Just in time for winter: the Amish fireplace!
October 30, 2009
“OMG, ‘Tis a mighty fine fireplace!”
Yes, I still read the morning paper. I can’t live without my laptop and PDA but I have this theory that technology is a hassle –albeit a minor one- first thing in the morning. A newspaper’s words and pictures are easier to stomach at this time, kind of like corn flakes instead of beef stew. Few advertisers care about we holdouts, however, hence the shrinking size of papers and their audience.
Among those still using newspapers as a primary advertising vehicle are the good folks at the Amish Fireplace Company. Every day I see a full page advert in the Chicago Tribune hawking oak mantles supposedly made by “Amish craftsman working their fingers to the bone…to make sure everyone gets their delivery in time for Christmas.”
Without getting into the particulars, the advertiser offers a ‘buy this, get that’ scheme featuring a heating mechanism and prefab oaken mantle or “portable encased Amish fireplace.” Extremely long copy employs every selling trick in the book: an endorsement from Good Housekeeping, a made-up “calling zone” dividing the United States into three bogus temperature regions, a 48 hour deadline for ordering from the “hot line,” and so on… The flowery and sensational copy reads like a 30-minute infomercial.
But my favorite part of this corny newspaper ad is the visual, which depicts a bustling workshop filled with overall-wearing Amish craftsman busily building fireplaces. Helping the men folk are numerous plaintive females, replete with long dowdy dresses and puritanical head wraps. Oh yeah, and they’re in a barn! It’s like Santa’s Workshop, but instead of elves the workers are all characters from American Gothic.
In addition to the corniness of the photograph is how wonderfully fake it is. Given the Amish theme, it’s ironic how much retouching is going on. In a blatant use of Photoshop, every stage of the building process has been crammed into a visual narrative: sawing, hammering, staining, polishing, etc. Subsequently, way too many people are doing way too many things. No way the Amish or, for that mater, OSHA would allow such conditions.
Looking again at the photo reveals many fake and hilarious details. Despite the close quarters, none of the workers are interacting. Each Amish person is religiously going about his or her appointed task. The effect is creepy not inspiring. About half way through the assembly line, the fireplaces are suddenly on! A worker applies stain on one as its fake logs burn. Scattered blocks of wood and shavings complete the surreal tableau.
Finally, we have the fireplaces. Little more than glorified space heaters, these oaken monstrosities couldn’t be more ugly. Just the idea of a movable, pre-fab, fake fireplace is tacky, let alone the garish finished product. It all seems so un-Amish. A separate inset photo shows a horse drawn buggy carrying the hideous contraptions down a lovely country road. Crazy!
Is this an exploitation of the Amish? I wonder if and how they are getting paid for this? Before declaring them victims, bear in mind most of our country’s mobile homes are built, in part, by the Amish. My point? Despite famously strict values, the Amish are on the record for being tacky as they are industrious. And what if they’re responsible for the product, outright? Is Amish Fireplaces really an Amish fireplace company? Why not? Native Americans run casinos. The website, amishfireplaces.com is hosted by Heat Surge, LLC, which suggests otherwise.
Whatever. I don’t much care. Ultimately (and ironically), the real victim of this scam is sense and sensibility.