So an amazing thing happened yesterday: Questionable Advice hit the 100,000 tumblr followers mark! I am truly, truly overwhelmed. Way back in the beginning (2010) I honestly didn’t expect any followers for my tumblr made of weird bits of history and when I actually hit 10 followers I did a little happy dance. But 100K! Even if I assume a certain percentage are no longer active/spam accounts/people looking for an auto-follow, that’s still an impressive amount of people who were at least momentarily interested in QA enough to hit the “follow” button. I am….well, sort of speechless. So thank you, wonderful tumblr people for making my strange little hobby so much more fun by sharing it with me. :)
loud-silent said: This blog is fantastic! Where do you find all of the content?
Thank you so much! It really makes my day when someone gets in touch to say that they like QA.
I’ve been collecting random bits of history for years, but there is so much great stuff online that I’ve really only posted from a small portion of my collection. A lot of the online stuff comes from museum collections, other blogs, and - of course - the wonderful Internet Archive. If I found it online I credit the source in the post. If there is no source link given then the post probably came from one of my many piles of misc stuff.
First, Questionable Advice has hit 10,000 followers! That’s amazing people - thank you so much! Although you can’t see it (and you should be grateful that you can’t) I am doing the happy dance.
Also, I’ve started a facebook page as a place to post the vast amounts of interesting history-adjacent stuff that doesn’t really fit here on my tumblr. So if you’re interested in vintage kitchens, strange recipes and other historic bits and pieces please come visit.
Thanks again everyone for taking an interest in Questionable Advice - you’ve really made me happy.
I wanted to say a big “thank you” to everyone who has taken notice of my tiny corner of the internet over the last year. My last post was number 1,000 and I am amazed at how quickly that seemed to happen. I don’t know if I would have kept going if people hadn’t expressed an interest in what I was doing, so Thank You to everyone on tumblr and out there in internet-land!
bayberrydreams said: LOVED this: http://questionableadvice.tumblr.com/post/2759788380
and it reminded me of this: http://itwasnow.tumblr.com/post/2504494182/womens-suffrage-vs-states-rights with the "pacifism, socialism, and other isms" bit XD
and being an inveterate historysquee, i just had to share :)
Thank you for pointing out that letter! It was so great that I had to reblog it over at starfishpaws. It’s a perfect reminder that even when our ancestors were doing things we consider silly they often had serious and well thought out (for the times) motives for doing them. And it’s nice to meet a fellow historysquee!
I think I’ve managed to add comments functionality to the site (at least it appears to be working). I’m not entirely happy with the location of the comments tag, as it’s hard to tell if it is at the bottom of one post or the top of the next, so I may have to fuss with that.
In Jack Finney’s classic time travel novel Time and Again, the protagonist learns that the past still exists and time travel is possible if you replace all the “uncountable millions of threads that…bind us” to our current place in history with the corresponding “threads” of a time in the past. These threads are made up of things we don’t even consciously acknowledge: “you know the year, the day and the month, for literally millions of reasons: because the blanket you woke up under may have been at least partly synthetic…because red and green lights signaled when you might cross a street…because the soles of the shoes you walked in are a synthetic that will outlast leather.” (1)
Reading that started me thinking about how all the tiny strands of what we now call “pop culture” tie us to the time we live in. For example, I was born in the late 20th century and as a result something as simple as the word “spam” can bring to my mind anything from potted meat, unwanted email, or a Monty Python sketch, depending on the context. If I suggest jokingly that someone “can’t handle the truth”, the chances are good that most people about my age will understand that I’m refering to the movie "A Few Good Men". Although the specifics change over time, the tendency to use shared cultural references to connect with the people in our lives isn’t a new one, and vintage advertisements are a great source of these references - they have a wide audience that crosses many class divisions and are recognizable to people that may not have been familiar with the latest novels, plays or music. In addition, due to the longevity of some products, advertisements can “cross time” and reach out to people a century after they were first relevant: an ad for cigarettes can speak to someone born in 1895 as well as someone born in 1995, although it will say something different to each.
Advertisements can also be viewed as a form of societal advice. For example, the number of advertisements for deodorants and soaps increased over the twentieth century as cultural standards for personal hygiene changed. By ignoring the increase in these ads a person would in effect be ignoring society’s “advice” in this area and which would have resulted in real life consequences. But of course society has been handing out advice a lot larger than it’s been advertising face cream, and publications such as cook books, fashion magazines, and almanacs are good places to find examples of advice from older time periods.
One type of advice that seems to have existed in all time periods refers to an earlier period as the “good old days” while predicting that recent changes will result in the Destruction of Society. In just about any time period you can find examples of people bemoaning the antics of the “younger generation” and worrying that the newest changes will result in the disintegration of society. Predictions that society is “going to hell in a handbasket” have resulted from dancing the waltz, reading novels, roller skating, playing the harp, coeducation in higher education, women’s suffrage, reading the sports page, solving crossword puzzles, singing in church, reading comic books and drinking tea, among other things. In particular, as Steven Pinker notes (below), new forms of mass media always seem to give rise to doom-saying, and just within the last century the end of society has been predicted as resulting from radio, television, movies, video games and the internet.
In the end, both advice and advertisements give us a way to understand that while the specifics of culture change over the generations, in the end humans have always been interested in, and worried about, the same things: raising healthy children, getting old, being popular, finding love, conforming to cultural norms, etc. The details may change, but the big picture stays the same.
MIND OVER MASS MEDIA
The New York Times
By Steven Pinker
Published June 10, 2010
NEW forms of media have always caused moral panics: the printing press, newspapers, paperbacks and television were all once denounced as threats to their consumers’ brainpower and moral fiber…
But such panics often fail basic reality checks. When comic books were accused of turning juveniles into delinquents in the 1950s, crime was falling to record lows, just as the denunciation of video games in the 1990s coincided with the great American crime decline. The decades of television, transistor radios and rock videos were also decades in which I.Q. scores rose continuously…
Media critics write as if the brain takes on the qualities of whatever it consumes, the informational equivalent of “you are what you eat.” As with primitive peoples who believe that eating fierce animals will make them fierce, they assume that watching quick cuts in rock videos turn your mental life into quick cuts or that reading bullet points and Twitter postings turns your thoughts into bullet points and Twitter postings.
(1) Time and Again, Jack Finney, 1970. (If you haven’t already read this you really, really should.)
What about you? Why do like the bits and pieces of the past?
Thank you to everyone who has taken an interest in Centuries of Advice and Advertisements! It’s nice to know that other people are also interested in the bits and pieces of history that I collect and post. :)
I wanted to say a big “Thank You” to everyone on an RSS feed and all the Tumblr users who are following Centuries of Advice & Advertisements!
fantasticna asked: Your blog is so much fun! :)
Thanks! And thanks for taking the time to write - it’s nice to hear from people. :)