Print Ads From Pakistan of the 1950s

Posted on September 11, 2008
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, History, Society, Urdu
Total Views: 79398


Owais Mughal

I own a copy of Pakistan Railway’s time table published in November of 1959. Besides train timings, it has a section of advertisements which is a great glimpse into our national past. I’ve selected following eight advertisements from this publication. Some of the brands advertised here are still in the market.

For good or bad a lot has obviously changed in the past 48 years. Not just in how the adverts were drawn and presented, but also in what was drawn and presented within them. It is a nice drive down memory lane.

(1) Starting from the top, the first ad is a public notice advertisement asking public to buy railway tickets for children above three years of age. Note the male dress shown in this ad. It has definitely gone out of fashion. Imagine how difficult it must’ve been to do non-air-conditioned rail travel in a ‘sherwani‘. Note the dresses of parents are very Eastern style whereas the young boy is clad in all western. Also note the gesture of surprise shown by the lady. Such body language is also out of fashion now.

The last words in the advertisement show whom the ad is from. The words read NWR Publicity, which stands for North Western Railway (as Pakistan Railway was called until 1964) Publicity department.

(2) The second advert is for Rustam and Sohrab bicycles. Most of you may be familiar that these bicycle brands are named after the epic Persian characters of Rustam and Sohrab from Shahnama-e-Firdausi. While both Rustam and Sohrab are not in this world anymore, Sohrab bicycle is still in production in Shahdara, Lahore. I am not very sure of Rustam brand though. May be our readers can enlighten us on Rustam brand’s current production level. I do remember seeing Rustam brand in my childhood.

An interesting thing to note in the advertisement above are the spellings of the word de-lux. Also note the words ‘National Labour’ showing the pride of manufacturers in utilizing local labor. The last line reads ‘made with 90% indiginous parts’. I wonder what were the 10% imported parts for a bicycle in 1959. May be the ball-bearings that connect to the pedal. Also note the offer of 5 Years Warranty for Sohrab and Rustam brands.

(3) Tibet Toilet Soap and Tibet Tooth Paste. Although not so popular now, Tibet brand products are still available. Note the word Dacca written as one of the cities where Tibet cosmetics were produced in pre-1971 Pakistan. I wonder what do the words ‘Twice as Lovely’ mean? How can we quantify loveliness. Probably it means that after using Tibet products, one will become twice as lovely as compared to their current degree of loveliness. By extrapolating this statement, a mathematical mind may also deduce that Tibet beauty products can thus make an ugly person turn into half ugly (= twice lovely). Ok I’ve gone too far. Lets go back to the 50s!

(4) This is an advertisement for Bombay Cloth House in Anarkali bazar, Lahore. Note the 4 digit telephone number for Lahore City in this ad. I guess these days extensions in a single building run in 4 digits

(5) In the set below the ad on the left says ‘Don’t rob the nation!’ This advertisement is self explanatory. I just want to mention one thing here. What is the symbolism of hand approaching the train? Does it symbolize the ‘long arm of the law’. It seems to be going to the wrong place though i.e. the locomotive. An engine driver is exempt from buying a rail ticket, remember!

(6) Trains don’t wait. This interesting ad is from West End Watch company located at M.A. Jinnah Road, Karachi. Can somebody confirm if they are still in business? The ad gives the message that West End watches offer a guaranteed timely arrival for you to catch a train. What is interesting is the man in the advertisement seems to be wearing a West End Watch (note the red wrist strap) and the train is seen departed.

(7) In this advertisement for Roznama ‘Tameer,’ Rawalpindi, note the dress this guy is wearing while reading the Daily ‘Tameer‘ (To Build). Also note the items in circles which show the highlights of what the daily ‘Tameer’ stands for. Despite all the noble mottos, I believe this newspaper is not in circulation anymore.

(8) The final ad here is for Sartaj Sewing Machine and Sartaj Bicycle. Sartaj industries had a very diversified product line in 1959: sewing machines and bicycles. In this ad they are offering their sewing machine for monthly installments of Rupees 10 only. Also note how 4-digit telephone numbers are used as decoration all over the ad.

(Clicking on the photos in this article will take you to their large size and easy to read images)

48 Comments on “Print Ads From Pakistan of the 1950s”

  1. babar says:
    March 26th, 2007 3:55 am

    The things which I noted immediately were a girl riding a bike alongside with her male friend and in the sari ad, woman showing off her waist.

  2. Imran says:
    March 26th, 2007 5:41 am

    One thing in the Sartaj Sewing Machine ad is the stand for the machine, which is not just a stand if we see the whole unit is an older version of today’s electric sewing machine. Very simple in design but very effective the user runs the machine through feet. It reminded me my Grannies machine and we use to play with that. :D That particular unit was made by some Sardar sab(Sikh).

  3. March 26th, 2007 6:18 am

    The train ad :) you got that wrong, please notice the engine is on the rear end if its arriving, hence, the conculsion is, that the train has left since the steam coming out of the engine is on the farther end of the train itself.

    Its a pity though, that the guy wearing a west end watch actually got late because he trusted a watch company that was going to go outta business :)

  4. Aslam says:
    March 26th, 2007 8:53 am

    Wonderful collection. Thank you for sharing. I liked the one from Tibet soap and tooth paste…. now, I think we only have ‘Tibet Snow’ left. Note the woman in that ad and then the one in the ad right above that one. Two differenty faces of the Pakistan of the 1950s.

  5. YLH says:
    March 26th, 2007 9:19 am

    The most striking thing is the absence of religiousity in these advertisements…

  6. hakim says:
    March 26th, 2007 9:34 am

    Re: Sartaj ad: No 8.

    I agree with ‘Send gifts to Pakistan’. The train has, in fact, already left. Also, its interesting to note that a Sartaj bicycle was only Rs.136 at that time (not too sure which year this ad cam out). It seems to be quite old though. These days you probably won’t even get a pedal for Rs. 136.

    Oh and the sewing machine can be bought on installments for Rs10/month. Now we’re moving close to introducing coins of that denomination. Gives you an idea of the inflation we’ve faced recently.

  7. Allah Vasaya says:
    March 26th, 2007 9:38 am

    [quote comment="39870"]The most striking thing is the absence of religiousity in these advertisements…[/quote]

    And these days you see a molvi in a mobile phone ad and a burqa clad woman in an ad for makeup??…what do mean absence of religiousity, please elaborate.

  8. Indscribe says:
    March 26th, 2007 10:25 am

    boh’t umda, lutf aa gaya. guzre zamaane ke ishtehaaraat dekh kar achchha lagaa.

  9. Ahmed says:
    March 26th, 2007 11:28 am

    Thanks for this post. In the prevailing we did need some light-hearted inputs. There is also room for serious introspection–Then And Now.

  10. Roshan says:
    March 26th, 2007 12:00 pm

    Nice post!
    It brings us into the marketing style back in 60′s.

    BTW, in Rustam/Sohrab the spellings ‘Indeginous’ instead of indigenous.

  11. March 26th, 2007 12:23 pm

    Owais Bhai ,

    Great post which is really a peek into the past.
    I like the first advertisement which shows a man wearing a sherwani and a the mother wearing a burqa. You can compare it to the recent motorcycle or cell phone ads where women wearing jeans/tights sit next to the man on the bikes.

  12. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    March 26th, 2007 12:38 pm

    Note NWR, precurser of PWR and then PR. No ads. for the FANS made in Gujrat or Gujranwala though.

  13. Naveed says:
    March 26th, 2007 12:42 pm

    What a great blog. There is still a board of West End Watch Company in Saddar.

  14. mystic says:
    March 26th, 2007 7:20 pm

    The whole post and ads. left an impression of progressive uncorrupt Pakistan. Govt. seems sincere in saving money and commercial world seems doing geniune business with a common pakistani. Alas !, we lost that path. As per Nasir Kazmi…

    Woh subh aate aate reh gai kahan
    jo qaafle the aane wale woh kiya huwe

  15. Zia says:
    March 26th, 2007 7:52 pm

    Very nice Owais. Thanks.
    I always think we were quite good in those days and would have done much better had it been not disrupted in the following years. These ads tend to reconfirm it.

  16. Eidee Man says:
    March 26th, 2007 8:52 pm

    “The most striking thing is the absence of religiousity in these advertisements…”

    @YLH, compared to…Tableeghi Jamaat newsletters?

  17. Owais Mughal says:
    March 26th, 2007 11:14 pm

    Dear ‘send gifts to Pakisan’ and hakim. you are right. in west end watch co ad, the train has indeed left. my mistake. i’ll correct my text in next day or so.

  18. zakoota says:
    March 27th, 2007 12:29 am

    lovely lovely post, it was such a fun to see these old commercials. I guess the people were much more simple, truthful, honest and loyal then.

    My family also has a big collection of really old magazines in Pakistan.Infact, after looking at this post I called my dad and asked him if he has thrown any of those old magazines? :) we have a big collection of Time, Readers Digest, Life, Akhbar-e-jahan, Urdu Digest, Khawateen Digest, Pakeeza and many more from 50′s, 60′s and 70′s.

    I hope I can contribute something here from those when i’ll get them.

    Thanks for the post :)

  19. March 27th, 2007 12:53 pm

    Among other things, I notice a certain level of cultural rootedness.
    It appears from the sari ad (and the sherwani and stuff) that in the 50s, our intelligentsia still identified its culture as being distinctly South Asian and subcontinental.

    Ever since the 80s and Zia’s “Islamization”, we have started identifying more with a Middle Eastern identity, when we are not Arabs at all.

    And more recently, the ads you see are aimed more at the Westernized intelligentsia, depicting objectified women and other elements of consumerism from the First-world.

    The reason I like these ads is…they’re neither “Islamized” (or perhaps the better word would be “Arabized”) nor Westernized. They’re South Asian…they’re Pakistani.

  20. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    March 27th, 2007 3:05 pm

    Pakistan sits at the proverbial cross roads running between Central Asia, South Asia, Persia and Arabia. Its people claim their individual as well as collective heritage from all of these regions. Pakistan of fifties and sixties was a very much South Asian country. However with the secession of its eastern wing, it is free to re-establish its own geographical and cultural identities. Pakistan has gradually shifted out of the “Indian Matrix” and become part of the Greater Middle East. It has simultaneously established its role in the South Asian, Central Asian and Middle Eastern associations. The cultures are for ever in flux. No wonder the ads from fifty or sixty years ago look different than those of today.

  21. mrizvi says:
    March 27th, 2007 3:55 pm

    Loved this post! Very very interesting! Thanks for Sharing Owais

  22. Adnan Ahmad says:
    March 27th, 2007 4:28 pm

    PMA, This was an interesting take and I agree with it to a good extent.

    At a micro level within pakistan there have been marriages between families in punjab and frontier in the last 10 years and that itself is changing the culture of those two provinces. I see the same happening bewteen Baluch and Sindhis in the next 15 to 20 years, once per capita income moves up and people can move. An interesting thing to note on this tangent is that you see counntless well todo punjabi chaudries mostly from araa’een decent settled in interior sindh for ages but they did not marry into sindhi families and vice versa. I wonder what would the cultural fabric of sindh be if there were marriages between the two groups.

  23. mazhar butt says:
    March 31st, 2007 11:22 am

    nothing like 60′s and 70′s,,,,80′s were also not bad. Ads. give sheer nostalgia,,,,,

  24. Nazir Awan says:
    March 31st, 2007 2:25 pm

    To my surprize Tibet Cream of the old brand Dacca Brand is still available in
    Saudi Arabia

  25. Fawad says:
    March 31st, 2007 9:34 pm

    In the West End ad, I found it really interesting that the man appears to be wanting to take a train to work, an unknown phenomenon in today’s Karachi.

  26. basit says:
    August 30th, 2007 12:32 pm

    dats nice good…
    The whole post and ads. left an impression of progressive uncorrupt Pakistan. Govt. seems sincere in saving money and commercial world seems doing geniune business with a common pakistani.

  27. Malik Tariq says:
    September 3rd, 2007 5:35 am

    I’m student of M. Phil and presently doing Thesis on “Advertising and Children. Thes glimpses helping me a lot, but is it possible you to provide me more ads where children shown in ads.

  28. September 12th, 2007 7:05 am

    what an interesting and eclectic collection!
    i love the two ads (number 5 and 6). some of these are real treasures to have and so hang on tight to them. i wish i could find something like this to put up in my studio. maybe a trip to the anarkali sunday book fair should be next.

  29. Arsalan` says:
    October 16th, 2007 11:09 am

    Pakistani Photos, stories, news, blogs and many more…

  30. February 6th, 2008 7:46 am

    Now a days, Rustam cycle is not available but SOHRAB, the sone of Rustam, cycle is avialable with 5 year warranty.
    Other ads are very funny

  31. jalal says:
    April 4th, 2008 12:31 am

    Thanks for sharing something which we dont come across very often.

  32. September 12th, 2008 4:01 am


    People do take a train to work in Karachi. The Karachi Circular Railway still runs, but its not circular anymore, and only runs on the main track parallel to Shahrahe Faisal.

    The trains run 4 times a day, two from Landhi side. and two from Malir. They go all the way upto City station and I think one or two of the trains even go further (to Wazir Mansion or Mauripur).

    It takes 35 minutes from City station to Drigh road(including the time for all stops). I tried this out a few months back and at that time the fare was Rs. 7, but now I think it has been increased. Its a very good alternate to buses, and everyone should try it out at least once!

  33. Syed Saquib Saeed says:
    September 12th, 2008 6:17 am

    The west end watch company is a swiss brand and still in business. The older ones are favored by antique collectors. I think this was a shop (not a watch manufacturing company) om M.A. Jinnah road.

  34. fatima says:
    September 12th, 2008 7:54 am

    well the add are amazing and that tibet soap is still used in hotels
    of hill stations like murree and sawat

  35. AF Ahmad says:
    September 12th, 2008 12:08 pm

    In the ad for NWR (no. 5), it appears to me what they are depicting is that not buying a ticket is like stealing a whole train – or at least the locomotive. Let’s hope today’s politicians don’t see this ad. and get ideas.

  36. Razi says:
    September 12th, 2008 12:14 pm

    Instant Nostalgia :)

    Lets see if we can dig up some more classics such as Lifebhoy Soap, Emex cream, Umr-e-Rawan etc.

    “Alif se achi hoti hae, Dal se Dollar Ink…….”

  37. abdul rehman says:
    September 12th, 2008 1:38 pm

    I think if few more good people gather on same point they can make a good example for others to follow.
    I believe betterment always starts with critiques, that is done.

    Now I think if anybody has any idea how to put things right through right way will be a great contribution to the nation.

    Still hoping for the best.

    Abdul Rehman

  38. September 12th, 2008 9:03 pm

    Amazing .. bohat shukria for sharing.. as it really took me back decades (although i wasn’t born then) .. nice stuff

  39. September 13th, 2008 3:11 am


  40. September 15th, 2008 5:30 am

    We still use Tibet soap at our home. How classic…

  41. Fazal says:
    September 15th, 2008 10:31 am

    I like these ads – simple execution for simple audience, showcasing primary elements of print ads that are so vital to make ads stand out. It is interesting to see educational messages from Railways (I don’t recall of such ads done these days) and specially use of public service message by West End to promote their watches – a nice way to strike a chord with audience.
    Brands like Rutom & Sohrab, Tibet and Sartaj are still alive, I guess, backed by good product quality, cutomer experience and strong branding. Though they had an unfair advantage, an uncluttered media scene.

  42. J. Monnat Jr says:
    October 3rd, 2008 2:38 pm

    Dear Sirs,
    Yes, West End Watch Co still is in business after almost 125 years of uninterrupted activity and over 15 millions of watches sold.
    Pakistan is a great country, and we look forward to restarting distribution in the future.
    Moreover that our most famous collection is called SOWAR (urdu language).
    Thanks for the nice presentation of old ads.
    With friendly regards from Switzerland.
    J. Monnat Jr – CEO West End Watch Co, 1912 Leytron, Switzerland

  43. Owais Mughal says:
    October 3rd, 2008 3:00 pm

    Mr. Monnat, thanks for your comment and stopping by at our site. The word ‘Sowar’ sounds familiar but I am unable to relate it to present day Urdu words. Most likely it is pronounced as ‘sawar’ which means a ‘Rider’.

  44. January 26th, 2009 4:32 am

    ahhh i love it!!! Where can i find more?

  45. M.Qayyum says:
    October 26th, 2009 10:26 am

    Main kya kahon —Great work..plz add more ads….

  46. Owais Mughal says:
    October 26th, 2009 11:49 am

    M. Qayyum saheb. shukria.

    We had a follow up post of this one with Pakistani ads from 1949. You can see them here.

  47. AHMED says:
    April 23rd, 2010 5:17 am

    waoo so impressive

  48. August 1st, 2010 2:26 am

    Pakistan is very beautiful place, if the people of Pakistan will become as the God wishes.

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