During WWII, many companies stopped producing the civilian goods that they were best known for. Instead, these companies contributed to the war effort by making products necessary for American soldiers. Scranton Craftspun Curtains, for example, switched from making lace curtains to camouflage covers, mosquito nets and parachutes. By touting their wartime conversions, companies kept their brands in the public’s mind, while achieving patriotic cachet.
Here’s a WWII-era ad for Scranton Craftspun Curtains. Click on the thumbnail to see it larger and read the narrative.
The copy is written from the point of view of a trench soldier somewhere in Japan:
“Have you ever sat, inches from death, not daring to move a muscle, while Zeros zoomed overhead — looking for you — personally?
“Well — that’s my act out here. And it might be a whole lot worse, ’cause, you see, in between Tojo and me there’s a magic veil that even those dirty little squint-eyes can’t penetrate — a couple of yards of lace net that remind me of —
“Say, isn’t it the darndest thing what a fellow thinks of out here? Lace Curtains! Female stuff!
“Maybe. But, to me, Mom’s lace net curtains always spell home. Whenever it was curtain-washing time, round our house, it was like being caught with your camouflage down!
“And Mom loved her net curtains, too. Never forget her working on Pop for new ones for the living room. She, allowing that hers were five years old and completely out of style … and Pop telling her they were as good as new! That made her boil! She’d claim she’d never buy Scranton Craftspun ones again — they lasted too long, with their tied-in-place weave.
“I don’t guess Mom’s think much of my new net ‘curtains’ — and I’m sure she’d never go for swapping her window screens for my Scranton mosquito netting. But I have a hunch that this year she’ll be humming as she washes those old Scranton jobs — happy she’s helping keep that little extra something between Tojo and me.”
* * *
Right now, the great looms that gave you exquisite Scranton Craftspun* Curtains and Lace Dinner Cloths are weaving weapons of war for the boys out there … camouflage nets and mosquito netting. Skilled workers, who sewed in hems and headings, are building parachutes. For, Scranton’s new line is the front line. So why not hang up a couple of Bonds instead — just between Tojo and you.
You could spend a few hours talking about all the subjects and rhetorical devices brought up by this ad. The phenomenon of advertising without a product to sell is interesting, but you could go beyond that. You could talk about the gendering of war vs. housework, the racist characterization of the Japanese, the appeals to patriotism, the construction of a personalized, in-your-face theater of battle where homefront=front line, etc.