Deliberate Anachronism in Mad Men?

In the latest episode of Mad Men, one of Betty Draper’s friends wants to know who someone is. She consults a book. Oh, he’s a bigshot, she says.

Was this deliberate? A not-very-in-joke? In the 1960s — even in the 1980s! — there was no Google-like book that said who living people are. You had to go to the library. It used to be fun to read the New Yorker Christmas poem (“Greetings, friends!”) and try to learn about the people you couldn’t identify. It was hard.

More In light of the first seven comments below I reviewed the scene. The mystery man, an advisor to Governor Rockefeller (not in advertising), is listed in a thin spiral-bound notebook. Who’s Who was much thicker and never spiral-bound. Here is the 1962 New York Social Register — much thicker and not spiral-bound. A later comment suggested the notebook contained “a copy” of the Register. No way — there were no Xerox machines back then. The woman who looks the mystery man up in the notebook tears his page out of the notebook and hands it to Betty — just like sending someone a link.

9 Responses to “Deliberate Anachronism in Mad Men?”

  1. Ryan Holiday Says:

    I saw that too – I assumed she had some sort of Who’s Who book but that might not make sense.

  2. Steve Rothman Says:

    I didn’t see the episode, but of course there were such books in the 60s. Besides Who’s Who there would have been directories of major players in the ad business, such as members in various advertising associations.

  3. Dewb Says:

    It’s not at all unreasonable that an officer of the Junior League would have brought a staff list for the governor’s office, or even an entire org chart of the state executive branch, to a meeting that would specifically concern lobbying the governor to stop a development project. I’d have to check but I thought the object being consulted was a binder.

  4. Nathan Myers Says:

    People paid to be in them.

  5. Maryrose Says:

    It was probably the New York Social Register

    Seth, in my work (research for fund raising) I still use books like these.

  6. Maryrose Says:

    PS. Usually if you are in it, you have a copy.

  7. Andrew Gelman Says:

    I’m warning ya: One more spoiler and I’m going to have to stop reading your blog!

  8. Socktopi Says:

    I just assumed it was a notebook the woman had assembled of the people they could lobby, but reading the comments here, it seems clear it was something like a copy of the annual New York Social Register, which you can see a copy of on ebay:

  9. Rachel P. Says:

    I believe they’re referring to the NY State Directory, informally called the “The Red Book.”