Consumer Culture: 1959-60

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TV commercial for 1959 Chevrolet station wagon.

The following are from the site All these items should be expanded and/or references added. But at any rate, here are some of the more interesting items from that list to get things started:
  • "Think Small" campaign from Volkwagon. In 1999 Advertising Age picked this as the number one ad campaign of the century! Must of worked because VW will sell 120,000 cars in the U.S. this year, which is four times the number sold in 1955.
  • Barbie is released
  • Pantyhose are introduced
  • Aluminum beer cans are introduced by Coors.
  • The Nikon F 35-mm. single-lens reflex camera is introduced by Nippon Kogaku K.K.
  • Maxwell House inaugurates the "Good to the last drop" ad campaign.
  • The BIC ballpoint pen is introduced in America
  • Metrecal is introduced by the 59-year-old Mead Johnson Company of Evansville, Ind. as a weight reducing aid. It will be the forerunner of all other dietary products such as SlimFast and others.
  • Denny's emerges from 'Danny's Coffee Shops'
  • U.S. supermarkets number 32,000 and account for 69 percent of all food store sales although they comprise only 11 percent of food stores.
  • Four Seasons and The Brasserie open in new Seagram Building
  • A banner year for imported passenger cars. Some 668,070 of them. Up from 21,287 in 1950.The trend will reverse itself and by 1961 when there are only 279,437 imports.
  • There are 36,981 motor vehicle related deaths. While in the air, there were 8 accidents resulting in 125 fatalities.
  • One billionth can of Spam sold.

The Mini: A modern icon

By Morven Philp, Gulf News Web Report
Published: May 04, 2009, 00:16

The Mini was invented in 1959 by Sir Alec Issigonis. He was given the challenge of designing an affordable car which could seat four adults, yet be small enough for them to travel in safety. He came up with the idea of the Mini.

The car was initially seen as the being the choice of housewives, but achieved iconic status in the 60s, when Formula 1 World Champion Constructor John Cooper designed the first Mini Cooper. The car hit the streets in 1961 and became one of the major symbols of 60s fashion, particularly when stars like the Beatles shunned bigger, more luxurious cars in favour of the more modest Mini.

It was during this time that the trend for customising the cars began. This has continued into the present day with most Minis having some kind of modification to make them stand out. Flags painted on the roof, go-faster stripes, checkerboard designs and furry seats are just some of ways owners ensure their Mini remains unique.

The Mini has maintained its status as an icon of British culture throughout the decades, but its popularity took a slight dip in the 80s. The Cooper had been ditched in 1971 to make way for the Mini Metro, which failed to capture the public's affection like its predecessor. During that decade, new owners Rover brought out a vast number of special editions, just enough to keep Minis in production.

In the early 90s the Mini Cooper was relaunched, with a bigger engine and added safety features. The car's popularity skyrocketed during this period, particularly in Japan, with its kitsch status appealing to a new generation.

One of the biggest changes undergone by Mini was in 2001 when BMW took over from British Motor Corporation and produced a newer version, working under the brand name MINI. The car is substantially larger than Issigonis' original design and has significant changes, but has gained status and cult popularity in its own right.

Part of the charm of a Mini is just how tiny it actually is. Original Minis measured 3.05m in length, 1.4 metres in width and 1.35 m in height. In comparison, another car which is basking in a retro revival is the Volkswagen Beetle, which is substantially bigger, measuring 4.1m x 1.7m x 1.5m.

The tiny size of the car did not prevent 21 college students in Malaysia from beating a world record in June this year when they squeezed into a Mini at Subang Java in Kuala Lumpur, smashing the previous record of 18 people.

There is little doubt that Mini owners are passionate about their cars. Recent advertising campaigns have boosted the appeal of the car greatly, insuring future generations will be enjoying their own Mini adventures for years to come.



By the mid 50s dressmaking patterns made by pattern companies like Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity and Vogue were vastly improved. The little dressmaker had all but vanished, so middle class women began to take up dressmaking as a useful hobby.
Image: patterns, 1959.

Image: Yves Saint Laurent for Dior, 1959

  • This is the first Barbie commercial that first aired during Mickey Mouse Club in 1959.