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1940s Products, Technology
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Consumer Products use during the 1940s

health & beauty

Evening In Paris
L'Air Du Temps (1948)
Chantilly (1941)

health & hygiene
Ivory soap
Lifebuoy soap
Lux soap
Remington electric razor for women (1940)
nylon-bristle toothbrushes
Ipana toothpaste

Vanity Treasures
Avon History
The Soda Museum

cosmetics & hair care
Max Factor makeup
Toni home perms
bobby pins
leg makeup
Prell shampoo
Woodbury Cold Cream
Breck shampoo
nylon-bristle hairbrushes
Lady Esther cosmetics

In 1939, the California Perfume Company changed its name to Avon, and its door-to-door representatives became Avon Ladies.

& drink

meals & snacks
Kellogg's Corn-Soya Shreds cereal
Quaker Oats
biscuit mixes
Kraft products
Green Giant vegetables
Swift Premium bacon
Birds-Eye frozen vegetables
Grape Nuts Flakes cereal
Cheerioats (1941, became Cheerios 1945)
Town Talk bread
corn dogs (1942)

dessert, candy
Salerno cookies
ice cream in Dixie cups
Pillsbury pie crust mix (1945)
Betty Crocker cake mix (1947)
Dannon yogurt (1942)
Reddi-Wip whipped cream (1948)
M&M's (1941)
Junior Mints (1949)

Borden dairy products
milk in bottles
Dr. Pepper
Orange Crush
Pepsi Cola
Hires Root Beer

Chase & Sanborn
Manor House



Lucky Strike
Old Gold
Pall Mall
Philip Morris
silver & gold cigarette cases
cigarette lighters

Let's face it: people smoked in the 1940s. It wasn't the nasty habit that it is today, it was just another thing that adults did. Images of people smoking were all around us, and no one gave it a second thought.

The average store in the 1940s carried more smoking accessories (lighters, ashtrays, cigarette cases) than the stores of today. These items were fancier than their modern-day counterparts....made of silver, cigarette cases were often engraved and were meant to be kept. Tobacco companies were among the top advertisers of their day, and at Christmastime many brands came in holiday packaging to encourage people to give cartons of cigarettes as gifts.

other products
Dixie cups
Hallmark cards & stationery
ball-point pen (1943)
aluminum foil (1947)
electric blanket (1946)
Dreft dish detergent
waterproof diaper covers (1949)
Thrivo dog food

Greeting Card & Postcard Museum
Invention of The Ball-Point Pen
Invention Of Waterproof Diaper Covers


typical prices

Philco table model automatic
pair of women's shoes..................$6.00
3 cakes of Ivory soap....................29c
nylon stockings (1947)..................$1.29/pr
Manor House coffee.....................49c/lb
Pilot portable TV..........................$99.50
Westinghouse TV..........................$326.25
DuMont cabinet TV.......................$995
potatoes (10 lbs)..............................69c
1 dozen eggs....................................45c
Kraft dinner.....................................13c
Gold Medal flour (25 lb bag)............$1.85



78 RPM: the consumer speed
Before 1948, the average listener purchased 78 RPM records. They were ten inches wide, made of shellac, and each side contained approximately four minutes of music.

There was one problem with four minutes per side, longer musical selections (classical and Broadway) required several discs. This was truly the era of the "box set!"

long-playing records
In 1948, Columbia introduced the long-playing record (LP). These new records were made of vinyl and played at 33 1/3 RPM. At first, they came in both 10-inch and 12-inch formats, but 10-inch LPs proved unpopular and were phased out in the 1950s. They were designed with classical music in 23 minutes per side, an entire symphony could fit on one record.

magnetic tape recording
Machines using magnetic paper and tape for sound recording were developed in Germany in the 1930s. At the close of World War II, American troops found some of these machines and sent them back to the U.S., where they were copied and improved. Magnetic tape recorders became available to the American public in 1947, and were first used primarily by the record and radio industry.

During the 1940s, radios became smaller and lighter, thanks to the new plastics that were developed in the 1930s. It became popular to combine radios with other features, such as alarm clocks or phonographs. Most nightstands had clock-radios, and many living rooms had combination radio-phonograph consoles.

FM broadcasting was catching on, and the sale of FM and AM/FM radios was increasing. Between 1945 and 1948, older FM radios were rendered obsolete when the FCC moved the designated FM frequency band. During the transition, you could buy a radio that had both FM bands on it, or you could purchase a converter kit.

45 RPM records
In 1949, RCA introduced the 45 RPM record. These discs were seven inches wide, made of durable vinyl plastic, and were perfect for short popular tunes.

playing your new records
In 1948, Philco was the first company to produce a phonograph that could play LPs. Before 78s were phased out in the 1950s, manufacturers sold phonographs that could play all three speeds and sizes:

Zenith Cobra Tone Arm...
Plays 7, 10, 12 inch records!
33 1/3, 45, 78 RPM!
Plays both old and new type records automatically, with a single permanent sapphire stylus.

In 1938, the first mass-produced electronic television sets went on the market. By the time commercial broadcasting began in 1941, nearly 8,000 sets had been sold.

After a period of wartime dormancy, production resumed in 1946. By 1948, there were 24 different models available for sale. In 1949, Americans purchased 250,000 television sets every month, and more than three million homes had a set.

In the late 1940s, there were many television styles to choose from. You could purchase a large floor model with mahogany cabinets and folding doors, or a smaller table-top model. Most sets had 10-inch screens, which were round or rectangular with extremely rounded corners. Some models had screens as small as five inches or as large as 14 inches. To increase the picture size, you could mount a huge, oil-filled magnifying glass over the screen.

popular TV models in the late 1940s
RCA Victor

The Development Of The LP
Wolverine Antique Music Society
Bill's 78 RPM Beginner's Page
TV Sets & Prices
Radios Using The Old FM Band
FM-Only Radios
FM Converter Advertisement


The Working World

"Number, please?"

telephone answering systems
Before 1949, AT&T didn't allow the use of telephone recording devices on public phone lines. They could be used on private lines within a company, but not to record incoming calls. During the 1920s and 1930s, many of the companies that produced dictation machines also produced cylinder answering machines. These included the Dictaphone Telecord and the Edison Telediphone. In the late 1940s, the Ipsophon could be accessed remotely by dialing the machine and blowing a whistle to activate message playback.

In the 1940s, the public was demanding answering machine service. AT&T still didn't want recorders on their lines, so they developed technology that would forward calls to live answering services. This solved the problem for businesses that needed around-the-clock phone monitoring.

In 1949, AT&T realized that the rental of answering machines could be very profitable, and began to permit recorders on public lines.

office dictation
Record companies stopped using wax cylinders for musical recordings in the 1920s, but offices still used them for dictation well into the 1940s. You could purchase a box of wax blanks, record on them and then shave them for reuse. The Dictaphone and the Edison Voicewriter were popular cylinder dictation machines.

Machines that used 8-inch plastic discs as the recording medium were developed during the war. Memovox, Soundscriber and the Gray Audograph were some of the first disc models.

Gray Audograph

The Edison Company jumped on the bandwagon in the mid 1940s and introduced their new Disc Voicewriter, which used distinctive red discs.

Wire recorders used a thin steel wire as the recording medium. Both the Pierce and Webster wire recorders provided an alternative to discs in the 1940s.

In 1947, the Dictaphone Company replaced wax cylinders with flexible embossed plastic belts. The Dictaphone Time-Master Dictating Machine and its dictabelt revolutionized the industry.

Kitty Foyle & The American White-Collar Girl
Song Of A Successful Secretary
Teleprinter Museum
The Dictaphone
Dictation Technology: The War Years
Dictation Technology: Post-War
History Of The Wire Recorder

jobs of the 1940s
soda jerks
elevator operators
cigarette girls
gas station attendants
telephone operators
door-to-door salesmen
telegram delivery boys
department store floorwalkers
doctors making house calls
streetcar conductors
----- teletype
Offices that subscribed to a teletype service could use teleprinters and telegraph lines to send text messages directly to other offices. This was certainly quicker and easier than sending a telegram. In the United States, most companies used the TWX teletype service, which was launched by AT&T in 1931. The Telex network was a global teletype service established in 1932. During the 1940s, approximately 20,000 stations were connected to the TWX service.

private telegraph services
Some industries required the services of a private telegraph line to transmit special items directly to the office. Radio stations and newspapers were hooked up to various news services, and photos were transmitted via the Associated Press Wire-Photo Network. Banks transmitted signatures with the teleautograph, police stations received photos of fugitive criminals, and brokerage firms received stock quotes with the stock ticker.

In the 1940s, the average blue-collar worker earned $53 per week. The war years were very prosperous for workers and large-scale farmers. Factories and defense plants were operating three shifts, which created 17 million new jobs and raised America's level of employment to 100 percent. The average work week increased from 38 to 47 hours, giving everyone a fat paycheck. The income of the average worker increased 300 percent, while the cash income of the average large-scale farmer increased by 400 percent.

white-collar girls
The American white-collar office girl was young, single and pretty. She took the subway to her downtown office, ate lunch at the corner drugstore, and was impeccably dressed in a suit, hat and gloves. She took dictation, typed like a whirlwind and knew the office filing system like the back of her hand.

blue-collar girls
During the war, women took the jobs that were left vacant when the men enlisted. Wartime ladies worked in factories, warehouses, repair shops and service stations. Farm wives fired up their tractors and kept the fields planted and plowed. While the mailman was completing his tour of duty, his wife was completing his postal delivery route. These ladies wore one-piece coveralls and kept their hair clean and out of the way under stylish scarves called do-rags.

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