Today we have robots scattered throughout the solar system, but space seems farther away than ever. That's why it's amazing to look back at this gallery of advertisements from the mid-twentieth century, when space travel seemed right around the corner.
These images come from an incredible article in the New York Times today about Megan Shaw Prelinger's forthcoming book, Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957-1962. I was lucky enough to see an early version of Prelinger's book, coming out in May, and these images are just one small part of the visual feast in store for you. Not only is Prelinger an accomplished archivist and researcher - she created the open source Prelinger Library in San Francisco - but she's also got a background in art criticism. The book is a meticulous record of our hopes for space exploration at mid-century, as well as an analysis of the artistic influences that permeated these ads - which look a lot like science fiction book covers of the same era.
As the New York Times puts it:
Some of the most extravagant . . . visions of the future came not from cheap paperbacks, but from corporations buffing their high-tech credentials and recruiting engineering talent in the heady days when zooming budgets for defense and NASA had created a gold rush in outer space.
In the pages of magazines like Aviation Week, Missiles and Rockets and even Fortune, companies, some famous and some now obscure, were engaged in a sort of leapfrog of dreams. And so, for example, Republic Aviation of Farmingdale, N.Y. - "Designers and Builders of the Incomparable Thundercraft" - could be found bragging in Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine in 1959 about the lunar gardening experiments it was doing for a future Air Force base on the moon.
Or the American Bosch Arma Corporation showing off, in Fortune, its "Cosmic Butterfly," a solar-powered electrically propelled vehicle to ferry passengers and cargo across the solar system.
Check out the story at the NY Times, and check out Prelinger's book at Blast Books.