The Times Square Smoker, 1943


Photo found at /r/HistoryPorn, posted by /u/DaHitcha. Text along with the image:

In 1941 a billboard was installed that marked one of the most well knows advertising campaigns in history; Camel cigarettes. This billboard was apart of Times Square’s history for 26 long years. The billboard displayed a man blowing smoke toward his audience with “Camel” gleaming in bright lights.

For two and a half decades the Camel Cigarette was advertised with two novel billboards that were so clever they easily caught the attention of the passing public. Known as spectaculars, these billboards blew the illusion of a giant smoke ring every four seconds. Steam from a piston-driven diaphragm was forced out of a hole, and this mimicked a person smoking. The spectacular most often photographed was located in New York City’s Times Square at 44th Street and Broadway. Some consider this Camel billboard the most famous of all outdoor advertising signs.

I grew up in New York, and I remember this sign well, as will my friends of that era. As a kid I remember standing for as long as I could watching the smoke rings… on calm days they would travel halfway across Times Square. I was sorry to see it go.

Over at Facebook, Marie-Lou Chatel created a colorized version of this photo which gives you a better feel for how it looked:

color camel

Cigarettes and alcohol were a huge percent of advertising back in the day. My own mother was a commercial actress, and Camel selected her as their spokesperson for a time. I remember she’d get a carton a week in the mail as part of her residual compensation.

Cigarette use in the US has been declining steadily since the tobacco heydays:

cigarette use

I’m sure the tobacco industry is unhappy about this, but they have more than made up for their domestic losses by exporting their products of death to foreign economies; while both consumption and exports are on a gradually declining trend, it’s interesting to note that foreign exports still more than double domestic consumption.


It is to be hoped that at some point in the future, tobacco will be once again considered a useless weed with no commercial value, thus saving countless lives and healthcare costs in the process.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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