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A history of the pinup

Betty Grable, in what may be the most iconic pinup image of all time.  –Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though its origins can be traced further back, it was WWII that really put pinups on the map.  The pinup was a reminder to troops of what awaited back home, and as us men go, served as the ultimate motivator to the male psyche– T&A.  What can I say, we are simple creatures.  Maybe you see it as an objectification of women, but the fact is it kept soldier’s morale up in dark, harrowing and uncertain times.  It also served to launch the careers of many a young Hollywood starlet.

It’s an art form expressed through performance, photography, fashion, music, tattoos, etc., that is with us to this day.  It’s taken a decidedly more alternative bent in recent years with the popularity of Bettie Page, Dita Von Teese, Suicide Girls, etc., all of which have helped to keep pinup fanaticism front and center.  Long live the pinup.


May 18th, 1944 — A variation of the old Police Gazette, that used to keep customers happy in grandfather’s day, is this collection of pinup cuties adorning the wall of this barber shop at a U.S. Marine Base in the Pacific. Barber Joseph J. Perino, a Marine Corporal from New Orleans, Louisiana, and a veteran of Guadalcanal, here trims the locks of a customer, who uses the interim for a “dream on the house.” — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Nov 23rd, 1943 — Here are members of the B-24 Liberator Bomber “Miss Giving” credited with making the longest flight mission from Australia while on photographic reconnaissance over a Japanese Oil producing city last October. The Ship fought its way through intense anti-aircraft fire and was intercepted by approximately nine enemy fighters, downing four of them in battle.  One engine was knocked out, but the plane returned to its base without injury to any crew members.  Left to right, front: S/Sgt. Aloysius Ziober, Chicago, Ill., Gunner; Capt. Jack Banks, Portland, Ore., Pilot; 2nd Lt. John Calhoun, Wenona, Ill., co-pilot; 1st Lt. Robert MacFarland, Philadelphia, navigator; 1stLt. Clinton McMillan, Chicago, Bombardier; Back Row: T/Sgt. James Ressguard, Seattle, radio-man; Sgt. Donald J. Ford, Kansas City, gunner; Sgt. James Murphy, Elkhardt, Ind., gunner; T/Sgt. Phileman Blais, — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

(Lt.) July 13th, 1941, Stockton, CA — Motion picture beauty Jane Russell inspects her own insignia on the training plane of Don Brown, son of gap-mouthed screen comic Joe E. Brown at the Air Corps Advanced Training School at Stockton.  She’s the first actress to be chosen mascot by a group of Uncle Sam’s airmen. “D” flight, 1st Echelon, 2nd section, named their group after the starlet. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS  (Rt.) Southwest Pacific, January 22nd, 1944 — Yes, Sir!  Here’s one order Marines at a southwest Pacific base can’t say they didn’t read.  To put her message across too, the life-sized pinup girl is seductively draped in a sleeping net — the kind she asks Marines to keep mended so a malaria bearing Mosquito won’t drop in. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Saipan, Marianas Islands, February 1945 — US Marine Randall Sprenger putting the finishing touches on “Little Gem”, a pinup mascot adorning a B-29 fuselage. — LIFE Archive

(Lt.) December 1943, Near Tarawa Atoll — As a landing barge approaches the Jap-held island of Tarawa, a Marine takes a last look at his picture of a pin-up girl.  Tarawa burns in the background. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS  (Rt.) 6/19/1943- General H.H. Arnold, Chief of Army Air Force looks at the big Flying Fortress “Memphis Belle” as she arrived from England after eight motnhs of fighting over Nazi Europe. The nose cone of the plane is painted wiht 1940′s style pin-up girls. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

June 14, 1943 – Crew gazing up at American bomber “Mission Belle” decorated with a scantily clad pinup girl mascot, somewhere in the South Pacific. –LIFE Archive

(Lt.) 1952, Korea — With nearly 3,000 pin-ups, including over 200 shots of Marilyn Monroe, serving as wallpaper for their Quonset hut, these Marines of the “Devil-cats” squadron are still looking for more.  1952. — Image by © CORBIS  (Rt.) November 1944 — USS  aircrewmen inspecting a pinup. — Image by © CORBIS

April 1945 – American Pfc. Robert L. Brestow lying on bunk next to wall covered with his favorite pin up beauties, in his quarters in a stone farmhouse, on the Itallan front in the Appennine Mountains. — Margaret Bourke-White, LIFE Archive

(Lt.) 1943, Darwin, Australia —  Three P.M. is siesta time in Darwin, Australia and flying Captain R.N. Skipper dreams up a date with a dreamgirl.  Since their flight missions usually encompass a distance of 3,000 miles, personnel of B-24 squadrons in the Darwin area are only allowed four or five raids a month.  Thus, in between times, they lead a hum-drum existence, and 3 p.m. is official nap time, although the heat usually makes it impossible to sleep. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS  (Rt.) A British Sapper lays on his bunk looking up at pinups posted on his bulletin board in England. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Okinawa, 1945 — Glamorous Dorothy Lamour is the pin-up girl of leatherneck motor transport battalion on Okinawa. Pointing to the film star’s photo is PFC Edward M. Szynczak, 27, Pittsburgh, PA.; looking on (left to right) are: CPL Theodore Papit, 21, Philadelphia, PA.; PFC Pat O. Cerinehe, 24, Lansford, PA.; and PVT Albert Servadio, 38, Pittsburgh, PA. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

1942 — The Captain of the USS Doran stopping to look at a pin-up girl on the crews mess door while performing a check of the ship before pulling out. — LIFE Archive

December 1943, New London, CT — Pin-up girls in Navy Submarine. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

(Lt.) April 1959, Corolla, North Carolina — United States Navy seaman L.P. Dowell, stationed at Currituck Lighthouse, exposes tattoos of a pinup girl on his chest and a crab on his stomach. — Image by © The Mariners’ Museum/CORBIS  (Rt.) 1944, England — Staff Sargeant Allen Blake, of Defiance, Ohio, waist gunner of the United States bomber, is shown being interrogated after he took part in a recent raid on German targets in France, including a round trip of 1,200 miles on the Chateau Bernard Airfield.  Sargeant Blake wears a flying suit he calls, “Flossie”, named for his wife.  It bears the cartoon of a “pinup girl”, which he claims has brought him luck. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Korea, 1952 — Pfc. Milton Reince of Green Bay, WI, adds a picture of Mitzi Gaynor to his bunkerful of pinups at his post in Korea.  Sixty-one of the collector’s items adorn the four walls of the bunker, keeping the soldier reminded of the beauties of the stateside movie lovelies. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

1940s, Colorado — The Army and the pin-up girl collaborate to teach the American soldier the essentials of map reading, one of the most vital phases of knowledge in any good soldier’s teaching.  How it is done is demonstrated by First Sergeant Richard P. Bates of Lowry Field, who uses a “pin-up girl map” of Betty Grable as a visual aid in teaching the principles of map reading.  The picture of the girl is divided into sections with lines, each of which is numbered, and by checking the lines on it, as on a real map, soldiers can locate any given spot— knowledge which in actual combat can mean the difference between life and death. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS  (Rt.) 1953 — Mamie Van Doren in Nautical Costume — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

1953, Hollywood, CA — Glamour queens Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, needless to say, made Hollywood’s hall of fame at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre while extra police kept traffic moving.  A large crowd vied with newsreel, press photogs, and newsmen for a glimpse at the famous hands being oozed into posterity.  There were plenty of cheers, sighs, popping flashbulbs, and, yes, even out-and-out wolf whistles. The actresses just finished working on the picture, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

(Lt.) March 15, 1953 — For comparison’s sake, here’s how Mamie Von Doren and Marilyn Monroe shape up.  Mamie is a little shorter, and weighs a few pounds less.  It can be noted, therefore, that Marliyn’s dimensions are proportionately ampler, but the total effect is strikingly similar. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS (Rt.) Marilyn’s double…This, for the record, is Mamie Van Doren — starlet at the Universal Studio, who, it would appear, can be mistaken for la Monroe, because of the way she dresses, poses and looks. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS*

May 26, 1952, Los Angeles, CA — Hollywood film star Marilyn Monroe relaxes on her terrace, looking beautifully content.  Actor Hugh Marlowe told the voluptuous actress that she needn’t worry becuase she’s being typed as a sexy girl.  Marlowe’s theory is that one “Only becomes a real success when you’re a specialist, “so Marilyn is “Lucky to be born that way.”   Whether Marilyn is typed or not, she surely doesn’t look worried. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

1951 — Marilyn Monroe shows what she means here when she says “you have to walk so that it makes you tingle”.  Her director claims Marilyn can squeeze more meaning out of a few steps in front of the camera than most actresses can get out of a half dozen pages of dialogue. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS (Rt.) Reaching for the sky on tiptoe, the barefoot advocate shows how to keep those curves. Walking is the only exercise Marilyn takes to keep her figure at its present proportions, perfect enough to win her the title “Miss Cheesecake”. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Aug 16th, 1954, Hollywood, CA — (Original caption) Pin-up queen Betty Grable kicks up her heels in a scene from “Three for the Show.”  She’s back in a dancing role in the movie after letting her famous legs rest in several films. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

943 — Jane Russell on the set of “The Outlaw”. — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

Van Nuys, CA– (Original caption) Jane Russell, who is known to movie fans through publicity stills for her only movie, which was never released, may soon grace your neighborhood screen.  Millionaire producer Howard Hughes, who has held up release of Jane’s film, “The Outlaw,” for three years, has announced that it will be shown in 1946.  Jane poses for artist Zoe Mozert, who makes a chalk drawing for a publicity poster. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

1943 — Jane Russell on the set of “The Outlaw”. — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

New York — At the Hotel New Yorker where she arrived Thursday (June 14) morning, Anna Buzon, a worker at the Casco Plant, Bridgeport, Connecticut, recently selected as the country’s “most typical war worker,” stands against a backdrop of pin-up girls.  Blonde Anne, 21, a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, implored girls to forget pin-ups and strive to become “mighty wallet girls.”  She suggested that girls give their pictures for the boys to keep in midget wallets for their own personal satisfaction and not to post for public exhibition. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS  (Rt.) 1946, Los Angeles, CA — Los Angeles newspaper advertisement for Howard Hughes’ film,  starring Jane Russell, which is the subject of an upcoming meeting in New York of the Motion Picture Association as they consider Hughes’ expulsion from the Association on a charge of violating the standards of good taste in his advertising of the film. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Sometime between 1946-51, California — Pinup artist Zoe Mozert painting a model. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

(Rt.) ca. 1943 — Pinup art by Zoe Mozart — Image by © Cynthia Hart Designer/Corbis  (Lt.) ca. 1940 — Pinup Calendar Illustration of a Woman in a White Dress by Billy De Vorss — Image by © Cynthia Hart Designer/Corbis

ca. 1948 — Illustration of a Pinup Girl with Telephone and Hat by George Petty — Image by © Swim Ink/Corbis

(Rt.) ca. 1940 —  Pinup illustration by Al Buell — Image by © Cynthia Hart Designer/Corbis  (Lt.) ca. 1945 — Illustration of a Pinup Girl in a Bikini by Billy Devorss — Image by © Cynthia Hart Designer/Corbis

ca. 1948 — Illustration of a Pinup Girl on the Telephone by George Petty — Image by © Swim Ink/Corbis

(Rt.) ca. 1946 — Pinup illustration by Billy Devorss — Image by © Swim Ink/Corbis  (Lt.) ca. 1943 — Illustration of a Blond Pinup Girl — Image by © Cynthia Hart Designer/Corbis


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