Thursday, February 28, 2013

Trademarks of Nature (Ethyl Gasoline, 1940-1948)

 Good morning!

I was all bound and determined to do a forties' fashion post today, but as I was looking around Google books for suitable material, I fell a little bit in love with, of all things, a series of advertisements for ethyl gasoline. Do I honestly know what that is? Well, no. For all I know, what I'm putting in my car at Kroger's Fuel Center on a bi-monthly basis is watered down popcorn oil-- ignorance is a gross understatement of the state of my mechanical and automotive knowledge. However! I DO know that I love any kind of scientific (ish) drawings of strange, real life creatures, and that, my friends, is what these advertisements are really about.

Take a look:

Armadillo, with an expression like "Who're you callin' 'prehistoric', bub?!"

The banner reads "When you meet these odd creatures, the TRADEMARKS of NATURE identify them for you; when you buy gasoline, the TRADEMARK of ETHYL identifies gasoline stepped up with 'Ethyl' anti-knock compound". I love that the ad straight up calls these creatures out as "odd". Look at that horseshoe crab's underpinnings! And that angry, angry gila monster!

Imagine being a little kid in the pre-Animal Planet, pre-Steve-Irwin 1940's, and seeing some of these weirdo strangeo creatures in fully detailed illustrations, one page across from the more familiar territory of a brunette hawking hair color treatments or a housewife expounding upon the virtues of Folger's. Your socks would be blown right off, don't you think? An actual flying squirrel? The only one of these you may have seen in person as an American eight year old in 1940 is a praying mantis. Otherwise, barring a trip to your local zoo, you may have never even heard of some of these things! Isn't that wild to think about?

You'd better believe I was excited about this whole ad on apes and monkeys. 

While capuchin monkeys are a huge part of any average Youtube video search in our household (that, Stevie Nicks videos, forties' movie trailers, and To Catch a Predator clips dominate our "Your Recommended Videos" feed), seeing one wearing a coat and carrying a staff is touching my undersized human heart. I actually had no idea that their name comes from their pelt and markings' similarities to the habit of a Capuchin monk.You learn something every day! I thought the creature on the right was called a "Han-human", which is hilarious to me, but it turns out it's just a "Hanuman". See how its black brow and face give it a weirdly severe look!

The language of the copy is just adorable, in case you weren't squinting to read the little captions. "Beetling brows", a "devil-mask face" and "tousled mops of long red hair" are the defining characteristics of the above three creatures, respectively. Also, I don't know if its his body language, or the crazy clothes and the trumpet, but I think this chimpanzee below looks less "jolly" and more "dRUNK". I think there may be a similar picture of this monkey freshman year of college, on a girls' floor in violation of visiting hours, horn in hand. "Get that tricycle out of here before the RA sees you!"

The banner for this set read: "When you go down to the sea, the TRADEMARKS of NATURE identify these salty giants!" I have to be honest, these categories are killing me-- odd creatures, apes and monkeys, and salty sea life. All my favorites, covered. Did you know another name for a Manta ray is a "Devil fish"? The caption "The huge devilfish (or Manta) may be easily recognized by a pair of "horns" that Satan himself would be proud of." The italics are my own, but OH MY GOD, DID YOU JUST READ THAT. I officially want to be an ad copywriter for this company, today, now.

I told you guys back in January how impressed I was by the Chattanooga Aquarium when we went for Matthew's birthday... in the future, I really am going to try to make more of an effort to visit aquariums and zoos when I'm traveling out of city and out of state. I think I was so conditioned by my parents' die-hard vacation planning insistence on only museums and only zoos and aquariums that I only ever want to go see the "World's Largest Peanut" or an "Internationally Famous Potato Chip Collection", or similarly hokey-hokum kind of exhibitions when I go on vacation. As an adult, I think I can appreciate how actually awe-inspiring these kind of things are much more than I could when I was a kid, when I mainly wanted to see if the gift store had anything weird encased in lucite for me to take home as a souvenir.

Finally, the reason behind these ads! Look how trim that guy looks in his high waisted denim and his smart little cap. Don't you wish there were still full service stations staffed with guys you'd like to give the eye to? I do! If only so I don't have to get out of my car on cold, cold mornings when I've forgotten I'm almost on "E"!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed these little creatures as much as I did. Which one is your favorite? Do you think any of these animals would have their feelings hurt if they read this issue of Life and saw all their faults laid out for the world to see? Do you have any old encyclopedias or children's books with similarly bizarre animals on display?

That's all for today-- see you guys tomorrow for Photo Friday!


  1. Omigod! Vintage monkey pics?!?' You've been reading my dream journal again

    1. Hahaha, you know it! How about that hanuman?

  2. Replies
    1. Your "Which one am I?!?! Can I be more than one?!?!" comment on Facebook was a near fatal blow this morning. LAUGHED. SO. HARD.

  3. lol "that satan himself would be proud of." That is amazing.

    I love the fascinating/disturbing way animals are depicted in old illustrations. I've got some biology books from the 50's that make all of nature look like a Grimm's fairy tale. :)

    1. I read that satan line twice like, "Did I just read this right?!"

      And I totally agree about vintage animal illustrations, they do look entirely too sinister most of the time, these included!

  4. Hey! Long time no see! I was at G-ma's farm one summer with the kids and we were hit with a swarm of huge praying mantis-es. These were fully eight inches long, tan in color and they were flying. Fortunately, my boys are as cold blooded and clinical as their Mother, so we just enjoyed the freaky happening. My father used to feed a mantis that lived in the hedge out front of the house. It grabbed the flies he offerd at the speed of light and ate them alive with a cavalier tilt of the head.

    1. Mrs. Leapheart, I missed you!! Seriously! :)

      I can just see you and your fearless sons, with the detachment of scientists, watching all these crazy looking insects descend upon the farm. I always *want* to be the one who is clinical and disinterested, but I always seem to be the one who's sang-froid personified up until one of the creepy crawlies threatens to touch me. Then I shriek like the wimp I have always been. How human that mantis must have looked tucking into the flies your dad fed him like they were hamburgers. "Thanks, man! My favorite! How'dja know!"



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