Vintage fountain pen ads are always entertaining. Often hoaky, and usually too wordy, they wouldn’t hold up in today’s ad campaigns. These days 10 words and an oversized, engaging image is thought of as a solid ad. In the early 1920s, you’d get several paragraphs, if not a complete page of copy, that few people read all the way through.
Early attempts at more image heavy ads seem to convey odd messages. No doubt this Sheaffer ad was supposed to be highly romantic. The couple sure looks swell in their evening clothes.
However, on closer examination, doesn’t it seem–a generation after the women’s lib movement–highly disturbing that the man is holding the woman’s hand as she writes. First off, who can write with someone holding their hand? Second, isn’t it almost creepy that he could well be trying to control her hand?
With one hand on her hip, it looks as if she has moxie enough to squirt that guy in the eye with her vintage Sheaffer fountain pen. Nevertheless, he’s still there guiding away.
Oddly missing is an obvious price. Only in the fine print can you discover that the rolled gold set is $16 and the solid gold set is $68. Imagine a solid gold pen-pencil set today going for $68. At the time, however, a Model T Ford was going for somewhere in the vicinity of $200. No doubt you could have gotten a used car for less than $68.
In case you can’t read the normal-sized text, the copy is written from the woman’s perspective, thanking the man for the fountain pen and pencil set. She describes the box the set comes in as “cunning.” She also establishes that “all” women hate sharpening pencils and that the companion mechanical pencil is basically making all of her dreams a reality.
To blazes with diamond rings, necklaces, flowers, chocolates and other traditional gifts of love on Christmas. What every woman really wants is a mechanical pencil in a cunning box so she doesn’t have to sharpen any more pencils.
Why didn’t somebody tell me that years ago?! At least I know I won’t be single this Yuletide season.
Comments and responses are welcome.