A Hammacher Schlemmer Exclusive: Historical Ignorance For Christmas!

The up-scale retailer Hammacher Schlemmer is battling it out with The Sharper Image in the high-priced Chritsmas gifts, toys food items and decorations market for people who literally have money to burn. I’m especially impressed with the golf ball-locating glasses, the Belgian Chocolate Hot Cocoa Bombs that “explode with flavor” in a cup of hot milk, at only $5 a bomb, and the “first marble run with a track that is suspended in mid-air for only $199.95. However, what caught the ethicist’s eye was the “Your Year to Remember” wall art, which commemorates a birthday or anniversary with coins minted in that year, plus bold graphics that list “major news events” along with pop culture and sports happenings.

For some strange reason, the catalogue designers chose 1968 as the year to display. You can’t make it out from the graphic above, but the major news events listed are…

  • “60 Minutes” debuts
  • Vietnam
  • Apollo 8
  • The Boeing 747 takes its first flight
  • The Civil Rights Act is passed, and
  • The first Bic Mac is sold.

Wow, that was some y…wait, WHAT? 1968 was one of the most cataclysmic years in U.S. history, and the plaque manages to skip nearly all of the events that made it so. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Colleges (like mine) suffered through violent protests. Riots broke out in Washington D.C. President Johnson was forced by the surging student-powered Eugene McCarthy campaign to announce that he wouldn’t seek re-election. The Democratic National Convention sparked rioting in the streets. The USSR took advantage of the turmoil in the U.S. to invade Czechoslovakia. Richard Nixon was elected President.

Is the idea that only good news is allowed on the plaque? So I’m presuming that the 2001 version leaves out the terrorist bombings of the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the 2020 plaque omits the George Floyd riots and the Wuhan virus disaster.

All the customer reviews of the item gave the $100 gift raves.

10 thoughts on “A Hammacher Schlemmer Exclusive: Historical Ignorance For Christmas!

  1. This isn’t really surprising, is it? It’s a pretty banal gift idea, and I’m not sure there’s a huge market for laser-printed art that commemorates assassinations. The target audience for this isn’t looking for controversy and tragedy. They’re looking for an inoffensive gift to buy for someone they don’t know all that well but to whom they feel obligated to give something. Everything on there is pretty uninteresting trivia, which makes it appeal to the widest possible audience.

    They don’t put any “fun facts” on Snapple bottle caps about Ed Gein or the Challenger disaster, either. Not really the ‘vibe’ that peach iced tea drinkers are looking for.

    Although, there might be a niche market for fruity drinks that include grotesque and macabre trivia on the label. There’s probably enough weirdos out there to make that a sustainable business model. “Quench your thirst, and your sick fascinations!” Maybe do some licensed Addams Family co-branding. OK, I’m sorta talking myself into this now… Anybody want to invest?

    • “Not surprising” is, as any Rationalization list master knows, not an excuse. it’s not just a banal gift, it’s gauche one, but 1968 is unusual. If your going to claim the thing represents the year of note, you can’t omit the most famous, biggest, nation-shaking events that the year is known for. Fine: if the idea is to memorialize trivia and happy talk, then advertise it that way.

      • Maybe two of your list have much relevance outside the U.S.A., but three or so of theirs have. What is their target market?

          • Maybe this will help to clarify what I was trying to get at.

            Here in Australia we often see advertisements for U.S. products, typically but not only things like films. Sometimes the advertisements are adapted or bespoke for this market, sometimes they are totally U.S.-centric (which can backfire for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger) – and, just sometimes, the advertisements were prepared with an eye to spanning cultures. This may be a case of that last, for all I know.

            So, what was this advertisement aiming at? If it was only ever meant for the U.S.A., then your criticisms are sound. If, on the other hand, it was constructed to be more inclusive, then criticising it for not focussing on a U.S. market rather misses the point. So, what really was going on here?

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