Monday, January 08, 2018


Advertising Features: This Is America!

Here's a feature that inhabits a weird gray zone between ad features and public service features. This is America!, penned by veteran illustrator John V. B. Ranck, was a series of panels and strips that told the stories of successful American entrepreneurs. As best I can determine it began as a weekly offering in 1944 (although this bio of Ranck claims he started it in 1941), changed to a strip around 1946, then went back to a panel, and the frequency was reduced to monthly through 1949 at least.

There's no doubt in my mind that this series was offered as a freebie to newspapers, because you'll find it running haphazardly as a space filler in some of the smallest rural papers. Usually these features are either trying to sell a product, or are issued by a government or other non-profit entity as a public service. This is America! definitely isn't trying to sell a product, and it didn't come from the government. That leaves it in that curious genre of features that were given away by some entity in order to push their ideas, rather than their products, on the public. This one evidently is trying to push the idea of entrepreuneurship, so perhaps it was commissioned by the Better Business Bureau or some similar organization. We cannot find out anything more based on the feature itself, as there was no syndicate/source identified. The only clue we get is the 1949 edition of Editor & Publisher's Syndicate Directory, in which This Is America! makes its sole appearance. The listing there credits something called the Independent Press Service. Unfortunately that has been a dead end for me, as I can find no information about this organization.


Am I seeing things or did the artist use the negative space of the horse's rear leg to include an image of a woman's face 3/4 turned towards the viewer, her right eyebrow cocked on the top This is America sample?
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