Back in the 1970s, a cigarette brand,
Virginia Slims, had a long-running ad campaign with the tag line
“You’ve come a long way, baby”. Remember that? Something that
happend to me last week made me think of that old line.
A friend called one evening; and she
said when going through her late husband’s large collection of papers
and documents, she found four very old copies of Grainews’
regularly appear in that publication as well, so she asked if I’d
like to have them.
The four issues she gave me dated from
1941, 1950, 1952 and 1961. As I sat scanning through them, the ads
from companies vying for farmers’ dollars back then really stood out
In the 1952 issue, there were some
pretty interesting examples. The first noteworthy one was for
International Harvester trucks. Underneath a drawing of three
different models—all the ads used drawings rather than photos back
then—was this statement. “Here’s easy handling in armchair
comfort of the Comfo-Vision cab.” I’ve ridden in a fifties-vintage
IH truck and armchair comfort is not a description that comes to
mind. That seems to say a lot about how we now define comfort in a
To help with traction, Bombardier had
picture showed a 9N Ford tractor all kitted out with them. And if you
wanted floatation instead of traction, a wholesaler had an ad for
“bomber tires” to install on any farm machine. There was likely
still lots of war surplus gear making its way through civilian use at
And Cockshutt had splurged on a very
large ad boasting you could get hydraulics and a belt pulley on the
same tractor with their model 40.
There was also one particular article
that caught my eye. It was a gathering celebrating the 20th
anniversary of a record-setting event from 1932. It was a marathon
ploughing challenge, which covered 6,880 acres using a diesel
Caterpillar crawler. It didn’t mention which model of Cat was used.
The cost of fuel, oil and lubricants for that exercise worked out to
7.78 cents per acre! Using the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator,
that works out to about $1.20 in today’s dollars.
And just to put an exclamation point on
how much things have changed, one of the most notable ads in that
issue was for an asbestos-cement wall board for barns, emphasizing
its fireproofing benefits. The ad claimed it was “the ideal
material for a farm building”. How many millions of dollars have
been spent in North America getting asbestos out of buildings in the
last couple of decades, not to mention treating the health effects from exposure to it?
We’ve come a long way, baby.