Come a long way: 75 years of good, bad, ugly air cargo ads

The calendar has finally turned over to 2017, and so begins Air Cargo World’s celebration of our long history – 75 years, in fact. Beginning in October 1942, when U.S. forces were battling in Guadalcanal and the Soviets began to turn the tide against Hitler in Stalingrad, founder John F. Budd began publication of Air Transportation magazine, which covered the then-nascent industry of air cargo and later, after several name changes, became Air Cargo World in 1983.

Throughout this year, ACW will celebrate its proud history as the leading voice of the global airfreight business, with monthly articles sampling the archived stories from our eight decades of coverage. Beginning with our February issue, we will relive the best moments of air cargo journalism, from the Berlin Airlift to the rise of Amazon.

But first, while we take our New Year’s holiday break today, we thought we’d get some of the more awkward moments out of the way. While poring over our archives, our staff were struck by some of the old advertisements in Air Transportation that reflected outdated attitudes about foreign cultures and the roles of women in the workplace.

For example, there’s this Air Transportation cartoon ad from 1948 for an early pioneer executive in the air cargo business who used to work for Northwest Airlines. At first it seems merely quaint, until you notice the offensive caricature that is used in one of the panels.


In the 1950s, cartoons were still popular to describe the merits of express airfreight for a low price, as seen in this 1953 ad (below) for the old Flying Tiger Line. Today’s reader might be a bit taken aback by the three-martini-lunch lifestyles of the cargo executives depicted, complete with scantily clad cocktail waitresses and an overall aesthetic more akin to the Don Draper character of AMC TV’s “Mad Men.”


By the 1960s, more sophisticated graphics were used, but the representation of women had hardly progressed, as can be seen in this 1965 Pan Am ad that showed a woman living a James-Bond-like life as a secret agent in Brazil, being wooed by “cargo cats” who “really swing together.”  Oh, behave!…


Rest assured, today’s ACW readers will never be subjected to ads like these ads again, but we will continue the magazine’s tradition of bringing you the best, most innovative stories about 21st century airfreight logistics. Stay tuned for more celebrations of air cargo journalism from ACW’s archives that will leave you stirred, not shaken.

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