Going for the Gold

Some of us here at Duke Digital Collections have been in “All Olympics, All The Time” mode the past couple of weeks, and are therefore now suffering through serious withdrawal. What did we talk about around the water cooler and on Facebook before snowboard cross? What gave our lives meaning before curling? To keep the spirit of the Games alive even though they’re over, here are some interesting images from our digital collections that relate to the Vancouver Olympics.

First, here’s a British Overseas Airways Corporation advertisement offering travel to the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, the first Games held after WWII (the host city was selected at least partly because Switzerland was neutral during the war). These Olympics were noteworthy for the figure skating gold medal won by Dick Button, now well-known as an “amusingly opinionated” TV commentator. The 1948 Games also introduced a new demonstration sport called “military patrol,” which combined cross-country skiing with shooting at targets and later, of course, was renamed “ice dancing.” (Ha ha, we kid. It became biathlon. But admit it, you would watch ice dancing if there were shooting at stuff involved.)

Visit the Winter Olympics

This ad is interesting for a couple of reasons: BOAC no longer exists, having later merged with British European Airways to create British Airways, but the “Speedbird” name endures to this day as the callsign used by air traffic control to refer to British Airways flights. The $746 round-trip fare is about $6700 in today’s dollars; for comparison, round-trip fares between NYC and Geneva today begin at $448. Of course, in 1948 you probably didn’t have to pay extra for checked baggage, pillows, food, and armrests.

Next, here’s a 1925 ad that vaguely and unconvincingly attributes America’s Olympic success to using Lifebuoy soap. Maybe Lindsey Vonn should’ve used it on her sore shin instead of wrapping the injured area in cheese. (We swear we are not making this up. Look it up — it was in the news.) It’s good to know that Lifebuoy kills germs picked up in “stuffy cars,” which are breeding grounds for disease, as everyone knows. Apparently.

Finally, here’s another airline advertisement, this time for Trans-Canada Air Lines‘ service to Vancouver. No fare this time, but note that it mentions coast-to-coast service across Canada and to Newfoundland, which at the time wasn’t part of Canada. When this ad was published in 1945, Newfoundland was a separate dominion within the British Empire; it didn’t become Canada’s tenth province until 1949. Trans-Canada Air Lines, meanwhile, became Air Canada in 1965.

The Duke University Libraries have an outstanding collection of materials from and about Canada, reflecting the university’s strong and unique Canadian Studies program. This area of collecting strength is well represented in our digital collections: check out some of our great resources about our neighbors (or is that neighbours?) to the north here.

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