Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Strange Images from Advertising - The Coca-Cola Swastika

One of the informal things I like most about being a historian is coming upon ads and consumer goods that are extremely anachronistic now, but really hit upon the zeitgeist and language of a particular time-period. These ads, in retrospect, are often horribly racist, sexist, or classist (though that isn't to say advertising has lost any of these qualities today), but the fact that they do tap into something that was perhaps popular and/or effective at another time makes for a delightful mixture of amusement and unease.

Which is why this watch-fob promoting Coca-Cola on a Swastika is so remarkable. Of course, as many will comment, the Swastika well pre-dates the Nazi Party in Germany, and can be found in India, among indigenous cultures in the United States (including decorations adorning the Kimo Theater in Albuquerque). Still, this is one of those promotionals that you know you will never see in the Western World again, all because of their associations with the Nazis and with Hitler specifically (much in the way toothbrush mustaches just don't appear anymore).

Of course, the Coca-Cola swastika made sense at its time - Coca-Cola attaching its name to a symbol that meant (in a pre-Nazi time) good luck and good health was actually a rather innovating and relatively harmless ad campaign for the early 1900s. Still, there's something really strange about seeing those things now, even in looking to the past.