Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1947: Tough as a Marine


Back in 1947, Popular Mechanics had a mostly-male audience and that meant they attracted ads that would also appeal to men, including men who were interested in muscles, beef cake, and "tools" of another nature. 

This "Tough as a Marine" ad (above) actually has quite a bit of history behind it.  George Fiusdale Jowett (pictured) was a strongman/ bodybuilder/self-promoter.   By the time the ad was included in the April 1947 Popular Mechanics, George had already established a very successful mail order business, for which he wrote and sold this and many other booklets with titles like "How to Mold a Mighty Wrist",and "How to Mold Mighty Arms".  One booklet, "Molding Mighty Muscles", which sold for 25 cents, sold 25 million copies!  He was also one of the early pioneers to use the "he-man doesn't get sand kicked in his face" type of advertising, promoting that weak guys who are tired of getting bullied could become strong through the secrets he was willing to share (for money of course).  These ads promoted self-esteem as much as muscles (and they worked...at least in selling his booklets).

Born in  Bradford, Yorkshire, England, at 19 George went to Canada as a young man, where for 11 years (with the exception of 3 years in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces during WWI) he worked as a blacksmith.   By the late 1930's, George had five corporations and offices in Australia, New Zealand, parts of Europe, Britain, and the Far East.  His students included Hollywood actor Tom Mix, the Weider brothers, and Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan). It's reported that Weissmuller was so impressed with the Seat of Health device that he endorsed it free of charge.  The story goes that George was muscular  enough but not thought to be "movie star" material himself.
Mr. America Alan Stephan took out a full-page ad (below) in the same magazine:
Alan signed up for the navy and after the war he was discharged on April 2, 1946, exactly two months before he would win the very first bodybuilding contest he entered: the 1946 AAU Mr. America. Several weeks later, he joined weightlifter Frank Kay and photographer Al Urban (already featured in this VGMH series) on television for Bob Wright's show, Human Interest in the News, which would mark the first time that posing plus lifting had been featured on American television. Blonde and very buff, Alan became sexy beef cake gold long before the 1950's wave of magazines. 

Magazines were important communication tools and provided information and entertainment.  And if getting mail-order muscles wasn't your thing, how about a scooter!

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