Better Homes and Gardens, November 1947

I often think of ladies’/women’s magazines as a “snapshot of the time.”  I don’t tend to read current ones, but when my mom digs something from a dusty hidey-hole and sends it across an ocean for my viewing enjoyment, I pay attention.

Hard times were written all over the magazine. I expected spreads of beautiful technicolor tables adorned with turkeys and weird pink jello molds, but more often found advertisements like this as well as articles concerning grassroots social justice and making do.  At the same time, there was plenty of practical advice for buying a starter home and furnishing it with new shiny goods.

“America’s fuel shortage is critical this winter, almost as critical as the war years…That means we must again conserve as much fuel as possible, as we did during the war…. You’ll sacrifice comfort and convenience, but the chances are your health will improve.  Most people keep their homes too warm… (Tip) 12. Don’t turn up the thermostat when you have guests.  Give them a choice of sweaters and jackets to put on.  Anyway, the more guests you have the warmer the room is likely to be.”

An advertisement by “Can Manufacturers Institute, Inc, NY.”  It assures me canned vegetables are superior to raw foods, then offers a recipe for “Hallelujah Ham: Remove a whole boned ham from its can and drain…” Can you still buy those?  A whole boned ham in a can?  Is there a chance canned vegetables actually are more nutritious?

Most of the recipes in the magazine seem to come from food manufacturers.

Sensible idea to shred leftover turkey, make it into a sandwich filling, and freeze it.  All the convenience of SPAM, but you know what goes into it and no turkey goes to waste.  I might do that with my chicken leftovers…

Ah, here’s the turkey shot. Wait, that’s ducks! I feel better about my dainty Thanksgiving chickens.  I might see if my father-in-law ever prepares his roast duck this way.  We can’t get “Citrusip” (undoubtedly), but grapefruit with orange sounds interesting.

It wasn’t all “making do,” either.  I especially love the advertisements for washing machines- I’d dance around like that if I’d always done laundry by hand.  Consumerism had such a hopeful, relieved tone after the war.  (I can’t help but editorialize!)

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans.

(I prepared this for last night’s post, but our internet had a paralysis issue.  Inexplicably, it corrected itself sometime this afternoon.)


  1. Love the post! I have some of my grandmother’s cookbooks. There is one titled the ‘all colour cookbook’ – the first time one was printed entirely in colour apparently. The dishes in there don’t really interest me (unless I have a retro party at some point) but I keep it as a reminder of how far we have come in some regards. I love my full colour cookbooks and food magazines and checking out each aspect of the images! I hate making things without a picture, although sometimes it is a nice surprise.

    • Sometimes I try a recipe or tips unearthed in a ladies’ magazine and I’m pleasantly surprised… But I agree, mostly the dishes seem cloying or just plain weird. Or I could never find the particular ingredients.. :)

  2. I love old mags as well. As I recall, Grandma had a wash tub that gyrated the clothes, but you had to use the mangle on top to wring them out before hanging on the line. Sounds like 1947 saw the introduction of the spin dry action! I hadn’t realised there were still shortages in the US post WWII. One hears all about the rationing here in Britain that went on well into the 50s and it sounds like with all the strikes and such that the 60s and 70s were pretty grim as well. For all that, hardly anyone seems to know how to sew over here. My sewing/craft group is a bunch of old ladies (mean age about 75) who retired 10-15 years ago from a sewing factory. Strangely, they don’t tend to make clothes, but to buy second hand and alter them. And most of them knit rather than sew. Happy day after um, chicken day!

    • I find I’m fascinated by the late 40’s… I like the clothes, but the more I read and think about it, the more I can see it as a time of major transition.

      That’s so interesting about the ladies sewing group. :) Maybe as we all have to learn to “make do” more and more, sewing will become a commonplace skill.


  3. Power conservation is reality here in Japan since the meltdown. It’s amazing to me how one power plant out of commission affects the entire nation, but it does. I was worried about being cold this winter, but this advice from 1947 is as relevant to me today as it was back then! At least, it’s a good excuse to bring out all my afghans and quilts and pile them on the back of the couch for a quick snuggle when chilly! Thanks for sharing this great timeless advice.

    • I’ve been keeping an eye on stories out of Japan about “new conservation” of power.. It’s really interesting. I might have to pick a few of the best “make do” type articles and post. :)

      I’m still scratching my head about offering sweaters and jackets to guests… I find sweaters are more comfy “at home” than jackets… Besides, wouldn’t people wear their own sweaters? So many questions…

  4. When my parents bought a new (old) house in the late nineties, renovations revealed a stash of WWII era magazines in one of the ceilings, tucked between floor joists. It was really fascinating… I should pull them out and photograph some sometime. One piece that stood out to me was a short story (fiction) that really perfectly highlighted the snobbery and image-consciousness of the time, as well as the stigma surrounding divorce.

    Funny, I’ve heard lots of family stories from the 30s, but not so much about the WWII era, except that my Dad was born while rationing was still in effect…

    • Wow! What an amazing find! There’s treasure everywhere.. I really like the fiction, too. There’s just something about it, the words are the same words we use more or less, but it creates an entirely different world…

      My family don’t talk about the war much, either. Maybe no one’s family does.

  5. How much does an entire ham in a can weigh? Do you sue the grocery store, the ham company, the can manufacturers institute or jump limp away quietly when you drop 30 pounds of pig on your foot?

    • Hehehe. Maybe it’s vacuum packed, so when you crack the seal the entire ham springs forth… Like novelty snakes-in-a-can.

      Maybe it was a can-sized chunk of ham.

  6. I have an old recipe book (from the 50s, mostly) and there are PAGES of recipes for sandwich spreads. You were really expected to feed your leftover bits through the grinder with some pickle and put that on bread for your family’s lunches.

    If things ever get really tight… I have the perfect set of information. Or, if I ever need 100 recipes for jello. :)

    • Well, the grinder seems like a reasonable way to use up leftover meat… We don’t eat much here, but my husband will make a roast every now and then and have cold slices of it on bread for a lunch… Same thing, I guess.. I’m not really a big fan of teeny pieces of meat, but if you knew what was going into it….? Right?

      • My Mum had a grinder (she called it a mincer) when I was a child and she would put tomato, onion and corned silverside through it and make a filling for our sandwiches or turn it into the base of a Shepherd’s pie for dinner, the night after we had corned beef. I also had roast meat and rissole sandwiches on occasion. In fact at school, that would have been considered my most normal lunch as I usually at salami and smelly cheeses that none of the other children in my primary school classes had ever eaten! Left over roast beef and chicken was always turned into a curry. It is only in recent years that I have been able to eat chicken curry after this. I really didn’t enjoy roast chicken curry. All of these options were much better than the mystery meat we got for dinner at college though!

  7. Thanks for your thoughtful comment on my blog – hanging things to air and give the creases a chance to drop out makes perfect sense. Good luck getting your clothes rail!

    I love the magazine you’ve featured – it puts todays austerity culture to shame really. I adore the idea of offering guests sweaters and jackets to put on – I wonder how that would go down today :)

  8. I sometimes have to ask my hosts for sweaters and wraps – NZ is so cold! I do keep a couple of wool lap blankets over the back of my couch for guests and snuggling.

    Of course, where you live offering your guests hand fans might be a better idea ;-)

  9. I actually really like cooking out of the old pamphlets and things. Most of the ones my mom has (that I really really need to scan!) are from the ’50s and ’60s, but some of the ones my Gramma has are older than that.

    Actually, one of my favourite cake recipes is from the 1920s! It’s leavened with eggs, layers amazingly, and with a crusting buttercream will keep in the fridge or covered in a cool area for a few days. I’ve tried making cooked frosting before, but I failed miserably. I think I need more practise.

    • That cake sounds amazing… I do like “trying out” very different types of home techniques from old times… It shows me that the current way of doing something wasn’t always the norm and for some reason I find that comforting.

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