Recently commissioned to do a piece celebrating the soft drink Grapico’s centennial, a drink advertised in photographic records on the Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” introduced a century ago, for the Southern Museum of Flight currently celebrating it’s half-century mark. In order to replicate the type of advertising done in the early days of aviation the museum had the Grapico logo added to a Heath Parasol, a DIY airplane one ordered from the factory approximately 90 years ago. If you’re keeping track at home, that adds up to some 340 years of history, give or take an orbit around the sun.
What’s fascinating, as all advertising has been since my age was in the single-digits, makers of Grapico (there’s been several through the years) saw the potential of flight as a way of promoting their product. Around 1916 powered flight was a few years old, the Wright Brothers were still experimenting, WW I was raging across Europe, the first transatlantic flight hadn’t been made yet, Amelia Earhart had only just seen an airplane, never flown one.
Aviation a century ago was unique, mysterious, and perhaps a bit sexy in a daredevil way. Products since the early days of mass production in a post industrial revolution world clamored to get into the hearts and minds of America’s new class of disposable income consumers. What better way than on mysterious machines that were heavier-than-air? Advertising has been pervasive long before the Mad Men era, creation of this display is a reminder, stating in effect “it’s a new era of wonder, skies the limit, take Grapico along for the ride.” Love or hate advertising, coming up with the idea of putting the logo on a plane was brilliant.