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Ad Man West: 1954

Ad Man West: 1954

Back to my Uncle Albert in his office at the Foote, Cone and Belding advertising agency in San Francisco's Russ Building about 1954. Amid a fine selection of period office accouterments, including a space-saver phone and cigarette ashes, he's working on this ad. As Vice-President and Production Manager, he was in charge of layout, design, graphics and typography, and also for such accounts as Southern Pacific, Dole Pineapple and Pacific Bell.

Albert's interest in fine printing and typography led to his amassing a significant collection of manuscripts, first editions, prints and other art, much of which now resides at institutions like Stanford, UCLA and Berkeley. In particular, his collection of over 1000 books, drawings, etchings and correspondence of the English sculptor, printmaker and typeface designer (as in Gill Sans) Eric Gill is at the Gleeson Library of the University of San Francisco. View full size.

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I always look forward to posts by tterrace. The details you remember are amazing. I can hardly remember what I did last week.


Looks like Uncle Albert is using an old stamping or embossing die as a paperweight in his pile of paperwork. Probably worn out or left over from and earlier campaign.

[He operated his own private letterpress, so it's probably an artifact of that. -tterrace]

Russ Bldg

I just found out a few weeks ago that my grandfather worked in that same building, possibly at the same time. I visited it on 4/9/14--the lobby is a lot fancier than you would guess from this interior. Attached is a crappy cellphone picture of the medallion on the front walkway.

Roma Wine was a big sponsor of the "Suspense" radio series, which you can hear online, with the (verbal) ads intact.


Uncle Albert's word processor was a Royal Quiet DeLuxe portable typewriter. It sits in the bottom half of its natty tweed carrying case (the lid had detachable hinges) ready to go.

The Real Mad Men

Uncle Albert is too busy burning the midnight oil getting that latest pitch completed to engage in any Don Draper antics!

Roma Wine

When Virginia Dare just isn't good enough!

Foote, Cone & Belding

FCB was then, and is now, one of the major players in the advertising world. As an illustrator and graphic designer since 1972, I find your uncle's history very interesting!


Love how he's wearing suspenders, and a fully buttoned vest, and a tie, and two pens in his pocket, and seems to have a watch fob chain. Probably has a handsome belt on as well. You can almost see his morning ritual of dressing for the day.

Sheaffer Pen

Uncle Albert has a Sheaffer Snorkel (White Dot) fountain pen in his vest pocket. The Snorkel, one of Sheaffer’s most popular pens, was produced in the 1950s, and had approximately 12 different versions with a wide array of available colors. The PFM (Pen For Men) was released in the late 1950s, and although many collectors think of it as one of Sheaffer’s finest pens, it was not very successful.

Roma Wines

Dripless bottles were a specialty of Fresno-based Roma Wines. Founded in 1915, by the 1930s it was the world's largest wine producer. Schenley Whiskey bought the company from its founders in 1942 and sold it to Guild Wineries in 1971. Various ownership changes soon followed and the brand name appears to have disappeared by the late 1970s.

Two phones!

One for Red, one for White? Oh, and could you please SPEAK UP, I can't hear you over the drapes.

The ad

Click for an end to ruinous wine stains.

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