Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Future of America (57 years ago)

Picture above are two pages from "The Future of America," a 24-page, staplebound booklet published in 1954. It was prepared for The Advertising Council by McCann Erickson1 "as a public service." The back page of this copy indicates that it was issued as part of the "Western Electric Booklet Rack Service For Employees."

Some excerpts from the booklet:
  • "Since you opened this booklet, a baby has been born. By this time tomorrow, your country will have 11,000 new Americans. By next month, a city the size of Syracuse will have been added to the strength of your nation."
  • "All these babies need food and how! A job first for the farmer, perhaps. And to meet it efficiently, farmers must buy machines, and that can help create new jobs all over America."
  • "Billions of dollars worth of new schools are needed -- because we must nearly double the existing system. ... Money spent in this construction creates work for bricklayers, masons, plumbers, architects, real estate brokers, construction workers and many others. In turn, everything they buy for themselves just adds new UP to everybody's opportunity for prosperity."
  • "The tremendous backlog of needs that must be met does not even include the billions that the electrical industry needs to invest. Demand for electrical energy is expected to increase by 250% by 1975."
  • "Highway transport is another industry moving ahead. For example, in the expansion plans of the entire automobile industry two manufacturers alone have immediate plans to spend $1¼ billion while one oil company alone plans a $500 million expansion program. ... (This need is pressing, too, for today's roads are carrying 55 million vehicles, 72% more than in 1940.)"2
  • "Right now we need 100 billion dollars worth of new homes."3
  • "America science continues to give us miraculous developments in electronics, jets, rockets, chemistry, which are opening broad new fields of opportunity. We stand at the very beginning of the new atomic world."4
  • "It all adds up to a ... $500,000,000,0005 OPPORTUNITY RIGHT NOW...because this staggering sum should be spent immediately just to meet current actual needs."

Man, in just 24 pages, I think they used the world "billions" more than Carl Sagan.

Below is another pair of pages from "The Future of America" booklet. An interesting note (but certainly not a surprise) is that all 33 people pictured in the booklet are caucasian. And, even with that, none of the caucasians have the slightest touch of ethnicity to them. (The good news is that, by 1971, McCann Erickson had properly recognized how to exploit the power of feel-good multiculturalism in advertising, as that was when the advertising agency introduced Coca-Cola's "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" hilltop commercial to the masses.)

1. McCann Erickson, now McCann Worldgroup, was formed in 1930 by the merger of advertising companies run by Alfred Erickson and Harry McCann. Among its other advertising campaigns: MasterCard's "There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's MasterCard" and the Rice-a-Roni jingle.
2. I was wincing as I typed that excerpt. And not just because I'm in agreement with some of James Howard Kunstler's writings.
3. Are we sensing a trend?
4. Here's a week's worth of sobering reading: Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents. Or, if you read just one, check out "Nuclear and radiation accidents."
5. That's $500 billion, if you don't wish to count the zeroes.


  1. That 2nd shot reminds me of "Mad Men" and the inappropriate clothes the Draper daughter was starting to wear.

  2. Interesting that you should say that, Maureen. One thing I considered adding to this entry was the tidbit that on the fictional show "Mad Men", Draper's company, Sterling Cooper, is acquired by the real-life McCann Erickson, leading Draper to start his own firm.