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Advertisement  for 1949 Ford station wagon, 'It's a Dream Wagon... this '49 Ford'

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Advertisement for 1949 Ford station wagon, "It's a Dream Wagon... this '49 Ford"
Ford Motor Company

IN CONTEXT

This object appears in the following sections:


Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949
Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 — Making the Sale

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“It's a Dream Wagon... this '49 Ford”
Currently on display
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection

In the postwar baby boom years, Ford's pitch for its station wagon both emphasized safety and comfort, and called the two doors “a blessing to parents of small children.” As more Americans moved to the suburbs, and depended more heavily on the automobile for transportation, the station wagon became a much more popular vehicle. This advertisement's imagery, with scenes of picnicking and a day of fun by the pool, suggested that owning a station wagon made the purchaser a part of a middle class and affluent life, where leisure and family activities took on a prominent role.

Physical Description
advertisement
Details
Date Made:
1949
Locations:
Michigan
Note:
Detroit
History

During World War II, American auto manufacturers stopped making cars and converted their assembly lines and factories over to war production. The supply of new automobiles dried up. Reverting to peacetime production took a while: American factories produced fewer cars in 1945 (dealers sold just under 70,000 cars) than they had in 1909, before the advent of mass production. Pent-up demand and short supply caused consumers to buy any and all varieties of automobile—even the offering from the Kaiser-Frazer Company, which was a new entry into the automobile market at war’s end. In the fluid years after the war, independent car makers like Nash and Studebaker grabbed a bigger market share than they had before the war. But as output soared—in 1950, car companies sold six million cars—competition heated up.

Late 1940s and early 1950s automobile advertising reflects that competition. As more and more cars were sold in the late 1940s and early 1950s, just simply owning a car was no longer a sign of high social status. So advertisements tried to create market niches for various vehicles, and sold the postwar car as a symbol of whatever variant of the American dream took your fancy. Satirist and novelist John Keats declared, in 1957, that “Detroit believes, and operates on the theory that Americans don’t buy automobiles, but instead buy dreams of sex, speed, power, and wealth.” The text and imagery of car advertisements show how marketers tried to make automobiles a symbol of the owner’s personality and psyche.


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