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What Were They Thinking? 20 Mind-Blowing Vintage Ads Involving Children

By Monica Bielanko |

So safe your baby can shave! Razors for everyone!

Times change, of course, but after viewing some of the ads from throughout the twentieth century featured below it’s hard to imagine what they were thinking even though 100 years was so very long ago.

One thing is for sure: it’s fascinating to see how parenting and the perception of it has changed throughout the years.

What stands out to me the most is how subtle advertising has become.  It’s easy to look back and see how they obviously preyed upon mom guilt.  Now, advertising is so sneaky sometimes it’s hard to know what’s an advertisement.  Or is it?  In 100 years are they going to look back on commercials from this decade and laugh at what suckers we were?

That said, I think my favorite slogan is the one that says “Before you scold me, Mom… Maybe you’d better light up a Marlboro.”

Okay, before I give it all away, here are 20 mind-blowing vintage ads from the past century.  From a smoking Santa Claus to a baby guzzling “wholesome” soda, it’s all here.

Take a look:

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What Were They Thinking? 20 Mind-Blowing Vintage Ads Involving Children

Santa Likes Lucky Brand Cigarettes!

Instead of milk & cookies how about leaving Santa a pack of smokes, eh kiddies?

All images from:


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About Monica Bielanko


Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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45 thoughts on “What Were They Thinking? 20 Mind-Blowing Vintage Ads Involving Children

  1. Manjari says:

    Those are crazy! This is really interesting and worth it to click through the slides.

  2. Sara says:

    I don’t get why the Kiddie-Koop is bad…it’s a pack n play.

  3. kiki says:

    I dunno… Stouts are supposed to help with milk production… ;-)

  4. Diera says:

    I had the same reaction to the Kiddie-Koop… it’s just an early Pack n’ Play type thing. I will grant you that Pack n’ Play is a better name, but that’s the only difference.

    And I kind of doubt that Gay Bob was ever intended as a children’s toy.

  5. AmyB says:

    Gay Bob is from the 80′s I remember it from high school.

  6. jeneria says:

    Today’s ads are no less ridiculous, offensive, sexist, inflammatory, or absurd. Social mores change. Science changes. Advertising reflects this.

  7. Monica Bielanko says:

    I understand the Kiddie Koop is a Pack & Play. It’s just a little industrial looking and the name “koop” is pretty funny. The ads make it seem as if children are more like pets than human offspring.

  8. Monica Bielanko says:

    @Jeneria – Agreed. Which makes me wonder what folks in 100 years will be chuckling about in the ads of today.

  9. Melissa H says:

    I loved this – totally entertaining!

  10. Alicia says:

    Of course the Kiddie Koop looks extreme today, but it has screens on the sides, and a screen the goes on the top, most likely to protect the baby from bugs while outside. It’s a great idea from the time when there was no indoor air conditioning.

  11. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    Let’s face it, cribs are cages for your baby.

  12. stacey@Havoc&Mayhem says:

    I think I need a Marlboro.. and some beer

  13. gina says:

    Yikes! The childhood laxative craze is something I recall certain childhood friends being subjected to on a ‘regular’ basis. The kid would have to report to Mamma if he/she was having irregularity. If not, a laxative was administered directly, which of course, result in not only a BM, chronic constipation from dehydration (a nasty cycle), an unhealthy dependence on laxatives, along with a whopping bowel fixation. I am convinced that the majority of folks with chronic hemorrhoids and diverticulitis have grown up with laxatives. A couple glasses of water to replace fluids lost in all of that playing in the yard would have solved that problem, right? Sleep, eat and play. 1116&id=b2NQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=fw8EAAAAIBAJ&pg=3836,5536633

  14. gina says:

    Re; Crazy ads and interesting ‘new’ scientific data from WAY back, check out this link:,4087384

  15. Katrina says:

    The ads featuring babies drinking “wholesome” 7-Up are especially troublesome considering that 7-Up used to contain lithium

  16. Laura Vivoni (@mantybat) says:

    I found these slides hilarious. It’s interesting how times change.

  17. Audrey says:

    7-Up contained lithium? I never knew that! I remember hearing that Coke actually contained cocaine and that Dr. Pepper and cola syrup were used to cure stomach aches and constipation.

  18. Leah says:

    wow….this is just nuts…a little girl holding a gun …wow…just mind blowing…dumb@ss ad..

  19. Leah says:

    ok…that Love’s baby soft ad..just about made me puke..who the hell in their sick perverted mind…made that ad ?? omg…who would let their child make that ad? wow..

  20. Lisa says:

    THEY ARE ADs People not real life and they are mostly from forever ago before people stuck their heads up their behinds and got soo freakin PC. I think some are pretty funny actually. Lets not get our thongs in a wad!

  21. Carrie says:

    My son sent me the link for this. These ads were from a simpler time. A time that my husband and I grew up in, before so much of one’s everyday life became regulated. Our parents smoked, drank adult beverages, drove cars without seat belts and never heard of car seats for kids. And yet we survived, and thrived in loving homes. I found these ads quite entertaining and amusing. Unfortunately a pop up continued to interrupt my enjoyment with pictures (that I promptly adblocked) of the illegal usurper in the White House promoting other articles.

  22. Robert says:

    How about some pictures big enough to see and read?

  23. nambie says:

    baby-soft and that soap racist ad…entertaining. it’s real funny what people consider entertaining and hilarious. smh

  24. Jack says:

    The daisy ad isn’t very bad at all. We have all seen A Christmas Story and I remember my first bb gun from back then. They were a blast! It’s not like that ad was direct for like 5 year olds

  25. Lisa says:

    Where’s my jaw? It fell somewhere and I can’t find it! LOL

    Really, it’s crazy what kind of ads used to be run. Absolutely traumatizing!

  26. Fedo says:

    There should be an option to view all the slides on same page. It’s old school to click thru 25 slides.

  27. Phil Jones says:

    You know? I am getting heartily sick of seeing these articles put out by people on their 20/20 moral hindsight soapbox.

    In fifty years time people will look back at publicity for McDonald’s and wonder what parent could ever feed their kid such utter poison. They will look at the vintage TV programs and wonder what kind of mindset lay behind programs like MTV or even the current run of pop stars that are morally the same as giving kids cigarettes today.

    99.9% were doing their best for their kids and would recoil in horror if you suggested they were doing otherwise.

    Don’t mock because its wont be long before the finger will be pointing at US all. We are arguably the most abusive of generations to have lived.

  28. Aydnn says:

    Truthfully, I fail to see why Gay Bob is inappropriate. Why is homosexuality frowned upon and hidden from children? You may as well hide heterosexuality from them as well. I wouldn’t buy it for my child but I don’t believe it should be on this list.

  29. BobW says:

    Actually, the problem with Castoria is that it tasted good and was very easy to love; and our parents ran the risk of finding out the term “overachiever” can be highly ambiguous.

  30. student says:

    I just wish these ads could be blown up so I could actually read what was going on… or am I dumb and am the only one who couldn’t figure it out?

  31. gs says:

    Actually, the Danger Days have to do with the Poliomyleitis epidemics that swept the country every year beginning in the late spring and continuing thru the summers. Not to mention all the other deadly infectious diseases that were rampant … yes even in 1st world countries… that maimed and killed so many. We’ve only eradicated smallpox in the New World as of 1994, Europe as of 2002, it’s still extant in the rest of the world. Yes, they were, indeed, Danger Days.

  32. cappymom says:

    Danger days were the hot humid days of summer. Moms believed that we all had to go inside in the cool of the shaded living room (no blinds allowed to be up keep the heat out) and hide from Mr. Polio.

  33. Beverley says:

    “My son sent me the link for this. These ads were from a simpler time. A time that my husband and I grew up in, before so much of one’s everyday life became regulated. Our parents smoked, drank adult beverages, drove cars without seat belts and never heard of car seats for kids. And yet we survived, and thrived in loving homes. I found these ads quite entertaining and amusing. Unfortunately a pop up continued to interrupt my enjoyment with pictures (that I promptly adblocked) of the illegal usurper in the White House promoting other articles”

    Lol, Carrie. I think that lithium in the 7 up got to you after all.

  34. Veda says:

    I CAN’T READ THE ADS! This is so annoying. Also, I don’t want to have to reload the entire page. They’re not slides. every time I click to the next one my entire webpage reloads. They should fix that. Also, I have no idea what most of these ads are really saying because they’re too small to read!

  35. Veda says:

    No, student you’re not the only one. This stuff is too small for us to read on our lil laptops.

  36. Cowcharge says:

    Kids who are taught with BB guns don’t end up shooting anyone with real guns.

  37. Steph says:

    We need to keep in mind that all of these ads were made public in a different time than ours, complete with different morals and vastly different belief systems. What is right or wrong today was most definitely not the same as what was viewed as right and wrong a long time ago. These are offensive and irresponsible by today’s standards, but back then they were the norm. You can’t use today’s standards to place judgement on elements of a much different period in history.

  38. J. Ed says:

    I liked this article better when Cracked covered it.

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  41. Dave says:

    WOW! The times thay are a changin! In Re the 7 Up with lithium – I used to manage a drug store in the 60s. We sold Coke syrup in 4 oz bottles for digestive problems. Funnier were the 4 and 8 oz bottles of Lysol in the feminine hygene aisle – there was a douche recipe on the label. There was no lysol with the household cleaning product area. We also sold several over the counter “cough” syrups that were 25 – 40 percent alcohol AND had codene! My favorite was Brown’s Mixture – brown anise flavored. We also had ETH&C and Robitussin AC.

  42. kim says:

    funny, also funny are the ‘bot’ comments from natural remedies and buy the best cameras?

  43. patriciaknox says:

    i know right

  44. Sherlly says:

    I think someone should have researched these ads before posting this. Many of them are not as bad as they seem.

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