Shell 1941 Ad Features Black Boy Eating Watermelon Made Sweeter with Petroleum

Life Magazine was the repository for the collective wisdom and common sense of the United States of America, or at least its white middle-class. Here’s a photo I took of a Shell advertisement which appeared in its July 7, 1941 issue. Because the pages are old, I typed out the text below the picture.

Shell Advertisement, Life Magazine, 1941

View zoomed in pictures on Flickr for increased detail.

It’s sweeter because of petroleum

The good earth holds the key to its own fertility–buried 10,000 feet deep in an oil well.

At the “University of Petroleum,” Shell’s $3,500,000 research laboratories, they fitted this key to unlock new riches in field and garden. Out of petroleum gas they got ammonia. With this they treated a waste product of the refineries–sulphuric acid–to make ammonium sulphate. And ammonium sulphate combines with the soil to grow sweeter, jucier fruit … more luxuriant flowers!

These Shell scientists have also found in petroleum a key to synthetic rubber, gylcerine, plastics, germicides–even TNT.

This magic is for sale “by the tankful” at the next Shell pump …

Bold text in the original.

And while the obvious racism of this advertisement is thankfully less common today, the issue of petroleum in agriculture is as important as ever.

Lubrication in the right spots in the right amount

For a little humor, this is the copy in the bottom right hand corner of the advertisement.

July Service Tip

Vacation soon? Drive in for Shell-ubrication– a “Thoro-Fast” service that puts the right lubricant in the right spots in the right amount.

The italics are in the original.

A 1965 editorial on homosexuality is also “enlightening.”

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