By David Rodriguez
As a graphic designer, I find there is something magical in viewing vintage advertisements, especially from the ’50s and ’60s. From the photographic/illustrative choices to the verbal style of the copy, it’s possible to get a small sense of what culture was like back then. Ravinia’s old program books contain a wealth of these vintage advertisements, with companies pitching such varied products as stereos, records, fashion, pianos, jewelry, and more.
What really makes these interesting is how they reveal the demographics of the Ravinia audience and the sense that advertisers hoped to get some of that Ravinia magic to rub off on their products. Some of my favorites make overt references to Ravinia, many containing photographs or illustrations of the park itself to make the Ravinia connection that much stronger. The selection below focuses on these very ads. (Click on the images below to see larger versions.)
This 1965 ad for Baskin suits has a very dapper looking couple in front of the Martin Theatre (then known as the Murray Theatre), clutching their program books before enjoying a classical concert.
This 1962 ad for The Kingston Shop is exceptional for its illustration of Ravinia’s front gate and its take on “the most interesting man alive.”
This Blums Vogue ad from 1952 has a gorgeous depiction of the Pavilion stage and really communicates the connection between fine art and fashion
This 1957 ad from AMI Incorporated has it all: a great photo of the Pavilion interior, including a Don Draper–looking gentleman smoking, and some very poetic language describing Ravinia, all to convince you to buy their stereo equipment.
I’m not entirely convinced that symphony orchestras are like estate plans, but this 1960 bank ad gives us a glimpse of what a full Pavilion looked like back in 1960.
In another bank ad, this time from 1969 for a Highland Park bank, it’s interesting to note that there appear to be some sort of coverings around the perimeter of the Pavilion. I wonder what these were used for?
Ravinia’s program books often included ads for its official piano, and back when competition this sort of endorsement was fierce, a common practice was to list or picture famous artists who use that piano in those ads, often ones that were appearing at Ravinia that summer. This 1962 ad for Baldwin also has a beautiful image of the Pavilion.
This 1966 Baldwin ad ditches photographs in favor of charcoal-sketch illustrations but still features celebrity endorsement from Ravinia artists.
This 1951 ad for Baldwin may have taken some liberty in the illustration, making the lawn in front of the Pavilion seem grander and less tree-dotted than in reality.
Henrici’s was a popular restaurant located on Randolph Street in downtown Chicago, although this ad was for its O’Hare location. It was very popular with the theater crowd at the time, and had been compared to Sardi’s in New York. Besides the great illustration, this 1964 ad is notable for advertising “great drinks,” “dancing,” and “dancing girls” at its supper club.