Gas masks were even more more popular in the US during the Cold War 1950s than they were during World War 2. If you had a nuclear bomb shelter in your backyard, you just had to have a rack of gas masks, one for each member of the family and perhaps even one for the dog.
But when all those bomb shelters were widened into swimming pools during the 1960s, the market for two decades old gas masks fell off sharply, leaving literally millions of the things stockpiled in Army surplus warehouses.
Which is why some innovative genius decided there just had to be market flogging them as toys for children. What could be more fun? What childs' eyes wouldn't light up on Christmas morning when they opened their presents to find a gas mask staring back at them?
Unfortunately, old gas masks can be as toxic as the air you might be wearing one to protect yourself from. The filtration systems wore out, and the filters sometimes rotted. Plus, kids with low lung capacity, or asthamtic-ish breathing problems, would have found getting a decent air supply through one of these some pretty hard going.
It'd be interesting to know just how many kids keeled over after snapping on one of these before running around like 'A Man From Mars!'
Not suprisingly, gas masks as toys for kids didn't really take off. But at least the marketing campaign produced this hilariously bizarre ad.
(Via Modern Mechanix)
Poison Gas As A Shocking New Weapon During World War I
Absolutely Shit Gas Masks Handed Out To US Soldiers During The Gulf War And War On Iraq
Winston Churchill Wanted To Use Poison Gas In 1919 To 'Subdue' Arabs In What Would Become Iraq. He Thought It More Humane Than Bombing, And Argued Against It Being Outlawed As A Weapon Of War During The 1920s :
"I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror..."