Road Safety Education Burma-Shave Style: Part 2: The Campaign Picks Up Speed

The famous Burma-Shave campaign was born in 1925, as we noted in the first post in this series. Motoring was young; the Model T still had two years of production ahead of it.

The 1930s and 1940s brought America faster and more reliable cars. Travelers who might have hopped a train in previous decades now took to the road to visit family or look for opportunity. And everywhere they went, motorists saw Burma-Shave signs along the highway, dispensing rhymed observations on shaving and road safety.

Dependable cars meant more long-distance trips, and with that a greater likelihood of sleep-deprived drivers. Burma-Shave tackled the issue:


Speeding, of course, had been causing accidents as long as cars had been on the road. Burma-Shave gave over a considerable number of its signs to admonish speeders:

burma-shave-hardlyDrunk driving was another frequent target of the Burma-Shave copywriters. As more and more Americans owned cars, it became obvious that these hurtling masses of steel, in the hands of impaired drivers, posed a unique safety hazard. The signs addressed the problem with a healthy dose of dark humor:


It might seem a curious way to get customers – associating your product with road fatalities – but it worked. Burma-Shave was a top-selling shaving cream in its time. And for as long as the company ran its lighthearted sign campaign, it never eased up on the message: drunk driving kills.


In the final post you’ll read how Burma-Shave’s roadside campaign fell victim to the faster pace of the Sixties.

← Part 1: A New Traveling Companion Part 3: The End of the Road →