Australian mid-century advertising

In the spirit of the Olympic games I thought I should share some fantastic ads from the year of Melbourne’s own Olympic games, 1956.  We have a very good friend who has an amazing collection of Olympics memorabilia and is possibly too busy to read this post as he will be transfixed by the current games.  With the purchase of our mid-century modern home he was very generous in giving us a fantastic house-warming gift, an original Olympics edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly from November 1956!

The articles, advertisements and even letters to the editor provide a wondrous insight into 1950s Australia.  While the focus is the Olympics, there are also handy hints for keeping your home and garden neat and tidy, socialite pages and even suggestions for Christmas lunches (only 1 month away)!

We immediately selected six of our favorite ads to scan and print, to decorate our kitchen walls.

1956 Australian Women’s Weekly Ads
1956 Australian Women’s Weekly Ads

We loved the description in this ad of ‘the jungle growth’ and how the new Victa lawn mower could clear it (including blackberries)!  There is still a real sense of pioneering and clearing the land to establish the family’s dream home and garden.  Clearly with ‘5000 square feet of lawns’ they were yet to embrace the Australian bush garden!  I also love how the husband is reclining and reading the paper while his wife is mowing the lawn!

Victa Mower Ad – Australian Women’s Weekly, November 1956

While an ad for a brand new washing machine, I love this one purely for the inclusion of the butterfly chair.  As I have mentioned previously, this chair is an icon of modernist gardens and courtyards.  I’m not sure how you could recline the way this lady is though!

Stampco Washing Machine Ad – Australian Women’s Weekly, November 1956

What Australian backyard would be without a Hills Hoist?  This lady agrees that it’s the ‘best present I could ask for’!  But wait, there is more!  While mother is hanging the washing, father can relax in his Hills “Comfort” Folding Chair!  In today’s gardens we try to hide the clothes line out of sight, but the versatility of the Hills Hoist provides a sun shade for Summer enjoyment of the back yard!

Hills Hoist Ad – Australian Women’s Weekly, November 1956

Being published in November, there was clearly a focus on the approaching Summer months and outdoor activities of Australians.  The beach was beckoning so you would definitely need the latest in beach towel fashion, and could even ‘make your own gown’ with the towel material available by the yard!

SuperTex Ad – Australian Women’s Weekly, November 1956

These next couple of ads aren’t specifically concerning the outdoors, but I love the mid-century interiors displayed.  This one is selling Marlite panelling as ‘The new way to smarter interior decoration’!

Marlite Ad – Australian Women’s Weekly, November 1956

‘It must have been designed by a women!’

Hoover Ad – Australian Women’s Weekly, November 1956

Like house and garden magazines of today, the ads and articles are all very practical and focused on maintaining, improving and living in your home.  With Summer around the corner, Australians could embrace the outdoors, clean up their gardens and entertain.  The integrated inside/outside design that modernist architects and landscape designers were developing and promoting lent itself perfectly to these ideals.  The husband reclines on his covered patio (while his wife mows the lawn!), the floor to ceiling windows let the light flood in across the brand new Marlite panelling and the practical location of the hills hoist allows the clothes to dry efficiently, while also providing shade when the neighbours call in for a refreshment!

There are plenty more goodies in the magazine, including some great house plans that were possibly part of the Small Homes Service.  I hope to get these posted as soon as I can as part of more Australian mid-century design investigation!


5 thoughts on “Australian mid-century advertising

  1. Jason, you may be interested to know that the Glen Iris brickworks made commemorative 1956 Olympic bricks. The recessed “frog” at the top of each brick, which is concealed when the brick is laid, has the 5 ring Olympic symbol raised with “Glen Iris” and “1956” printed. I have re-used clean examples laid on edge for a retrovation to a 1956 house, and they make a great feature.


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