Astounding Advertisements

When flipping through a magazine readers will often come across different advertisements in between the articles and stories. These advertisements are usually targeted toward the group of people expected to read the magazine. This is no different for science fiction magazines filled with stories, even going back to the 1930s when Astounding Stories was being published. The advertisements published in the Astounding Stories magazines not only are representative of the decade they were published in, but also appear to be targeted to a specific group of people, giving insight into who the publishers saw as their target audience.

This exhibition highlights some of the advertisements featured in Astounding Stories, and the narrative they were able to create among the science fiction stories found on their pages. As the longest-running science fiction magazine, changing its name from Astounding Stories to Analog Science Fact & Fiction in 1960, the influence this magazine has had shows the benefits of putting an ad within its pages. From an advertisement looking for US military recruits, to monoculars, and even for a science fiction book, the ads themselves give insight into what was relevant or anticipated to be relevant, to science fiction magazine readers of those decades. 

By taking a look at the chronological progression of the advertisements starting in July 1936 and ending in July/August 2005, the exhibit is able to provide viewers with the opportunity to create a narrative of the people who were reading those magazines when they were published, and compare it to the advertisement we see in magazines today. From simple changes from being in black and white ink, to having colored photos, to the wording used to in the advertisements, being gendered to target a male audience, the advertisements in the exhibition are hopefully able to demonstrate a narrative of who the Astounding Stories readers were like, and if that has changed throughout the years.

The variety items and services being advertised within Astounding Stories is also able to create a story within the exhibition itself. On view, there are not only advertisements for false teeth or eczema treatment in 1936 all featured tightly together on a page, but this style of ad is also found in the “Amazing Optical Buys” advertisement from the 1966 edition and the “Mail Order Mall” advertisement from 1995. This style of advertisement showing up in different editions is just one example of a pattern in advertisements within Astounding Stories that this exhibition hopes to engage its viewers with.

Viewers of this exhibition will not only get to look back and reminisce at advertisements from the past, but also engage with ideas about why these advertisements were featured within these magazines and what is possibly meant for the readers of Astounding Stories at the time of publication. This exhibition hopes to leave its visitors with thoughts of the readers of this magazine, and if the advertisements were able to create an image of who those readers were and what their experiences during those times were like. 


This exhibition is made possible thanks to the Drew University Special Collections and the David Johnson Science Fiction Collection.