Your wife is embarrassed by your tiny paycheck ad: Dec, 1929

This December, 1929 continuing education ad from Modern Mechanix tells men that their neighbors are secretly shaking their heads in pity for their wives because of their paltry paychecks -- a mere two months after the Black Friday crash of 1929.
Like it or not, your friends and neighbors size you up by what you EARN --judged by your home and family. Why not surprise them by making good in a big way? Tell them nothing, but on the quiet fit yourself for a bigger place!

ONLY a woman knows how much a wife can suffer when her husband fails to "make the grade"-- When she dreads to meet her old school friends--when she skimps on her own appearance "so John can make a good showing at the office"--when she can't give her children things as good as the other children have, and they ask her why.

Brave, loyal woman, she would be the last to reproach her husband because he doesn't earn as much as other men whose wives she is thrown with constantly.

"Money isn't everything," she tells him--yet how she longs for his promotion--for that bigger salary that means better clothes, greater advantages for the children, a new car, more of the comforts and luxuries of life!

What can you, as an ambitious husband, do to help?

Do Your Friends Feel Sorry for Your Wife? (Dec, 1929)



  1. It’s classic advertising from that era. Induce a sense of anxiety in the mark, tell him he has a problem that he didn’t know he had, then introduce your product as the solution.

    This was done for all sorts of things, and started the (still current) trend of “disease mongering” for quack cures.

  2. I’m slightly surprised that by 1929 “a new car” was already on the list of things that you should obviously be able to provide for your family. I thought it took longer than that before they were just sort of standard for everyone to have.

  3. Well, prepare yourselves for all the coming X-mas commercials: The new Lexus in the driveway with the bow on it (as if it’s supposed to be perfectly normal) for the wife is one of my favorites.

  4. Do people actually buy stuff as expensive as a Lexus as a *surprise* present? I mean, wouldn’t it be embarrassing to shell out $45K or whatever for something, and find out you got the color wrong, or missed an option the recipient *really* wanted, or something?

  5. I read the sentence as “old school friends” as opposed to “old, school friends”. I thought, those people were pretty hip in 1929.

    1. They punctuated correctly to indicate talking about old friends from school. What you were having a laugh at would likely be written with a hyphen, i.e. ‘old-school friends’. Mind you, this is just IMHO, and I’m far from an English teacher.

  6. The ad running 2 months after the crash would mean that the ad got to the printers right before or immediately after the crash.

    At least the XM advertisements that were supposed to start airing on 9/12 showing things falling out of the sky were able to be easily pulled (especially because no ads were airing that I can remember on 9/11-9/12). I would imagine it was not nearly as easy to pull a current-event-insentitive ad in ’29. The ads by 1932 were much closer to what one would expect.

  7. “Brave, loyal woman, she would be the last to reproach her husband..” oh I’ll reproach! he’ll be like whaaa? and I’ll be all…reproached! In u face!

  8. This post made me sad, because my boyfriend and I have been discussing his feelings of inadequacy lately of not being able to provide for me or for future children. He wants to be the breadwinner, and right now, he isn’t. I earn more money than he does, and it literally pains him. I mean to the point where his stress over money renders him incapable of moving his neck at times. I love this man, and I don’t care about who earns what. I just want to be with him and have a family with him, and he feels he can’t until he’s the earner. Years of socialization, external and internal pressures to perform, earn, and provide…it’s sad, and I’m sorry for woman (or man) who has to live with anyone who feels inadequate and stressed over something as arbitrary as money.

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