Smog in a Can


Photo: UCLA Special Collection/LA Times Photographs Collection - via KPCC

Long before Beijing became the poster child for air pollution, Los Angeles was synonymous with "smog." The photo above, taken in downtown Los Angeles in 1948, showed the city's Civic Center blanketed under the noxious fumes of air pollutants.

But they don't call California the Land of (obscured) Sunshine and Opportunity for nothing! Some clever entrepreneurs turned smog into coins: in 1954, a man sold "Fresh Clean Desert Air" in balloons for 50 cents*.


Photo: Herald-Examiner Collection photo/The Los Angeles Public Library (Oct 22, 1954)
- via KCET

(*The idea has legs: Last year, Chinese billionaire Chen Guangbiao launched a line of canned fresh air to the residents of China's most polluted megacities.)

One day in 1957, actor Carleton Young was choking on eye-stinging smog when he thought, "If only we could pack this stuff and ship it someplace." And thus the Los Angeles Smog Corp. was born!

Young's concept was simple: stand outside with some empty cans on a smoggy day, wave them around to capture some of LA smog, seal the cans and sell 'em to tourists.


Photo via KCET's Departures

The result? Genuine Los Angeles Smog-in-a-can, which label touted:

"Genuine Los Angeles Smog. This is the smog used by famous Hollywood stars. Contains hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, sulfer dioxide, organic oxides, aldehydes, formaldehydes.

"Made in Los Angeles by Angels. To insure freshness and purity keep container tightly sealed. Beware of imitations! Accept none but the pure Los Angeles Smog.

"No pollutants or irritants removed. Packed for Los Angeles Smog Corp,, Los Angeles 28, California."

Now that's turning lemon into lemonades, and smog into semolians!

View more fun pics over at our NeatoPicto Blog

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