In elemental ways, magazines have not really changed all that much in the past, say, 75 years or so. A striking cover image; some snappy cover lines; a number of articles, some long, some short; and all of the editorial “content,” whether words or photos, surrounded by ads — which, of course, along with subscriptions, help pay the bills and keep the issues coming, week after week, month after month.
In other respects, though, the magazines of three-quarters of a century ago could not have been more different than today’s.
For example: take a look at those ads that we just mentioned. In almost any World War II-era issue of any magazine, you’ll notice two striking characteristics of the ads that differentiate them from those in most contemporary publications. First, there are all those words. Scores, sometimes even hundreds of words, as if the copywriters had been instructed not to get the point across as succinctly and memorably as possible, but to compose a kind of rhetorical argument — or maybe weave a short story — around why the reader should buy a particular cigarette, tire or light bulb.
Second, almost without exception, the ads one encountered in the midst of WWII referenced the conflict, obliquely or directly, to an extent that is mind-boggling today. Anyone seeking proof that the war effort of the 1940s permeated every aspect of everyday American life need only consider magazine ads of the time. From the makers of pens to booze to cars, anyone who was selling anything found a way to tie their product to the fight against the Axis.
Here, on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, are 10 examples of ads from TIME in June 1944 — ads that illustrate the era’s intricate nexus of commerce, patriotism and warfare as clearly, and as candidly, as we’re ever likely to see.
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