Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Vargas Pin-Up Girl, February, 1946

Alberto Vargas, a Peruvian artist working mostly in airbrush and watercolor, achieved fame in his illustrations of stylized, sensual women in provocative attire. While these sexually loaded images may have raised the eyebrows of many a feminist over the years, one might ponder the meaning of it all. During World War II, Vargas girls, and other pin-up images such as Hollywood stars and starlets, found their way onto the noses of bombers, and fighter escorts, or taped on bunkhouse walls, on the GI's lockers, and even as tattoos.

But going further back, we see the same kind of iconic woman take the form of hood ornaments of automobiles. The 1920s Rolls Royce featured a hood ornament of a woman entitled, "Wings of Ecstasy". But, we can look even farther back in history to find similar icons in the form of the feminine figureheads on sailing vessels. So what can we make of this phenomenon as it appears and re-appears as adornments of ships, cars, and planes over a lengthy period of history?

The ship, the car, the plane, all were vehicles that took one into some unknown future. A perilous sea, an unknown highway, a sortie into combat. The woman then becomes a symbol of comfort or solace as one is propelled into an unknown future. Interestingly, the ship, the car, the plane, each were themselves, often affectionately described in feminine terms. "Aaarrrggghhhh! She's a fine ol ship, matey! A spunky gal!" Of course we may also remember Stephen King's story of a diabolical Plymouth 'Fury' named, 'Christine'. (Hell hath no 'Fury', like a woman scorned.) But, that's another story.


Pan American Exposition, 1937

(Click on photos to enlarge, click again for a closer look.)

Sometimes, postcards come in the form of souvenir portfolios containing a number of images of a place or an event. This is one, providing colorful glimpses of The Pan American Exposition of 1937 that took place in Dallas, Texas. I love the eye-candy colorization of postcards of this earlier period of time.

The front of the envelope is nicely designed, with space to write an address, and place a stamp.

The back of the envelope has an easy open flap.

Many such souvenir portfolios include informational text on the inside of the envelope.

And then, all the scenes unfold like an accordion with pictures on both side. In this case, 18 dazzling images.


  1. These are amazing! Love the envelope! I wish I got mail like that.

  2. Yeh, it is pretty cool. I have three more such postcard portfolios I will be featuring soon. One from Galveston, another of San Antonio, and one from New Mexico, so, stay tuned.

  3. Dan, these are wonderful . . . what a treat!!!

  4. What a beautiful portfolio of the Pan American Exposition! I have an accordion-type portfolio of the Rocky Mountains (I think that is the topic, I must take a look) that my young uncle bought as a souvenir during a family trip in 1923. I love the way you showed the whole display here and may do that with mine in the future. Thank you for pointing me to this post that I'd have otherwise missed.
    (This is different than the postcard folder that I most recently posted because that one appeared to have contained individual postcards and not of anything in particular....I still think that is weird!)