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This Day in History, 1943: Companies fight Hitler with imaginative ads

Everyone was being urged to be part of the war effort, even civilians back in Canada

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The Second World War was in its fourth year in March, 1943. The front page headlines at the time were about the Allies fighting Rommel and his Afrika Korps in North Africa, and the Red Army and the Germans locked in a titanic struggle in the Soviet Union.

Everyone was being urged to be part of the war effort, even civilians back in Canada. Companies joined the fight with ads exhorting Canadians to show their patriotism, often by buying their products.

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The ads from private companies can be as striking as the more familiar government posters. The Ford Motor Company, for example, took out a dramatic ad in the March 20, 1943 Province that invited viewers to “Watch the ‘43 Fords go by!”

But the ’43 Fords weren’t regular vehicles — the ad showed the tanks, military trucks and ambulances the company was building for the army.

“There they go … splitting the air with the roar of their powerful, driving engines,” said the ad. “Not the streamlined automobiles of yesterday, not yet the exciting new cars of tomorrow. These are the snub-nosed battle horses of today’s war.”

Tip Top Tailors showed its contribution to “serving the finest armed forces in the world” with an ad titled “The World’s Best Dressed Men:” three Canadian soldiers rushing into battle with their riles, bayonets drawn.

“In achieving an almost unheard-of rate of production of uniforms, we are proud to have served as one example of the power of Canada’s productive effort,” said Tip Top.

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“The World’s Best Dressed Men” Tip Top Tailors ad in the March 26, 1943 Vancouver Province. sun

Many ads were aimed at women, particularly those working in wartime factories. General Electric had an ad in the March 23 Vancouver Sun titled “They Call Me a Production Soldier.”

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It showed a stoic woman, hair tied in a Rosie the Riveter head scarf, and lines like “Her bugle call is a factory whistle. Her battle dress is an overall. But make no mistake about it, she is an important factor in the nation’s war machine.”

Of course, there were still men working at home. Burrard Dry Dock had an ad with a male welder lifting up the front of his welding helmet with the message “Sure It’s Tough … But So Are We!”

Some of the ads are pretty funny, like a Crisco ad featuring a woman stating “My frying pan has a war job now — frying ‘short order’ meals that are easy to digest!”

Palmolive soap had an ad featuring an attractive female factory worker being propositioned with “Okay sugar … your time’s rationed, but you look sweet to me!”

“Jeepers! When I took this job at the plant, I figured I’d given up my complexion for my country,” it read.

“No time for hours with beauty preparations. Just quick soap-and water cleansing two minutes a day with Palmolive soap … Yet here was Ted, the handsomest man at the plant, asking for a DATE!”

There was a big wartime housing shortage, so The Province ran ad for its classified section titled “Is Hitler sleeping at your house?”

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“Few know where the arch-criminal rests his weary, wicked head,” it read. “But if you have a spare room that you are not renting to a war worker, you are, in effect, housing Hitler.”

There was also a shortage of materials. The Sun had an ad titled “Carry The SCRAP to Hitler!” that featured an illustration of various scrap materials being flung in the Fuhrer’s eye.

“There is an acute shortage of essential war materials, and every citizen faces the patriotic duty to salvage even the most trivial amount of these materials,” it stated. “You may not realize it, but … There are BOMBS in YOUR basement!”

One of the most famous Second World War propaganda posters is “Loose lips sink ships,” an American phrase coined to stop shipyard workers from spreading information to German spies.

The British Columbia Distillery employed another phrase, “Let’s Cut The Cackle,” in its own ad, which was titled “Fishing … For What?”

It showed three workers fishing in what appears to be Burrard Inlet, and the warning “words that tell of the war goods manufactured in your plant — words that will cost the lives of your husband, son or brother … that’s the prize catch for the fisher of information, the enemy agent.”

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“Watch the 43 Fords go by” ad in the March 20, 1943 Vancouver Province. sun
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Crisco wartime ad featuring a woman stating “My frying pan has a war job now — frying ‘short order means that are easy to digest!” Ran in the March 18, 1943 Vancouver Province. sun
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“Fishing … For What?” ad in the Aug. 25, 1943 Vancouver Sun. sun
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“Sure It’s Tough … But So Are We!” Burrard Dry Dock ad in the April 3, 1943 Vancouver Sun. sun
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The full “Carry The Scrap to Hitler” ad in the March 31, 1943 Vancouver Sun. sun
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“Is Hitler sleeping at your house?” ad in the March 19, 1943 Vancouver Province. The ad is for the Province’s classified ad section — it suggests listing a room for rent is a patriotic duty. sun
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“Okay sugar … your time’s rationed, but you look sweet to me!” ad for Palmolive soap in the March 27, 1943 Vancouver Province. sun
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“They call me a production soldier” ad for General Electric in the March 23, 1943 Vancouver Sun. This Second World War ad was one of many promoting the war effort on the home front, in this case saluting a woman who is working in a factory producing war goods. sun
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“Are brave men dying because you faltered?” ad in the Feb. 3, 1942 Vancouver Sun. War ads like this were a feature of Vancouver newspapers throughout the Second World War. This ad urges Canadians to “put equal weapons in the hands (of Canadian soldiers) and they will defeat the foe.” sun
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Many Second World War ads were whimsical, injecting a bit of fun into the wartime shortages at home. This Aunt Jemima pancake ad, for example, uses a civil defence employee and a factory worker who are excited at the prospect of chowing down some Aunt Jemima buckwheat pancakes. Ran in the March 19, 1943 Vancouver Sun. sun
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During fundraising drives for the Red Cross during the Second World War, many companies sponsored Red Cross newspaper ads. This dramatic ad was paid for by the House of Seagram and ran in the May 16, 1943 Vancouver Sun. sun

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