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A Reminiscence: Old School Mail-Order Ads

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December 22, 2011

A Reminiscence: Old School Mail-Order Ads

By Chad Love

Last night I was flipping through an old Field & Stream and marveling at all the wonderful old mail-order ads that I (and I'm sure many of you) grew up reading. For children who came of age in the olden days of paper-based print, being mesmerized (and more often than not, duped) by the ads in the back of magazines and comic books was a rite of passage. Who among us (or at least those among us old enough to remember polyester clothing) didn’t – at least once – send off our hard-earned paper route or allowance money, dazzled by the allure of Sea Monkeys, hypnotizing coins, X-ray glasses, spook hands or live seahorses?

But one ad in particular stands out for me. It ran for years in the back of comic books and magazines and was as much a part of my Seventies-era childhood as Zebco 33s, Scooby-Doo and terrifying encounters with shopping mall Easter bunnies. “See Miracle of Birth!” it promised. That’s right: For the low, low price of $6.98 (or $4.98, or $3.98, depending on the decade in which you grew up) you could send off for an incubator and some genuine quail eggs. No fake “undersea kingdoms” populated by lowly brine shrimp here, these were the genuine article: real live quail.

The ad, which was ubiquitous in the back of Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield, fascinated me. I constantly asked my parents if I could order it. They constantly said no, and eventually as I got older and my interest in quail turned from raising them in the manner of some Sterling North-inspired fantasy to hunting them, I stopped asking. And at some unnoticed point the ads, like so much else from that era, just faded into the realm of nostalgia.

Thankfully, however, I've managed to hang on to a lot of those old magazines. On cold winter nights when I'm feeling a little sappy and maudlin, I'll throw another log in the woodstove, grab a few of those tattered old issues, pour a wee nip of my favorite libation, sink into the chair and step into the wayback machine.

What's your favorite old mail-order ad from the back pages of Field & Stream? Did you ever actually order anything as a kid?

Comments (11)

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from Outsider wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Leapin Lizards! IDK if it is still in there or not...with all the male enhancment ads back there now, i just avoid the ads altogether.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dave63go wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Over the past few years, I've purchased, on eBay, several F&S issues from the 1930's. I decorate the walls of my man cave with the hunting & fishing artwork covers. While reading through them, I notice a few things about the ads. First and foremost, the price of an outboard motor ($35 - $50) isn't much more than the price of a Pflueger baitcasting reel ($20)! Second, I'm struck by how many small, independent manufacturers of fishing and hunting gear there were back then. Of course, everything was made in the U.S.A. at that point. So many of these locally owned manufacturers were in small towns throughout the Midwest and Northeast. What a sad contrast to today, where conglomerates control most everything, and the vast majority of it comes from China. Oh, and yes, to echo Outsider, there were no male enhancement ads back then.

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from Dann wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

The company still exists, and if you want to indulge in nostalgia, the incubator in the advertisment is now $21.80 and comes with 4 quail eggs.

https://www.gqfmfg.com/store/comersus_listItems.asp?idCategory=33&orderB...

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from GERG wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I sure remember all thos ads.Even had some sea monkeys once, too cool. Alot more fun than ads thats supposed to put lead in your pencil.

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from Del Gue wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I once ordered blow guns, (you remember the ad with guy holding a dead anteater). I had them delivered in my boss's name. He was pretty shocked when the mail room clerk approached him with a long cardboard shipping box and announced "Mister Framptom your weapons are here".

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I never ordered anything, though I remember well all those ads. Could have even got a nylon 66 thru the mail.
I was busy saving my dimes and quarters to buy BB's.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

The two that come to my mind were Charle's Atlas's body-building program. I'm sure we all remember the sketched images of a skinny no-shoulders guy getting sand kicked in his face at the beach. And the one I really wanted to invest my allowance in: the home taxidermy course that had some kind of affiliation with the Chicago Museum of Natural History. Dad would have liked to partner with me on that one but too many poisons involved and I had a couple of get-into-everything younger brothers running around the house.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Honker,
You just had to bring up the guy getting sand kicked in his face. Merry Christmas to you too.
LOL

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fat guy Aaron wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I have a Field and Stream from 1956 and it has an advertisement for German Lugers for 17 bucks. Now that gun is worth $1000 to $2600 depending on condition.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RangerDansDrink... wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

The hell with the ads; I my love of the outdoors came from reading and laughing to the greats: Ed Zern and Pat McManus. OK, I was a weird kid. The great Ed Zern has gone to the trout stream in the sky, but Patrick McManus is still writing in his late 70's. You can get signed copies of his books (of which some are rewrites of some of his best columns) at a reasonable price at: www.patrickfMcmanus.com. I am on my 5th one right now, and with a nice brandy on a cold winter night; He is still crying out loud funny.

May Rancid Crabtree, Retch Sweeney and Crazy Eddie Muldoon come back to life for you too Merry Christmas.

If anyone knows where I can get a collection of Ed Zern columns, I would appreciate it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Thanks for the tip, Dan. Too late for Christmas this year though.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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from Outsider wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Leapin Lizards! IDK if it is still in there or not...with all the male enhancment ads back there now, i just avoid the ads altogether.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dave63go wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Over the past few years, I've purchased, on eBay, several F&S issues from the 1930's. I decorate the walls of my man cave with the hunting & fishing artwork covers. While reading through them, I notice a few things about the ads. First and foremost, the price of an outboard motor ($35 - $50) isn't much more than the price of a Pflueger baitcasting reel ($20)! Second, I'm struck by how many small, independent manufacturers of fishing and hunting gear there were back then. Of course, everything was made in the U.S.A. at that point. So many of these locally owned manufacturers were in small towns throughout the Midwest and Northeast. What a sad contrast to today, where conglomerates control most everything, and the vast majority of it comes from China. Oh, and yes, to echo Outsider, there were no male enhancement ads back then.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dann wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

The company still exists, and if you want to indulge in nostalgia, the incubator in the advertisment is now $21.80 and comes with 4 quail eggs.

https://www.gqfmfg.com/store/comersus_listItems.asp?idCategory=33&orderB...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from GERG wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I sure remember all thos ads.Even had some sea monkeys once, too cool. Alot more fun than ads thats supposed to put lead in your pencil.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del Gue wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I once ordered blow guns, (you remember the ad with guy holding a dead anteater). I had them delivered in my boss's name. He was pretty shocked when the mail room clerk approached him with a long cardboard shipping box and announced "Mister Framptom your weapons are here".

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I never ordered anything, though I remember well all those ads. Could have even got a nylon 66 thru the mail.
I was busy saving my dimes and quarters to buy BB's.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

The two that come to my mind were Charle's Atlas's body-building program. I'm sure we all remember the sketched images of a skinny no-shoulders guy getting sand kicked in his face at the beach. And the one I really wanted to invest my allowance in: the home taxidermy course that had some kind of affiliation with the Chicago Museum of Natural History. Dad would have liked to partner with me on that one but too many poisons involved and I had a couple of get-into-everything younger brothers running around the house.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Honker,
You just had to bring up the guy getting sand kicked in his face. Merry Christmas to you too.
LOL

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fat guy Aaron wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I have a Field and Stream from 1956 and it has an advertisement for German Lugers for 17 bucks. Now that gun is worth $1000 to $2600 depending on condition.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RangerDansDrink... wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

The hell with the ads; I my love of the outdoors came from reading and laughing to the greats: Ed Zern and Pat McManus. OK, I was a weird kid. The great Ed Zern has gone to the trout stream in the sky, but Patrick McManus is still writing in his late 70's. You can get signed copies of his books (of which some are rewrites of some of his best columns) at a reasonable price at: www.patrickfMcmanus.com. I am on my 5th one right now, and with a nice brandy on a cold winter night; He is still crying out loud funny.

May Rancid Crabtree, Retch Sweeney and Crazy Eddie Muldoon come back to life for you too Merry Christmas.

If anyone knows where I can get a collection of Ed Zern columns, I would appreciate it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Thanks for the tip, Dan. Too late for Christmas this year though.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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