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Catalog Data

paper; ink (multicolor)
Height x Width: 14 x 10 in. (35.56 x 25.4 cm)
Archival Material
United States of America
c. 1942
The full-page print advertisement for the Eastman Kodak Company appeared in an unidentified publication circa 1942. The top half of the ad features an illustration showing materials and transportation for V-Mail: a facsimile (photographic print) letter at actual size, a reel of 16 mm Kodak film, boxes of the microfilm, a Pan American Airways (Pan Am) crewman, and PAA Anzac Clipper to ship the V-Mail by air. The text elaborated on how each played a role in V-Mail operations.
The first two paragraphs hit upon essential qualities of V-mail: photographing letters to microfilm reduced the weight of "normal mail" for overseas shipment via aircraft. Advertisements, promotions, and press emphasized how these letters aided the war effort. This particular copy took a didactic approach to convince the American public of the importance of using the service. Explaining how the service worked helped allay fears and misconceptions about this special correspondence while also emphasizing the company's contributions to the war. Many industries during World War II shifted production to military supplies, and companies crafted their marketing campaigns to inform consumers of this as well as remind them of their usual product lines.
Kodak's Recordak System, described in the final paragraph of this ad, was originally developed for copying bank and business records. The microphotography equipment was designed for ease of use and mass production. It made an easy transition into government and military uses for the Second World War. Great Britain first employed Kodak to microfilm letters for the Airgraph Service in 1941. Following that lead, the U.S. War Department entered into a contract with the Eastman Kodak Company on May 8, 1942 to use Recordak machines to process V-Mail. Kodak coordinated the V-Mail photographic operations in the continental U.S. When it came to the far-flung overseas V-Mail stations, the processing was in the hands of the U.S. military, usually the Army Signal Corps. In military circles, V-Mail was also referred to as "photo mail," acknowledging the central function of photographic technology to this communication service.
Hudson, James W. Victory Mail of World War II: V-Mail, The Funny Mail. Author, Xlibris, 2007.
Littoff, Judy, and David C. Smith. "'Will He Get My Letter?:' Popular Portrayals of Mail and Morale during World War II." The Journal of Popular Culture 23, no. 4 (1990): 21-43.
United States Post Office Department. A Wartime History of the Post Office Department: World War II 1939-1945. Washington, DC: Post Office Department, 1951.
War Advertising Council Archives at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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National Postal Museum