The American public was first introduced to the awesome reality of the atomic bomb courtesy of an Associated Press bulletin transmitted on August 6th, 1945 at 11:03 AM Eastern War Time. Within hours of this historic dispatch, the bar at the Washington Press Club was offering a gin and Pernod concoction dubbed the "Atomic Cocktail." Within days of the leveling of Hiroshima, Los Angeles burlesque establishments were promoting "Atom Bomb Dancers." Within weeks of the event, a New York jewelry company was selling "atomic inspired pin and earring sets" that were "as daring to wear as it was to drop the first atom bomb." And within months, KIX Cereal was advertising its Atomic 'Bomb' Ring which it was offering to kids for 15 cents and a cereal box top.
In the period immediately following August 6, 1945 there was almost universal familiarity with the word "atomic." And, by and large, to the average American citizen this familiarity was overwhelmingly positive: The word, to most, connoted power, ingenuity and, above all, supremacy. The American teenager, the most fickle barometer of popular culture, adopted the expression as a means of declaring anything "hot" or "cool." Not surprisingly, businesses (small and large) seized upon this unprecedented cultural awareness and set about harnessing the energy of the atom for strictly commercial purposes.1
One unusual example of the Bomb's favorable impact on industry was the Mosler Safe company of Hamilton, Ohio. By virtue of their product being at the right place at the right time, Mosler became THE safe company for the atomic age. Before World War II, you see, Mosler had supplied four large vaults to the Teikoku Bank in Hiroshima, Japan. After the bombing it was discovered that the contents of these particular vaults were all miraculously intact. The promotional value of this trial by fire was not lost on Mosler executives and, in 1950, the company reproduced a testimonial letter from Teikoku in their PR material. Soon thereafter the U.S. government chose Mosler to construct the "atomic proof" vaults that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are to descend into during an attack or other disaster. The company would later build the giant vault doors for the now-decommissioned emergency congressional relocation facility beneath the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. 2
While Mosler could lay legitimate claim to its wares being more relevant and useful than ever before in the post-war era, many other business owners simply cashed in and named, or in some cases, re-named, their establishments after the atom. In many cases these names were incredibly awkward. One can only imagine what it must have been like to check into the Atomic Hotel or digest Atomic Food Products or take your Atomic Sportswear to the Atom Cleaners.What follows are business directory listings for Los Angeles and New York City from the period 1947 to 1962. These entries illustrate - with astonishing clarity (see The Atomic Undergarment Co for what has to be the strangest "atomic" business ever) - just how pervasive the word was in the commercial world during the early Cold War. As a final note to ponder: Why was the Atomic Neckware company a bi-coastal concern?
Excerpt from the 1950 testimonial letter sent to the Mosler Safe Company from the Teikoku Bank of Hiroshima:
"As you know, in 1945 the Atomic Bomb fell on Hiroshima, and the whole city was destroyed and thousands of citizens lost their precious lives. And our building, the best artistic one in Hiroshima, was also destroyed. However it was our great luck to find that though the surface of the vault doors were heavily damaged, its contents were not affected at all and the cash and important documents were perfectly savedů Your products were admired for being stronger than the Atomic Bomb."
1. Paul Boyer, "By the Bomb's Early Light" pp. 10-11
2. Edward Zuckerman, "The Day After World War III" pp. 275
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