Arlington Historical Museum Holiday Exhibit: Gimmes, Giveaways, and Premiums

The Arlington Historical Museum has a new exhibit for the holidays featuring the “gimmes” and giveaways offered by Arlington businesses to encourage customers to spend with them. In the decades after World War II, these giveaways were in their heyday. Suburbanization had begun around D.C. before World War I, rapidly accelerated in the 1920s, and began anew in 1946. As people moved into their new suburban homes, local businesses rushed to begin building customer loyalty with the newcomers. Handy small household items, attractive and interesting knick-knacks, and even small toys were all intended to keep the business’s name in front of the consumer.

New homeowners often wanted to personalize their homes, so DIY (do it yourself) grew in popularity, as did increasing demand for skill repairmen, such as plumbers. Home entertaining was popular as well, as people wanted to show off their new homes and to build community with their new neighbors. Struggling to throw a party at home became a cliché in the era. Many of the television and radio comedies of the era had episodes where the wife fought multiple disasters as their husband was bringing his boss home for dinner. Many of the artifacts on exhibit demonstrate these trends: DIY and entertaining guests. The exhibit runs through January. Visit the Arlington Historical Museum at 1805 South Arlington Ridge Road, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, free, 1-4 pm