FOLLOW US ON:
GET THE NEWSLETTER
CONTACT US
Wish you were vaporized: Charming postcards from the atomic age
02.17.2015
01:35 pm
Topics:
Tags:
Wish you were vaporized: Charming postcards from the atomic age


 
One of the strange things about the Cold War, especially the first couple of decades, was the outpourings of public enthusiasm over atomic energy. In the abstract, it might not be so odd to celebrate the awesome power of the atom, discovered by brilliant scientists, with the ability, in theory, to solve the species’ energy problems for ever. But in the event, atomic energy was introduced to the public in the near-annihilation of two Japanese cities, and all of the rhetoric around the technology occurred in the context of a deadly game of global brinksmanship between the United States and the USSR. Add to that the scary disasters at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, disasters that the skeptical had been predicting for decades, and it’s hardly possible for happy-go-lucky celebrations of atomic energy to seem anything other than dopey.

These fascinating postcards from the end of WWII up to the 1970s and beyond constitute an irony-free zone.  They come from the dazzling volume Atomic Postcards by John O’Brian and Jeremy Borsos, published in 2011 by the University of Chicago Press. Perhaps the cards represented a kind of “poker face” in the deadly no-blink game of mutual assured destruction between the two Cold War superpowers but also China, Israel, and Japan—if you can write a cheery postcard about it, clearly you are not worried about the deadly destruction your enemies can muster.

At DM we have looked at this side of the Cold War before, when we looked at “Tic, Tic, Tic,” Doris Day’s jaw-dropping ode to the geiger counter in Michael Curtiz’s 1949 movie My Dream Is Yours, which counts among its fans none other than Martin Scorsese.

As Slate’s Tom Vanderbilt writes, “Taken as a whole, the postcards form a kind of de facto and largely cheery dissemination campaign for the wonder of atomic power (and weapons). And who’s to mind if that sunny tropical beach is flecked with radionuclides?”

These pictures are in approximate chronological order, to reflect the progressive phases of wish-you-were-here atomic propaganda.
 

 

 

The is the reverse side of the image above it.
 

 

 

 

The is the reverse side of the image above it.
 

 

 

 

The is the reverse side of the image above it.
 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
|
02.17.2015
01:35 pm
|
Discussion

 

 

comments powered by Disqus