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From the Archives: A 1949 Holiday Gift Guide

A peek into San Diego's gift-giving past—cigarette accessories and all!

By Sanna Boman Coates

Next year, San Diego Magazine—the oldest city magazine in the country—turns the big seven-oh. With an archive stretching back to its inception in 1948, we have access to a unique peek into our city’s past. A lot has changed in those 70 years—while other things, not so much. Gift guides, like the one in this issue, have been a holiday staple from the start. The December 1949 gift guide, poetically titled “New finds upon an old occasion,” included gems such as “loafer socks in almost all colors” ($2.95) and a “long playing record of Miss Liberty, with original Broadway cast” ($4.85). Today, accounting for inflation, those socks would cost $30 and the record just under $50. (Maybe that explains why people don’t buy records anymore.)

But perhaps the biggest culture shock for a reader of today is the number of gift ideas designed for cigarette smokers. The four-page feature lists eight gifts with the fashionable smoker in mind. It wasn’t until almost a decade later, in June of 1957, that Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney would declare the connection between smoking and lung cancer the official position of the US Public Health Service. In 1949, smoking was still very much a casual habit ingrained in all levels of society.

Among the unisex gift ideas is a “Moby Dick ashtray, molded to the palm of the hand” ($2). For him, a “Dunhill humidor of calf leather and wood for cigarettes, cigars, and tobacco” ($19.98). And for the special lady in your life, why not consider a “cigarette box and case of sterling silver from Bangkok, Siam” ($66 and $121, respectively). Siam had officially changed its name to Thailand earlier that year, but it seems like San Diego Magazine hadn’t gotten the memo just yet.

Some things that haven’t changed in the last 70 years? We still recommend jewelry for her and leather footwear for him. See all 70 of our picks.

From the Archives: A 1949 Holiday Gift Guide

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