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As Advertised: 1939

As Advertised: 1939

Spring 1939. "Drugstore window in Washington, D.C." Medium format acetate negative by David Moffat Myers for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

First Editions

At least four of the books shown are still in print. I think I have a couple in my library from roughly the date of this photo.

Such a Deal

Even adjusted for inflation those whisk brooms are a deal at $1.84 in today's dollars. Cheapest whisk brooms I could find on Amazon cost $4.32.

[$2.83 at Walmart. - Dave]

Going Viral

From a 1937 TIME magazine article: “The 541 cigar stores of United Cigar-Whelan Stores Corp., which dot the country like an attack of measles, have long been filled to bursting with Mickey Mouse watches, G-Man automatics, shoe trees ... ”

Whelan's Drugs

Another label recognized

I also recognize the Fitch's Shampoo. That line of products was a staple in the barber shop when I was a kid. Fred Fitch also developed one of the first types of anti-dandruff shampoos.

A drugstore!!

I've noticed Shorpy has not featured drugstore photos recently, so I was delighted to see this one. Thanks! Also, I wonder when "films" lost the "s"? I presume the word refers to the item you put into a camera and took back to have developed.

Pipe tools

Those three-part items (reamer, tamper, pick) for 10¢ or 25¢, lower right, between what I take to be zippered pipe/tobacco pouches for a buck.

Box of 25 cigars for 69¢

At that price, I’d resume smoking. Also, I’ll take one of those whisk brooms for a dime, please.


According to one obscure chart I found, the average annual salary for a public school teacher (for example) in Washington DC in 1939 was $2,350.

[Indeed. Relative to 1939, the number of hours (or minutes) the average person has to work in 2019 to buy something like a toothbrush or a whisk broom is so inconsequential, no store would bother advertising them, much less create a window display. - Dave]

Related to United Cigars - and Marvel Comics!

Interesting history of Whelan Drugs:

What the world needs

... is a good five-cent cigar at 25 for 69 cents!

National brands

I'm not quite 70 but I recognize two products in the window. They're both at left: Lavoris, which I remember as the palatable mouthwash, as opposed to the intensely medicinal Listerine. The other is Castoria, which I vaguely recall, only from TV commercials, as Fletcher's Castoria.

Not so cheap

The bottle of vitamins at $1.49 would go for almost $26 today, and $18 for the 98 cent pan.

Try to find one

A public telephone, that is.

As advertised -- Don't take our word for it

Of course everyone will remark on the prices, but I notice there's not a single brand name in the whole store window (not the signs in the window, the window itself) that I recognize and I'm 70, so it's not like they are before my time.

I do like how they have posted the newspaper ad in the window along with the items advertised so that you can know you are getting the advertised price.

I give those 98-cent drugstore frypans about a week to last.

Now if I could just figure out what a "public telephone" was --

Vitamin G

We call it riboflavin these days.


I love these old store photos. Shows you how much inflation we have really had.

Fingers of Fear

From the Amazon description of the book in the display window:

Ruined in the stock market crash of 1929, Selden Seaforth is on the verge of homelessness and starvation when he gets a lucky break: an old school friend, Ormond Ormes, hires him to catalogue the collection of rare books in the library at the mansion of Ormesby.

The mansion has a reputation for being haunted by ghosts, but Seaforth quickly finds out that ghosts are the least of his worries: the house is also inhabited by a bizarre family of madwomen, not to mention possibly vampires, werewolves, and the undead ...

[J.U. Nicolson was evidently big on alliteration. - Dave]

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