Ads from the JN
(William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History)

Looking back at historical advertisements featured in the Detroit Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish News.

It is time again for a Looking Back that looks back at a few historical advertisements from the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History. As I cruise through the Archive every week, I see hundreds of ads in the Detroit Jewish Chronicle and the JN. I select the best and save them for future columns.  

I must admit, I just love the old ads. However, as I’ve stated before, I also consider them to be revealing windows into our past that speak of the trends and events that affected American society.  

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair

Advertisements during WWII (1939-1945) prove my point. For example, consider the ad announcing “Ben Pupko’s Big Freeze” in the May 1, 1942, issue of the Chronicle. It begins by stating that Ben’s prices have already been “frozen much below the levels that the O.P.A. wants maintained …” The O.P.A. is an acronym for the federal Office of Price Administration. Established in 1941, this agency was responsible for controlling prices of all goods but agricultural products and rationing of key commodities such as meat, coffee and sugar as well as tires and gasoline. 

The advertisement for curtains also noted that Pupko always had a “warm-spot in his heart for low prices.” Moreover, since he started his business in 1939, he had waged a “little private war of his own against high prices.” I’m glad Pupko was on our side! 

There were other interesting ads from the WWII era. In the Aug. 28, 1945, JN, shortly after Japan surrendered, the Grand River Chevrolet Co. ran an ad declaring “Sorry, We Have No New Autos for Sale Now.” It would appear to be a weird ad for a car dealership, but not when one considers that all of America’s automobile companies had shifted to war production and had yet to resume making cars for the private market. However, this dealer would make your old car as good as new.

From 1948
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

Two beer ads from the era also caught my eye. Before the recent wave of lite-beers, E&B from Detroit said “Eat, Drink and Don’t Worry” (March 27, 1942). A few years later, Schmidt’s Beer advertised that its beverage was “dietetically non-fattening” (Feb. 20, 1948). The fine print in both ads noted that their low-calorie claims were relative to other “foods on your table.”

One of my favorites was for the “Miracle Working, Scientific Discovery” that is “Swerl Soap: The Magic Suds” (Jan. 1, 1948, JN). Folks, this soap could do it all — “dishes shine without wiping,” “renews the beauty of fine fabrics” and “bubble bath with no soap ring.” So, the lesson is: whether washing dishes, clothes or the kids, use Swerl. And, it was kosher to boot!   

From 1984
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

An ad showing two tykes staring at the screen in the Sept. 22, 1972, JN asked: “Do Your Children Get Their Thrills From TV?” If you would like them to read more, then the Dorothy S. Orent Reading Center could help. Replace the TV in the ad with an iPad or Tablet, and the quest for better reading for children might still be relevant nearly 50 years later.

I’ll close with a very important advertisement from Sept. 21, 1984: “The Jewish News is Your Window to the World.” 

It still is. 

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at

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