Thursday, July 5, 2012

Style Relics

Last week we were looking at Henry Morgenthau's name carved into the 1938 cornerstone of a local Post Office building in Richmond, California.Which is no doubt why the 1945 paperback cover above first attracted my attention among the digitized images of the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. Morgenthau advocated turning post-war Germany into "an agrarian state, with no heavy industry" – but the all-powerful American politicians of the day ignored this bucolic advice and settled on the Marshall Plan instead.

On a linguistic side note, the word PROBLEM appeared constantly in the titles of serious-minded books and articles from the 1920s until some time in the 1980s, when it went entirely out of fashion, to be replaced by weasel-words like CHALLENGE or even OPPORTUNITY.

The East Germans produced this Mother & Child poster in 1949, as an anti-capitalist response to the activities of that same Marshall Plan on the other side of the barbed-wire barricades. Live in Peace, it read, Don't Die for Wall Street.  

Favorite books like One Day A Year by Christa Wolf (1929-2011) and Stasiland by Anna Funder help to explain my unreasonable fascination with these preserved East German style-relics. The badges above date from the 1970s, as does the horrid little Trabant car below (a presence in numberless spy novels). The all-synthetic woman's suit at bottom was triumphantly displayed at an East German trade show in 1969.


The plum-tinted background and chalky-blue fabric created a magnificently nauseating color combination, perhaps never to be equaled again in the annals of mass production.