"Pleasure helps your disposition."

And you thought contemporary advertising was crass and insulting.

This week, a new exhibit of antique cigarette ads called Not a Cough in a Car Load: Images Used by Tobacco Companies to Hide the Hazards of Smoking opens at The New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library's Healy Hall (188 Madison Avenue). I've just become addicted to Mad Men and this exhibit represent a startling period of advertising history that the show addresses directly as well. The exhibit is also represented in an extremely dense and thorough online gallery.

'I like giving what they like getting.'
Say it's presents, dear God, please say you mean presents...

According to the site, the exhibit intends to tell "the story of how, between the late 1920s and the early 1950s, tobacco companies used deceptive and often patently false claims in an effort to reassure the public of the safety of their products." Two particularly savory slogans from the ads include "It’s a psychological fact: Pleasure helps your disposition" (Camel) and "Gee, Mommy you sure enjoy your Marlboros."

One particularly thoughtful function of the exhibit is the 'Then and Now' gallery, which contrasts ads of decades past to current ones. Some are nearly identical. Take these two ads, which advocate that age-old trick of blowing toxic smoke in your girl's face to turn her on.

The brand name on the right translates to 'Chick Repellent'
Click image to enlarge.

Much like Mad Men, these images portray a time when the act of buying and selling a product was vastly different then it is now (although our willingness to be told what we want to hear hasn't changed much at all). But more than anything else, these advertisements represent a time when it was okay to hope you'd find a couple dozen cartons of Viceroys under the tree on Christmas morning.

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