Are you ready to have an aha moment? “Mad Men” has more sin and angst than your average pop culture sensation, but the show’s characters hardly meet the definition of insanity. This “mad” doesn’t refer to a bunch of pissed off guys in natty retro attire, either.
“Mad men” is a historical term short for “Madison Avenue” men, coined by the advertising industry itself, in typically self-promotional fashion. Madison Avenue, of course, has been synonymous with the advertising industry since the 1920s. On closer examination, however, the story gets more interesting.
Why is it Madison Avenue, not street, boulevard, or road? When Manhattan was planned out in 1811, streets (like Madison Avenue) running North-South were designated as avenues. The street wasn’t part of the original plan, but was inserted between Park Avenue (formerly Fourth) and Fifth Avenue in 1836.
We know for a fact that the avenue in question was not named for “the Madison,” a dance craze from the 1950s which Don Draper would have scoffed at. The fourth president of the United States, James Madison, has innumerable roads, cities and entertainment complexes named for him. One of the more famous Madison namesakes is Madison Square Garden, a landmark of raucous recitals and pugilism. There’s a catch; the “Garden” was relocated off of Madison Avenue long ago, but kept the name. “Mad Men” would certainly appreciate the advertising savvy of that decision.