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Anachronism Stew / Mad Men

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Though Mad Men has largely averted this trope due to creator Matthew Weiner paying a ridiculous amount of attention to detail, there are occasional goofs.

  • The first episode, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", has Don coining the Lucky Strike slogan "it's toasted" in 1960. It actually dates back to 1917.
    • The wall calendar in Joan's doctor's office reads March, 1960 when Peggy goes for a prescription for "contraceptive pills." The first birth control pill was approved by the FDA in May, 1960.
    • The railroad station at Ossining is shown decorated with a mark of an "M" on a circle, the pre-2000s logo of the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority which operates the Metro-North Railroad. But, in 1960 it was still the New York Central railroad.
  • In the second episode, "Ladies Room", set in Spring 1960, Don mentions banging a shoe on a table, referencing Soviet Premiere Nikita Khrushchev's famous "shoe-banging" incident, which took place in October 1960.
    • Don presents Betty with a quartz wristwatch as a gift. The quartz wristwatch was not developed until 1967, and the first commercial models were introduced in 1969.
    • At the diner, a character mentions the phrase "military-industrial complex" in scene set in March, 1960. This phrase was popularized in President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "farewell address" on January 17, 1961.
    • A copy writer mentions The Twilight Zone (1959) and imitates Rod Serling's catchphrase, "Submitted for your approval." That line was first used in The Twilight Zone episode "Cavender is Coming" two years later on May 25, 1962.
    • Betty tells the psychiatrist that her neighbour's jealousy reminds her of her sorority days. Betty is stated to have attended Bryn Mawr, which has no sororities, or at least did not when she would have attended.
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  • Episode 1.8, "The Hobo Code," features Midge (Don's mistress) and her friends listening to "Sketches of Spain" by Miles Davis. As that album was released in July 1960 and it appears to be late summer 1960 ("The Twist" is a big hit as well at the moment), its inclusion isn't anachronistic, but the actual record you see Midge put on the turntable is. The label design you see is Columbia Records' 1960s "two-eye" label, which was introduced in 1962. The original pressing of "Sketches of Spain" (and any other Miles Davis album on Columbia up to that point) was on what collectors call the "six eye" label, used from 1955-1962. See here for examples, or just ask any record collector: a lot of six-eyes go for big bucks on eBay nowadays.
  • In "The Gold Violin" Jimmy Barret greets Betty with an exaggerated Noo Yawk accent when he says "Hello gorgeous". This is the famous opening line of Funny Girl, which didn't open on broadway until '64 and wasn't a movie until '68.
  • Episode 2.8 "A Night to Remember" involved Sterling-Cooper wooing Heineken, and when Don and Betty are having The Sterlings over for dinner, Don points out Betty's choice of beers: a box filled with Heineken bottles... with a logo that was not introduced until 1968, on a type of bottle designed in the 1980s. In 1962, the bottles would have been brown, and the Heineken logo was a red star on a yellow background. Of course, it's nearly certain that the Heineken was Product Placement, so you can see why accuracy may have been sacrificed.note 
    • Don also proposes the idea of placing Heineken end cap displays in the A & P's in affluent suburbs in Connecticut. But Connecticut did not allow the sale of beer in grocery stores in the 1960s. Beer could only be sold in package stores. (Don was, however, talking about a plan that included both Connecticut and New York, and New York did—and does—allow grocery store beer sales. As he lives in New York, he may simply have been confused about Connecticut's laws—many in the Northeast are unclear about buying booze in the next state, even when the next state is next door.note )
    • When Don goes into the office kitchen late at night, there's a box of Mister Salty pretzels - a Nabsico product not introduced until 1966, four years after scene was set.
  • The show is generally good at avoiding anachronistic vehicles, but in episode 2.11 "The Jet Set", Joy is driving a 1968 Mercedes-Benz convertible in 1962.
    • Similarly, Checker A11 and Marathons are occasionally from much later time periods, due to the difficulty - at least for earlier seasons - in obtaining period-correct Checker A8 and A9 taxis and early '60s A11s.
  • In several episodes, modern packaging for ink is seen. The characters are also obviously unfamiliar with fountain pen use — in one scene Don nearly springs the nib. However, the pens themselves are almost all period-accurate; Cross and an independent pen collector donated fountain pens and ballpoints.
  • The finale for Season 5 made use of the theme song to the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, a couple of months before it was released (it ends in the spring of 1967, while the album came out in the summer).
  • In "The Color Blue", a hard-bound copy of "The Corps" by W.E.B. Griffin can be seen in Don's office. The book wasn't published until 1986.
  • SCDP's office in the Time Life Building overlooks the Swiss Bank Tower, which is indeed adjacent to the Time Life Building, but did not exist until 1990.
  • In "Long Weekend", set in 1960, there is a fallout shelter sign in the hospital where Roger is treated for his heart attack. Fallout shelter signs first appeared in 1961.
  • Throughout season one, set in 1960, IMB Selectric typewriters, introduced July 31, 1962, are used in Sterling Cooper's offices. Matt Weiner explains that this was due to the difficulty in obtaining, maintaining and dubbing period-correct typewriters.
    • In "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", a secretary is using a Selectric II, introduced in 1971.
  • In "Babylon", Joan quoting Marshall McLuhan's famous phrase "The medium is the message", which was popularised in his 1964 treatise Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, so, unless she was in his class in Canada, it's unlikely she would have known that term.
  • In "Love Among the Ruins", set in 1963, Don mentions taking the New York Central and Broadway Limited from Ossining to Penn Station. At the time, Broadway Limited was run by Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR did not merge with New York Central until 1968). A commuter would not make such a mistake. Additionally, the Broadway Limited was an private all-room reserved train to Chicago, and did not allow coach passengers for intermediate stops.
  • In "5G", an envelope on Charley Fiddich's desk has the USPS "full eagle" seal, designed to help usher in the independent United States Postal Service. The USPS did not come into existence until July 1, 1971. (It was previously called the United States Post Office Department.)
  • Don's flashback to Korea in "Nixon vs Kennedy" is dated 1950 and appears to be summer, indicating the very start of the war. However, Lt. Draper jokingly tells Whitman not to mistake him as Chinese. China entered the Korean War November 1950, at the onset of the unforgiving Korean winter.
  • In "Nixon vs. Kennedy," the office is listening to music at the election night party and one of the songs that plays is "Hot Dog Here He Comes" by The Tri-Lites. This episode takes place during the 1960 election. This song did not come out until 1963.
  • In "Indian Summer", "Agua de Beber" ("Water to Drink") by Astrud Gilberto plays on the soundtrack during Betty's fantasy sequence, at the end of which it sounds like it's actually playing on the radio. This episode was set in October 1960; "Agua de Beber" wasn't released until 1965, on The Astrud Gilberto Album.
    • The stamps on the package delivered to Don's office are 8 cent stamps picturing General John J. Pershing. Those stamps weren't issued until 17 November 1961, so they couldn't have been on a package mailed in 1960.
  • In "Shoot", the Drapers and the Hobarths are shown enjoying alcohol during intermission of the Broadway show "Fiorello!" but Broadway theaters did not sell alcohol in 1960. Concessions at Broadway theaters at the time were very limited and, until bars were installed in the early 1970s, the commonly available beverage was an off-brand orange drink sold in a carton.
  • In "Flight 1", Don is in a Japanese restaurant while "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto plays on the TV soundtrack. Although the song was recorded as "Ue o muite aruko" in 1961 in Japan, it wasn't released in the US until 1963 - and the episode is set during the first week in March 1962 after the tragic American Airlines crash.
    • When Peggy visits her mother, on the table is a bottle of Cheerwine. Cheerwine is a soft drink that, while available since 1917, is only available regionally in the Carolinas. Furthermore, that particular bottle was released as a 'retro' model in the 2000s.
    • The song playing in Paul's New Jersey apartment during his party is George McGregor & The Bronzettes' "Temptation is Hard To Fight"...a track from 1967. As stated above, it's set in March of '62.
  • In "Three Sundays", when Bobby Barrett proposes a hidden camera TV starring her husband, Don suggests ABC might be interested because the network is "sick" about losing Candid Camera (to a rival network). In reality, Candid Camera had been on CBS since 1960 and hadn't aired on ABC since 1948, 14 years before scene took place.
    • When Father Gill visits the Olson home for dinner, on April 8th, there is audio of a Yankees game in the background. The Yankee season in 1962 didn't begin until April 10th.
  • In "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency", a Dr. Pepper vending machine is featured. Despite being advertised in American Bandstand at the time, Dr. Pepper was not available in New York until the late 1960s.
  • In "Seven Twenty Three", when Don signs his contract (with the date 7/23/1963, the number referenced in the episode title), the last part of the company name can be seen in the signatory section, and it ends with "L.L.C." Limited Liability Companies weren't in common use in the US until the late 1970s, and prior to that many states had no laws governing their existence.
  • After Duck and Peggy have sex in the hotel room in "The Grown Ups", Duck plugs in the TV and turns it on, whereupon the picture shows up instantly. Television sets in 1963 used vacuum tubes and took some time to warm up before the picture would appear. The TV used in the show was likely a modern set made to look like a vintage set. Typically, by "some time", we mean one to two minutes. The sound would probably warm up before the picture, though.
  • In "The Good News", Don and Lane see Gammera The Invincible, the re-cut, Americanized version of the Japanese film Daikiaju Gamera. However, Daikiaju Gamera was released in Japan on November 26, 1965, and Gammera The Invincible was not released in the United States until December 16, 1966, nearly two years after the episode is set.
    • On the episode's commentary track Jared Harris mentions that they couldn't refer directly to the movie in their dialog while filming because licensing was up in the air. This suggests that the movie was originally intended to be Godzilla - released in the US in 1956 - and Gamera was substituted in post-production.
  • In "To Have And To Hold", Joan mentions having reservations at Le Cirque for her and her childhood friend. The episode was set in 1968 and Le Cirque opened in 1974.
  • In "The Benefactor", an episode set in 1962, they talk about how The Defenders is airing its fourth season and how the abortion episode was a holdover from season 3. Problem: The show debuted in the fall of the 1961 season.


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