[Posted on behalf of Shaun Kirkpatrick]
On October 20, Archives Month Philly descended on the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Old City for the Othmer Library‘s open house, “The Golden Age of Science Advertising.”
An array of mid-20th-century (mostly 1950s-70s) advertising from the chemical industry served as the evening’s focal point. Visitors were mesmerized by ads and related marketing or public relations records that were by turns colorful, entertaining, surprising, and “signs of the times.” A vivid illustration of this last point was the contrast between the pride with which Dow Chemical Company boasted of its contributions to the war effort during World War II (such as its innovation of Saran wrap, originally for military use), and the defensive posture it took in response to 1960s anti-war protests thanks to its most (in)famous product of the Vietnam era: napalm.
Not to be left out, the Othmer’s rare books also had their moment in the sun, showcasing some of the most interesting “Othmeralia” that has been featured on the library’s Tumblr feed and other social media. In quick succession, visitors at one point discovered the turn-of-the-century marketing of a novelty called push pins, an amusing ad for that elusive “greatest pickle summer ever”(!), and one otherwise-forgettable 1942 engineering magazine containing the early artwork of an unforgettable artist: a young Dr. Seuss.
The Othmer rounded out the open house’s feast for the eyes with a light but inviting spread of food and drink, an opportunity for the creatively inclined to “make your own” ad, and a pleasing slideshow of photographs from the library’s continually-impressive collections.