The Collectors Weekly published a fascinating interview with Scott Buckwald, the original prop master for Mad Men. Buckwald is a fascinating character and his work on Mad Men is obsessively awesome. For Mad Men, Buckwald and his team sought out vintage taxicab meters, constructed lipstick display cases, printed TV Guides of the era, reproduced a 1960 Sara Lee cherry cheesecake box, and even cooked hamburgers that matched the time period. From The Collectors Weekly:
Collectors Weekly: When it came to the Mad Men office scenes, did you have to get vintage typewriters and pencils and pens?
Buckwald: Well, pencils are pencils. There's no change in the pencils, and a lot of offices were using ballpoint pens. Fountain pens had largely disappeared. Certainly for formal use, the fountain pen was still there, but not as an everyday office tool.
I thought Mad Men made a big mistake on the typewriters. They knew what the right history was, but they ignored it. The secretaries at that advertising firm would have still been using vintage-style typewriters, but they used IBM Selectrics simply because the producer liked the way they looked and they made less noise on set. So we got many letters about how they were wrong, but, again, that's his call. And right or wrong, it's his show. He can do whatever he wants with it.
There was a typewriter repairman in North Hollywood, California. He couldn't believe it when all of a sudden someone deposited 24 vintage typewriters on his doorstep and said, "Make them look new." He probably hadn't had that much work in the last 25 years. He was probably just about ready to hang up the "Going out of business" sign and cursing the arrival of the laptop computer when all of a sudden here I come with 24 typewriters…
Collectors Weekly: If someone is drinking Coca-Cola in Mad Men, would you have to get the actual Coca-Cola bottle from 1960?
Buckwald: Yes. Vintage Coca-Cola bottles are pretty easy to get, so I would get the bottles, fill them up with Coke, and use a bottle capper to press the original caps back on. We did an episode when the first canned Coca-Cola was coming out. Coke was trying to promote its first cans, but they were nothing like today's cans. There's nothing similar to it. Even the material of the can was different. It was steel as opposed to aluminum. So I had to remake the original Coke can, which was a blast.
Believe or not, we actually found a peanut jar in the New York area that was the same size and shape of a Coke can. It was metal on the top but the sides were cardboard. We made a decal of a Coke label and wrapped it around the jar. By the touch, you could tell that it wasn't made out of metal, but on camera it looked like a metal Coke can.
It's always turning one thing into another. That's what I love about doing this. It's always last-minute thinking and being innovative–being the mad scientist. It never gets boring because everything is different. In Mad Men, I was a 1960s advertising executive. In The Prestige, I was a 1890s magician. In You Again, I'm a 2009 wedding planner. I've been a policeman. I've been a doctor. I've been a lawyer. I've been a gynecologist. I get to step into other people's lives.
An Interview with Scott Buckwald, Prop Master for the Hit TV Show Mad Men