top of page
  • Writer's pictureCat T. Gardiner

The Big Apple's Story - #2

* * * T H E CA M E L M A N * * *

One of thee most visited R&R destinations for our WWII service members was Times Square, otherwise known as The Great White Way (nickname for Broadway, one of the first streets to be fully illuminated by electric light.) Overlooking the hustle and bustle was one of the most iconic images: The Camel Cigarette Man. The Camel Man blew smoke rings around the clock for decades from a billboard mounted on the Claridge Hotel on Broadway between 43rd and 44th Streets. The billboard puffed out five-foot-wide smoke rings of steam every four seconds. The smoke was chosen because outdoor lighting had been banned due to the war's blackout measures. The image switched from soldiers to sailors to airmen.

Behind the hole was a steel chamber with a rubber backing that acted like a diaphragm. As steam filled the chamber, the rubber was pulled tight by a gear. When a second gear turned, the diaphragm relaxed, forcing the steam out of the chamber with a whooshing sound and sending it, like a smoke ring, wafting over Broadway. Until 1966, the billboard puffed away about 200 million smoke rings!

Times Square & The Camel Billboard - Wartime 1945

Oh, to go back and time and see an advertising marvel such as this and to stand, once again, in the heart of The Big Apple! Until next time, friends! KEEP 'EM FLYING

bottom of page