“Ephemera noun : things that are important or useful for only a short time : items that were not meant to have lasting value” — Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary
These 1950s-era commercials are excellent examples of early television advertising in British Columbia. They represent a form of audio-visual ephemera — defined in Wikipedia as “transitory audiovisual matter not intended to be retained or preserved”. Nevertheless, we at the BC Archives have chosen to retain and preserve these items. They were found in 1985, spliced onto the end of a print of Silver Harvest, a much more comprehensive documentary about the B.C. salmon industry.
Keeping Silver Harvest was an obvious choice; it was a Vancouver-produced film, made in colour and with sound, about an important B.C. industry, running just over 20 minutes. (We’ll look at an excerpt from it in a future blog post.) But why keep the TV commercials, each only 60 seconds long?
Look at the first commercial, which relies heavily on simple drawings; basic motion has been added by zooming or panning. I find the artwork charming, and the minimal sound effects add some gentle humour: the “nattering” sound of the women’s tea party, the gunshots that signal a TV western, and the music-and-narrator homage to Jack Webb’s Dragnet — “And for a quick snack, ma’am.”
The second commercial starts with a classic musical tag: “Favourite brand throughout the land, Clo-ver Leaf — Clover Leaf canned seafoods!” This ad emphasizes pictures of the salmon cans, and one of them (somewhat startlingly) “contains” the image of a smiling hostess with her serving dish and candles. True to the gender politics of the time, the women do all the food preparation, but the sandwiches are “MAN-SIZED!”
Like the best collectible ephemera, these two commercials show and say a lot about the time in which they were made.
Video frame grab from commercial #1
Video frame grab from commercial #2