Ads that depict the human body as a machine

On the Vintage Ads LJ group, the awesome Man Writing Slash has rounded up a series of old ads that use mechanical methaphors for the human body.

One of my favorite ad tropes is the Body=Machine/Body=Factory idea, because the imagery is often more detailed and also more hilarious than in most ads. As a kid I used to LOVE any illustrations of the body that depicted tiny workers inside, such as The Human Body, for example. :D This link to a book about Fritz Kahn's Der Mensch als Industriepalast is also fascinating (although not advertisement). Brief video version of that book HERE (well worth 3 minutes of your time.) This series of articles and illustrations in the same vein (XD) appeared in the Berliner Morgenpost in 1931 and is simply breathtaking.

Body = Machine: A Series


  1. These were before my time . . . but body-as-machine were regularly spoofed in MAD Magazine, and because I read the reprint books I recogize this source material!

  2. Some of the Android ads (Droid DNA) promise to “upgrade” the user into a cyborg. It promises that your vision will be 1080p, so you can see the pixels, and your hearing will have something called Beats Audio, so you can autotune the world. It’s disturbing to think about, but hulu has put it into heavy rotation.

    1. I saw those and was so disturbed by the tagline at the end – it doesn’t upgrade your phone, it upgrades YOU.  Because I am nothing without a smartphone, I guess.

    2. Yeah, but unless you get the right wireless carrier, your 1080p vision will be constantly…


  3. My mom had a set of How and Why books (not the same as How and Why Wonder Books; these were older, clothbound books, like a children’s encyclopedia). They had this same concept, something like “The Body Machine” or “The Man Machine.”  Lungs = aerating room, stomach = mixing room etc.

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