Advertisement for Kodak
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. http://www.talesofwar.com.
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.
[V-Mail letter graphic reads as follows:]
Mr. + Mrs. William Jones
493 Buffalo Street
St. Louis, MO.
Pvt. J.A. Jones
Co. B-121st Inf.
September 15, 1942
Dear Mother and Dad:
Your letter came through two days
ago, and you don't know what it meant
to me to see your handwriting after so
many months, and learn that everything
is O.K. They tell me this letter will go
off by plane tonight, and that with
"V...- Mail" we can exchange letters right
along, from now on. Pretty wonderful,
I've had some great experiences,
and was never better.
[Captions for graphic read as follows:]
A — You read a letter in your boy's own writing, like that above (actual size).
B — The three small boxes in the photograph contain over 5000 of these letters — in the form of photographic film.
C — On this one roll of 16-mm. film — shown in slightly reduced size — 1700 letters have been photographed.
[Main text reads as follows:]
KODAK created, U.S. Government adopts "V...-MAIL"...for communication with our men on distant fronts
Your boy writes you a letter on a sheet of paper — regular letter size. This is photographed on Kodak microfilm — is reduced in size to about a quarter or a square inch...Now it only has 1/100 of the weight of normal mail.
With thousands of other letters — 85,000 letters weighing 2000 pounds weigh only 20 when reduced to microfilm — it is swiftly flown from his distant outpost to America.
Here, again through photography, the letter addressed to you is "blown up" to readable size — folded, sealed in an envelope, and forwarded to you. It is as clear as the original writing. It really is the writing of your boy because it's a photographic print.
And your letters to him, which you write on special forms, go by the same space-saving, time-saving V...-Mail.
Kodak developed and perfected the process...Pan American Airways and British Overseas Airways, the two great pioneers in transoceanic air transport, blazed the air trail... and the three companies, as Airgraphs, Ltd., offered the service to the American and British governments.
In April, 1941, under the trademark "Airgraph," England first employed the system to solve the problem of getting mail to and from the forces in the Near East. The Airgraph System was gradually expanded until it knits the British Empire together with about a million letters a week — personal and official.
And now the men serving overseas in the American armed forces also have the benefits of this form of speedy correspondence.
Airgraph, or V...-Mail as it is called here, is an adaptation of Kodak's Recordak System which has revolutionized the record-keeping methods of thousands of banks and business houses. Many records of the U.S. Census, Social Security, and Army Selective Service are on microfilm — error-proof, tamper-proof, lasting photographic copies of the original bulky records...Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, N.Y.
SERVING HUMAN PROGRESS THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY