Making a Christmas list in 1939

life magazine cover

Most vintage lovers could happily lose themselves on a Sunday afternoon with a stack of old magazines, a cup of coffee and a box of cookies. We all have our niche special interest publications, but the grand and glorious Life magazine would probably be on everyone’s most loved list.

It’s December 4, 1939. Your Life magazine cost 10¢. Franklin Roosevelt is president. College students are inexplicably swallowing goldfish (not the Pepperidge Farm kind). The first Superman comic is published. The Baseball Hall of Fame opens in Cooperstown. LaGuardia Airport opens (but it won’t be called that for a while). Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz premiere. The US declares it’s neutrality in World War II. And these were some of the advertisements meant to tempt shoppers.

Rogers brothers ad

We can’t be sure if Mother stopped giving thanks for the gift, but Rogers Bros. silver plate is definitely the gift that keeps on giving. There are still plenty of pieces in use, probably in your own home. But we all like some Rogers Bros. in that mix and match set of silver plate flatware, right?

kodak camera

The power to record your own movies reaches back to when cell phones were a SciFi movie gimmick. Which they still are sometimes…


Not exactly a page torn out of the classic O. Henry story The Gift of the Magi, but a touching scene nonetheless.

xmas toy ad

Contack may be a “sensational new game” and Quick Wit may have “exciting questions and answers.” But most of us will never know because they have evaporated from the American landscape. Sorry, Monopoly and Lionel trains have hung in there okay. And it’s just possible that those trains might not just be for boys.

vintage Schwenn ad

We’ve always had a need for speed and independence.

sled ad

And the willingness to go downhill fast. 

playtex ad

And we still love the convenience of a small, inexpensive and already gift packaged stocking stuffer.


If you are lucky enough to have had the weekend off, enjoy this last day. There’s still time to try a couple of the things from our 50 non-mall related Black Friday activities post. And give yourself a break, take time to have another cup of coffee.

Thanks to everyone who shopped small businesses and will continue to shop small businesses like the ones the team behind this blog curate and operate with pride. 

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  1. Seeing “Life” magazine through your eyes, Laurie, is even better than reading it for myself.

    Still not sure what to make of the Playtex mitts though. The ad says they are made of “creamy liquid latex” which seems like there would be a bunch of soggy stockings on Christmas morning. (Guess that’s one of the marketing pitches you’re not supposed to take literally. 🙂

  2. It brings a tear to my eyes to see the bright optimism of Christmas and the hope that things will be better in the approaching New Year during the late years of the Depression. Thank you!

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