Megan Prelingerhas done society a great service: by publishing a book of commercial space advertisements from the 1950’s and 1960’s.
These are the great old illustrations of rockets, moon bases, and astronauts, each reproduced in full color on glossy paper in this book that would look perfect on a coffee table.
Each illustration bursts with optimism. This was the era where we would go to the moon, we would establish bases, and we would live amongst the stars, perhaps within our lifetime. Everyone knew it was an enormous challenge, and moreover, that we would face it and overcome it. Because, as James Lileks put it, the point is not to drop our toys on other planets.
The discrepancy between that optimism and the eventual reality forms a sadness that reverberates throughout the book. While much of the satellite technology advertised here became important facets of our daily lives, we now live in a world that sees space as…fantastical, somehow. Impractical.
How I hate that word.
Unfortunately, Prelinger’s writing is frustratingly dry. She focuses on the facts of the corporations involved–which is useful, I suppose, but dull. The text reads like a textbook of corporate investment in space technology. The artwork consistently outshines it. Prelinger can clearly write; I just don’t understand why she confined her talent to dry corporate histories.
Fortunately, the book is well worth the price even if it only contained the artwork. It’s an inspiring look at an inspiring age.