snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Urban Legends » Urban Legends » The Beacon Wax advert and the H-bomb

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: The Beacon Wax advert and the H-bomb
die daagliks phosdex
Monster Mashed Potatos & Grave-y


Icon 06 posted      Profile for die daagliks phosdex   Author's Homepage   E-mail die daagliks phosdex   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
On 17 February 1953, President Eisenhower publicly announced that the United States had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.

That same day, the now-defunct Pittsburgh Press ran this advert in its several editions:

quote:

"The bomb's brilliant gleam reminds me of the brilliant gleam Beacon Wax gives to floors. It's a science marvel!"


(From what I understand, the FBI attempted serious enquiries of the matter, but to no avail.)

Does this sound like Weird History or Urban Legend?

------------------
Vir 'n goeie tyd, aankip hier. Ons weet wat jou hou van....


Posts: 1316 | From: Winona, MN | Registered: Mar 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 03 posted      Profile for Bonnie   E-mail Bonnie       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Since I love these weird advertising stories, I tried to find something substantial that could confirm or debunk. I failed. In lieu thereof, I'll report that Richard Reeves (no less) mentioned this in an article published in American Heritage ("1954." American Heritage, Dec. 1994, Vol. 45, Issue 8, p. 30.).

quote:
The United States exploded its second hydrogen bomb in March of 1954. It was small enough to be used, big enough to vaporize Pittsburgh. (The first one, exploded in secrecy in November of 1952, weighed more than ten tons, and the Soviet Union had exploded one too big to be delivered, late in 1953.) Life magazine, which was still the national mirror--portable television before we realized that television was not a new mass medium but a new environment, more like weather than communication--tried to cheer us up with a photograph of President Eisenhower, grinning, leading his staff to the bomb shelter under the White House. Beacon Wax celebrated the explosion by running a newspaper advertisement saying: "The bomb's brilliant gleam reminds me of the brilliant gleam Beacon Wax gives to floors. It's a scientific marvel!"

I imagine that Robert Harris, profiled in a 1997 Forbes article, would have more information.

Bonnie "waxing nostalgic" Taylor


Posts: -99014 | From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ursa Major
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 03 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
"The Bomb" has long been a generic term for all nuclear weapons. It was probably used as such in this ad that came out at a time when the atom and atomic bombs were actually common motifs in popular culture. It's quite feasible that the ad's concurance with an actual test of an H-bomb was totally coincidental.
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 201 posted      Profile for Bonnie   E-mail Bonnie       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
 -

I'm afraid nothing from 1953 has turned up, though.

-- Bonnie

--------------------
Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

Posts: -99014 | From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Troberg     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
the Soviet Union had exploded one too big to be delivered, late in 1953.
I'm unsure what this is a reference to. The largest nuclear device ever is the Soviet Tzar Bomba, rated at up to 100 megaton, but even this had a working delivery system in the form of a modified Tu-95 Bear.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzar_bomba

--------------------
/Troberg

Posts: 4360 | From: Borlänge, Sweden | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Ganzfeld     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Maybe it refers to the 100 Mt version of the Tsar Bomba, which was never delivered and therefore was arguably too big to be delivered.(Okay, maybe it's a stretch!)
Posts: 4922 | From: Kyoto, Japan | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Troberg     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Maybe it refers to the 100 Mt version of the Tsar Bomba, which was never delivered and therefore was arguably too big to be delivered.(Okay, maybe it's a stretch!)
Perhaps, but the modified Tu-95 (which, by the way, is one of the most impressive aircrafts of its kind in the world) was capable of carrying even the big version. Perhaps I should say the real version, as the 50 Mt was just made for test purposes. It was designed as a three stage bomb, but as the it would have a too high fallout for testing purposes (remember, the Soviets did not have pacific islands to test on and had to test it on their main land), the third stage was removed and replaced with a dummy stage made of lead, but the real bomb was intended to have all three stages.

Too bad there never was any civilian version, I can think of at least one person I'd like to deliver such a device to (don't worry, it's nobody here)...

--------------------
/Troberg

Posts: 4360 | From: Borlänge, Sweden | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 87 posted      Profile for Bonnie   E-mail Bonnie       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I think part of the problem with the premise of the "Beacon Wax anecdote" as related above is that the timing is off, which sort of hampers looking for the ad in question.

Eisenhower didn't announce the first successful test of the hydrogen bomb on 17 February 1953, at least as far as I can tell. (In fact, as noted above, the first successful test had taken place at Enewatak on 1 November 1952, while Truman was still President.)

On 17 February 1954, however, Eisenhower had, as Ned Russell of the New York Herald Tribune news service reported the next day, "urged Congress . . . to amend the 1946 Atomic Energy Act to permit the United States to share limited military and peaceful atomic energy information with its allies and to spur private enterprise development of industrial atomic power" [1]. (The same day a member of Congress revealed that the Enewatak blast of 1952 had destroyed the island, which was apparently news to the American public.)

In any event, here's how Rick Worland and David Slayden related a slightly different version of the anecdote in a book published in 2000 [2] (emphasis mine),

quote:
Jack G. Shaheen and Richard Taylor, writing in the anthology Nuclear War Films, point to a jaw-dropping 1954 newspaper ad. On the day of a highly publicized hydrogen bomb test, an advertisement claimed: "The bomb's brilliant gleam reminds me of the brilliant gleam Beacon Wax gives to floors. It's a scientific marvel." [footnote] [p. 150]

[footnote] Quoted by Jack G. Shaheen and Richard Taylor, "The Beginning or the End," in Nuclear War Films, ed. Jack G. Shaheen (Cardondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1978), 6.

As noted above, the United States's second successful test of a hydrogen bomb took place on Bikini Atoll on 1 March 1954; tests continued later through the year. The H-bomb was on everyone's minds in 1954, as it had been in earlier years.

For what it's worth, then, the Beacon Wax cartoon ad appearing in a 7 May 1954 issue of The Post-Standard is the earliest I can find. It's quite possible that identical advertisements had appeared in earlier issues of The Pittsburgh Press -- I don't have access to that paper. If such bomb-related ads had appeared in Pittsburgh, though, I'm guessing they appeared sometime after 1 March 1954.

Bonnie "Naked Truth Reveals No Bikini Atoll" Taylor

[1] "Eisenhower Urges Limited Sharing of A-Information with U.S. Allies," The Washington Post, 18 February 1954, Pg. 1.

[2] "From Apocalypse to Appliances: Postwar Anxiety and Modern Convenience in Forbidden Planet." In Hollywood Goes Shopping, ed. David Desser and Garth Jowett (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, [March 1] 2000), 139-156.

--------------------
Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

Posts: -99014 | From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2