Why Mad Men Needs ME as a Sixties Consultant

One of my favorite shows is Mad Men. I should probably say that in the past tense though because it has started off as a little boring this season and I am losing interest.

Although it is 1966, and they are using current events for conversation, I find myself bored enough with the events this season to look for errors in the period.

I was in 6th grade in 1966 – turned 11 in May of that year, so I was keenly aware of culture, and the world surrounding me. It irks me that they misused modern conveniences and gadgets constantly this season because I know what was being used then.

A simple check on the Internet confirms my suspicions that things like push button telephones, featured in the Draper apartment, though introduced in 1963, were mostly used by businesses until the late 70’s when it entered the common household. The Draper’s couldn’t have called Ma Bell and said give me one of those push button ones in 1966 – no matter how mod they were – it is just not believable to me. My parents still have this one (featured in a previous blog) – a rotary phone installed in the 1970’s.

I know for a fact that remote controls on TV’s as shown on a recent episode were not in use until the late 70’s as well. No normal family with a normal television set had a remote control to turn on the TV like Sally Draper did in her stepfather’s home.

I also knew that dresses or skirts were mandatory for girls until about 1969 or 1970 in most public schools. We were allowed to wear pants under skirts on very cold days but other than that, no pants were worn in school by girls until much later than 1966. Yet this week they showed a high school girl wearing a pair of tight slacks in school. Wouldn’t have happened.

A hooker girl they showed in a leopard bra and panties was wearing the wrong sort of underwear for the 60’s. There were no soft-cup push up type bras, they were all cone shaped and had under-wires back then, except for training bras. In fact, there was no Victoria’s Secret in 1966 – they weren’t established until 1977.

Boxes from the Bakery were ONLY IN WHITE. No colored pink cardboard used in the 1960’s. That’s totally the generation later. Small, but annoyingly incorrect details.

It is things like this that irk me because I realize the writers are all at least a generation down from me (and possibly two) and they have no clue as to what really happened in the 60’s. There is only so much that the research dept. can turn up about things, and the rest, of course they have to guess. If push button phones and remotes were invented before 1965, then surely Don Draper and his kin would have these things. Not even J. Paul Getty had these things in the 60’s!

See how bored I am!

So hey guys at Mad Men – I was alive and alert then! How about paying a real live person as a consultant, like ME, to give you advice on how to not mess up on the period details. I am available!

13 comments

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  • I was curious about the wireless remote device depicted in Madmen also, so I did some research. Those of you who state that the wireless remote in Madmen is anachronistic are dead wrong. It appears the characters are using the Zenith Space Command wireless TV remote , invented in 1956 and widely available (to those that could afford it) in the 1960s.

    • Hi there- thanks for reading and writing! The point I was trying to make- and I guess I did not do this well- is that the vast majority 90% of people in that era had to get up off their duff to change stations and that it would have been a more realistic representation of that era to show that! That is the problem with research vs actually living that era!

  • You are so right about the remote control! Drives me nuts watching Mad Men to see them using a remote control for the TV when that device possibly wasn’t even invented yet. It most definitely wasn’t in use. Not only did nobody have one, we wouldn’t even have known what it was. TVs had big clunky knobs then, yes, even rich people’s TVs. It stands out to me as a mistake on the show because many other details are correct.

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  • I just stumbled upon your post about the believability of the phones used in Mad Men. I’m the consultant and supplier of phones for the show and it was my idea to put the TouchTone phones into Don’s apartment. If you will notice, the phones were the early 10-button phones which were starting to show up in homes in 1965. They were very expensive, but Don’s a cutting edge kind of guy that would go for something.
    I’ve been working with the show since season 4 and have been keeping the phones very accurate for the time. I don’t know everything, but being a phone collector of 20 years, I have quite a few colleagues to tap information from if I’m not certain on a particular phone or situation.
    In working with the show, I know they strive to be accurate in every detail and they draw on the expertise of people in each of the fields involved.
    If you have information other than what you remember from your childhood to support your claims, please pass that along to your readers.

  • Isn’t it /possible/ that Don Draper, at the cutting edge of Manhattan cool, got things that much earlier than all the “normal” families? We noted that Don’s early push button phone had no * or # keys.

    As for pink boxes? Just because /you/ don’t remember them, they couldn’t have happened?

    Come on girls, say it with me: anecdotes are not data!

    • Hi Jindo, I reently watched a marathon of The Brady Bunch – a sitcom starting in 1969 – they were a modern, affluent suburban family with a successful dad, homemaker mom, and a LIVE IN cook and housekeeper Alice. In every episode where someone is on a phone, including later seasons into the 70’s – a rotary phone was featured. Even cool. affluent people didn’t have push button phones at home in 1966, so sorry. And by the way, have the researchers watch a Brady Bunch marathon to stay true to the late sixties era of gadgets. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yIkxksTpNg

  • Ah, those little anachronisms can drive you crazy, can’t they? You are so right about dress codes for public schools in the 1960’s. But I disagree about the bras. I’m a little bit older than you — I was wearing bras in the 1960’s, but none of them were cone-shaped. Victoria’s Secret may not have been around in the 60’s, but Frederick’s of Hollywood was established in the late 1940’s, and I can remember flipping through their catalogs in the late 60’s and early 70’s. They offered cone-shaped bras, but they offered a lot of other styles, too.

  • I worked my first job in a bakery back then, and I’d swear the boxes were pink… but who knows? Memory does odd things.
    I’ve been interested in Mad Men this season, but their Jewish character(s) leave something to be desired.

  • About the push button phone, I had a childhood friend who’s family had one of those phones in their house in 1967. I was ten. Now, her dad ran a local business, maybe he pulled some strings to get one, but I do remember it. Of course, my memory may be faulty… the pink boxes though, you are right on that one :)

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