Skip to main content

Power Roles and Domestic Violence in 1950s Chase and Sanborn Advertisement

The coffee brand created a potentially controversial advertisement in 1952, which will be examined throughout the text.

Published onDec 01, 2022
Power Roles and Domestic Violence in 1950s Chase and Sanborn Advertisement

Early Domestic Violence

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that as of 2022 “1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.”1 This implies that domestic violence should be taken extremely seriously and should not be joked about. Although domestic violence has always been an issue in society, it may have been seen as more socially acceptable in the past, namely the 1950s-60s, than it is now. This can be seen as it was written in Time Magazine2 in September of 1964 that wife beating was seen as “temporary therapy” to some men.

An advertisement that depicts a wife laying over her husband's legs being spanked, seemingly over her purchasing stale coffee. Both characters are dressed in 1950's clothing with a long dress and suspenders. The advertisement shows off the new packaging of Chase and Sanborn's coffee, allowing it to be smelled to ensure you are purchasing fresh coffee.

Chase and Sanborn’s coffee advertisement was featured in Life Magazine in 1952. Image Source: “Chase and Sanborn” from Life Magazine found in Google Books.

Due to domestic violence not being taken very seriously in previous years, companies such as Chase and Sanborn began to make comedic advertisements. We can find hints that the advertisement was written in a comedic manner as it uses language such as “...if he discovers you’re still taking chances on getting flat, stale coffee ...woe be unto you!”3 I believe that this appeals to the women seeing this advertisement in several different ways. One of the methods of reaching women is relatability in that they may have also dealt with domestic violence over the small choices that they have made. Women may find it humorous as they realize the outlandish behavior of the man in the photo, and possibly their husband. Additionally, this advertisement may be seen as humorous by the fake shock on the woman’s face as she is punished for purchasing stale coffee.4

I believe that this advertisement allows its viewers to see what life was like in the 1950s. It primarily focuses on the power that the men held over their wives.5 Although men held the dominant position in their relationships, women held power in the chores that they needed to do. However, if women were to abuse the power that they held in being able to go grocery shopping by purchasing something that their husbands did not approve of, then they would be hit by their husbands. Although this act was not seen as domestic violence in the past, the wives of many men were beaten.

Marketing Tactics

Overall, Chase and Sanborn played the tactic of relatability in their advertisement in order to get more business. Although this advertisement would cause a great deal of controversy if published in modern times, I believe that the humorous language used was taken well by the customers because it is something that they may have lived through in the past. Oftentimes trauma can be dealt with through using humor, and some women may have felt the same way regarding the advertisement. I believe that Chase and Sanborn properly used their technique to increase sales while helping individuals in the future to learn more about society during the 1950s.6

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?