed that Pluto had those human teeth. With the old Disney characters featured in the shorts, Disney tended to give their animal characters human characteristics. Strangely, while Pluto is portrayed as a dog, it is Goofy (a dog) that is portrayed as a human who has the "fangs" that Pluto is lacking. What I also find odd is that Mickey and Minnie when compared to Pluto are pretty large rodents.

Chuck said...

Recent DNA mapping has confirmed that both Mickey and Minnie are 5/8 capybara.

Nanook, thanks for sharing this unusual piece of ephemera, and to everyone else for expanding my vocabulary. Now to figure out how to use the word "bulb-snatcher" in my next job interview...

Anonymous said...

First, thank you, Nanook. Very cool stuff indeed.

I had heard the legend of the Mazda lamp name, but was never sure that was true. I guess it is, because Wikipedia is never wrong. It's where I learned how the Germans led by Mozart, defeated the Martians at Pearl Harbor to win the US Civil War in 1770.

As far as $0.10 being a lot of money, I remember my Dad telling me about picking peaches for $0.15 / hour in the years before the war. So, a light bulb cost 40 min. of minimum wage labor or about $6.50 in today's dollars. I just saw some fancy LED bulbs this weekend, over $10.00 per bulb for the cheapest. I didn't buy any.

I also remember him saying that a milkshake was also $0.15. At that time, Dad and Mom earned about $35.00 a month from the "Cream Check", selling milk from their cows, plus whatever they could get from the crops and incidental labor picking fruit. I can imagine thinking twice over buying a lot of light bulbs with that budget. Mom said she sometimes sweated over postage at $0.01 per letter.

Thanks, Major for an interesting look back.


Monkey Cage Kurt said...

I concur Melissa, in that while I’ve always noticed Pluto’s flat teeth I was just thinking they look a bit like dentures in these illustrations.

K. Martinez, It also bothered me how much liberty Disney took with the scale of their characters, most notably a giant mouse with a pet dog. It just never sat right with me as a kid.

Major, I had to look up “automat”, although from your description I pretty much knew what you were talking about. And you are right; they look like they all just walked out from one, well except maybe the woman with the fur coat. I mostly remember Marlo Thomas going into an automat in an episode of That Girl. She could only afford a bowl of hot water, but then she proceeded to make tomato soup by adding ketchup. I thought it was so sad when I was a kid.

THANKS NANOOK! Nice artwork and a nice bit of history here today.

K. Martinez said...

Chuck, It never fails that I learn something everyday. I've never heard of the capybara before. Standing two feet tall at the shoulder!? Yikes!! And I thought the river rats in my town were big.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, I see that other commenters have answered your questions, so keep on reading! I like the look of incandescent bulbs, but recently I bought a bunch of LED bulbs at IKEA (600 lumens). They have a pleasing warm color, and are nice and bright. Of course they cost way more than old bulbs, but hopefully they really will last longer.

Nancy, it’s funny to see what Mickey was used to advertise… I think he also appeared on oil or gasoline adverts.

MRaymond, well jeez, who hasn’t done that once in a while? I know I have! I love the way they make it sound like bulbsnatching was practically an unforgivable crime.

Melissa, we all know that Scooby had a large range of words and phrases that he could say! I am publishing a book later this year, “The Wit and Wisdom of Scooby Doo (volume one)”. Be sure to buy 1000 copies!

K. Martinez, now that LED bulbs are so (relatively) expensive, people might be bulb-snatching more than they used to!

Melissa, yeah, Pluto had human teeth, they look like dentures. “Roebuckers”! On the rare occasion that Pluto bit someone (or something), his chompers were very non-doglike. Also, talking dogs are Satanic.

K. Martinez, I guess I should have read ahead a bit more! I know that Goofy is a dog, but I once listened to a recording of an old Mickey Mouse radio show (from the 1930’s), and an announcer introduced him as “Goofy the horse”, which was surprising to say the least.

Chuck, they are 5/8 capybara, 2/3 mouse, 3/8 nutria, 1/4 cane rat, 4/5 human, and… I’m not good at fractions.

JG, while I know that Wikipedia gets a bad rap, I think that usually it’s a pretty good source for general information about certain subjects. And the old jokes about being able to see a double feature for a dime, with money left over for a hamburger, are pretty true to life. My niece recently found a 1940 US Census when she was at her school library, and looked up her great grandfather. He made $1,612 for that year - and he was able to own a home, a car, and raise two sons. They lived modestly, but well. If you happen to live near an IKEA, you can get LEDs for a better price than most harware stores.

Monkey Cage Kurt, yes, dentures, just like I thought! I have read about the most famous chain of automats, Horn and Hardart; they were around until 1991! Supposedly the food was excellent. I wish I had had a chance to try them, but didn’t even know about them until it was way too late. (Ketchup and water, arg!).

K. Martinez, as a kid I was fascinated by anything that was the largest, or smallest, or heaviest, or… you get the idea. I used to buy the Guinness Book of World Records all the time! I think that is where I first heard of the capybara - or maybe it was Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

Melissa said...

I've often thought an automat would be a cool retro-style restaurant for they old-timey Hollywood areas of Disney's Hollywood Studios/California Adventure. They'd have to completely redesign the mfood slots to accept a Magic Band tap and card swipe. And I don't think anyone would have the patience to smooth paper money out for slots, so for cash customers they'd probably be better off selling tokens at a kiosk, but that would add to the atmosphere because you'd have that satisfying *clink* Grandma and Grandpa had dropping in two nickels for a piece of pie. Obviously it wouldn't be for everybody but I know I'd enjoy it.

Nanook said...

Dear All-

Thanks for continuing to add to the wealth of information so often on display here at GDB-! I never cease to be amazed at our collective knowledge: Cream Check, Capybara and "Rulb-ratcher"-!

To put the (1941) bulb pricing in perspective in today's $$'s - we're looking at the following: 10¢ = $1.59; 13¢ = $2.06; & 15¢ = $2.38. Obviously, not a small amount for those times - fresh from coming out of the Depression.

Another 'oddity' in the "knowledge dept." concerns this very issue of bulb 'stealing'. Back in the early days of the NY Subway (and, undoubtedly, other systems as well), the lighting source were a series of individual, bare bulbs, lining the upper portion of the wall in each train car. For whatever reason rather than provide some sort of globe or protection to each lamp, a special "left-hand thread socket and left-hand thread base on each bulb supposedly eliminated bulb theft - or "bulbsnatching!"

I can still remember how older billboards - the ones displayed at ground level - often incorporated dark green wooden lattice work, of some sort - as pictured in the last image. They were often set-apart from the hubbub of busy city life, with placement upon a landscaped area bordering a highway - or occupying an island all their own - usually with a manicured lawn. Here's a link that captures one style - although without the lovely manicured lawn. Or this one, which fits the description a bit better. (This 1942 image was taken a couple of blocks west of Western Av. on Wilshire Bl.)

Melissa- I love your idea of Disney re-creating an Automat. But I can only guess at how the "technology" would cause so much fascination with Guests, the lines would be endless.

Melissa said...

Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I think the automat concept would only work in the modern parks is as a prepaid all you can eat buffet. The buffet would just be dished up behind doors instead of in a traditional steam table.

Anonymous said...

This discussion lends some more humor to a line from a Rat Pack live performance album I have.

In Dean Martin's monologue in the Las Vegas show, he urges the audience to go with him to the Stardust and "...steal some bulbs."

Now, this is a funny enough image, a bunch of drunk show-goers unscrewing light bulbs from the hotel marquee, but now, I think the phrase was probably "current" in the vocabulary of the day, and may have had more comic connotation then than now.

Agreeing with Nanook, I love the stories here. thank you Everyone, especially Major.