How to Use the Atomic Bomb in your Business

by Alex Wellerstein, published December 2nd, 2011

In Wednesday’s post, I made the bold assertion that nuclear warfare would probably be bad for business. Today’s image of the week is, well, something of a caveat to that statement. Nuclear warfare — rockets a burstin’ in air and all that — are definitely not good for the old capitalist enterprise. But the preparations for nuclear war — the making of the bombs, missiles, submarines, and so on — can be quite lucrative indeed!

This week’s image is an advertisement that appeared in Time magazine in January 1946, not too long after the end of World War II, bearing the wonderful heading: “How to  use the Atomic Bomb in your business.”1

Click to enlarge the image.

You can benefit from the atomic bomb project now! New engineering principles, new processing methods, new equipment — mere by-products of the bomb — have already, by a conservative estimate, more than given back America its total investment in atomic research. Some of these benefits will soon be yours for the asking.

The firm in question is Taylor Instruments, who developed some of the pressure sensitive instrumentation for the gaseous diffusion project at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. (The company is still in existence today, and still uses its bomb work as one of its selling points.)

The pitch of the ad, with its hilarious boss with a bomb on his desk image, is that while Taylor Instruments can’t share any bomb secrets with you, they did some pretty difficult stuff during the Manhattan Project, and now you can share some of the same, bomb-hardened expertise they developed.

 To meet the unheard-of tolerances involved, Taylor had to develop dozens of new types of instruments, and mass-produce them in astronomical quantities. In addition, many standard Taylor Instruments were used. Many instrumentation details are still secret, but... The same Taylor Engineers who worked them out for Oak Ridge are ready to help solve your processing problems!

Taylor wasn’t the only Manhattan Project contractor to later hype its atomic experience for postwar benefit, but they’re the only one I’ve seen with such an amusing advertisement.

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to profiteering off of the atomic bomb, both in the past and today. For the full bill for the nuclear weapons complex, the best reference is Stephen I. Schwartz, ed., Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Brookings Institution Press, 1998).

  1. Citation: Taylor Instruments, “How to use the Atomic Bomb in your business,” [advertisement], Time (21 January 1946), on 43. []

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