Lead was at the Heart of the Ideal Home

Lead was at the Heart of the Ideal Home

In order to advertise their products, Lead Industries Association published a magazine showcasing the properties of lead and its uses in the home. Today, we examine their issue from March, 1939.

This issue emphasized the importance of lead in almost every sphere of one's life. It associated lead with aesthetics, aspirations, modernity, family, and even health.

Lead products were shown as beautifying and modernizing both the inside and outside of buildings. Lead pipes were described to be durable, reliable, and the only choice for leak free plumbing, and lead paints were characterized as essential to the beautification of homes. They were also advertised to be durable and cost-efficient, and thus marketed towards an aspirational middle class as a way to elevate their social standing.


Lead Industries connected lead to good hygiene and safety through associations with clean, modern hospitals. The magazine used the remodeling of Essex County Hospital, in Cedar Grove, New Jersey as an illustrative example: "Particular care has been taken to provide sanitary, modern plumbing. Therefore, lead pans were used under stall showers and lead stubs to connect the wall- hung water closets." Here, the connection between lead and modern health care was made explicit and exclusive.

Next, Lead Industries advertised the shine and durability of their lead paints, both to home developers and homeowners.


Lead Industries claimed that, "the exteriors of small development homes are very similar to window displays in stores. If attractive, prospective customers are drawn in. and the operator has a better chance to demonstrate in detail the complete home." Of course, according to them, white lead paint was the only one for the job.


The caption reads:

"The attractive Western Pine Home at the Golden Gate Exposition with pure white lead and oil and has sheet lead flashing, downspouts and chimney cap."

The caption above attributes the attractiveness of the "Western Pine Home" to white lead paint. Notably, this house was one of the exhibits in the international Golden Gate Exposition of 1939. This exposition celebrated San Francisco's two newly completed bridges, highlighting American technological and industrial progress.

Connexting all these examples, one finds that Lead Industries' advertisements portrayed lead as the physical and symbolic connection between the American family home, and American exceptionalism and the modern age.