Tag Archives: advertisements

Leisure Time and Entertainment

As May is National Bicycle Month, we thought we would offer some drop-in lesson ideas that included the bicycle!

Wild West Shows, circus acts, and spectator sports such as baseballfootball, and tennis filled leisure time at the end of the nineteenth century. The Barnum & Bailey Shows even began to highlight cycling in their acts.

Try this lesson plan from EDSITEment! for ideas on “Having Fun” nineteenth century style. Or this issue of “Central Illinois Teaching With Primary Sources Newsletter” all about the circus.

National Bicycle Exhibition, Madison Square Garden, 1895.


Poster: Professional cycling, 1905.


Cartoon: Tennis and women in the 1870s.


Poster for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, “Annie Oakley and Johnnie Baker” 1898


Bike Your Way Through May

National Bike Month is halfway over, but there is still time to join in!  This week we bring you ideas for “drop-in” lessons or ways to incorporate this fun and approachable topic into your classroom.

Engage students in a discussion of technological advancements of the 19th century. With the communication and transportation revolution coupled with the emergence of the factory and more sophisticated farming equipment, how did these changes transform life for ordinary citizens? See this lesson from EDSITment! for suggestions on activities and documents. For more primary sources on the early bicycle visit “Gearing Up for Bike Month with Primary Sources” from the Library of Congress.

Saturday Evening Post ad for National Bicycle Week, “This is happiness week” 1921

Ad for Columbia Bicycle Co., Hi-Wheeler, 1886.

“Washington Meet of the League of American Wheelmen” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 1884.




Valentine's Day Recipe

Valentines day

For more information on the above ads visit the following links:

(starting from top left)

1. Ad: Middishade Blue Suit, ‘Correct at every tick of the clock’ 1928

2. Ad: L’ECHO of Paris, ‘New Dance Frocks’ 1928

3. Ad: Holeproof Hosiery Co., 1924

4. Ad: Spur Ties, ‘All tied for you. Husband, friend, or brother’ 1929

5. Ad: Jewelers’ Association, ‘Love Token for the Ages’ 1927

6. Ad: Packard, ‘Packard was born into the world of taste and refinement’ 1928

7. Ad: Johnston’s Chocolates, ‘Rudy Vallee autographs his photograph for the sweethearts of America’ 1931

Let's Go Shopping…19th Century Style!

As the holiday season gets into full swing, engage student’s shopping preoccupation with nineteenth century department store ads and photographs.  The Marchand Archive holds dozens of intriguing posters that will get students thinking about the differences between department stores then and now.

Take for example this 1885 ad for Hill Brothers Millinery Goods storeroom.  Perhaps students notice how well dress the shoppers are.  Maybe they recognize that all the sales associates are men.  Or even, notice the differences and similarities with today’s stores layout of goods.  No matter what draws them in, they will soon forget they are engaging in a historical conversation!

Ad poster for Hill Brothers Millinery Goods salesroom interior, New York City, 1885

Search here for more examples!


Health, Youth and Beauty–Oh My!

Hinds skin cream ad

Ad: Hinds Honey and Almond Cream, ‘Don’t stare at me like that’ 1929

Today we have new commentary on advertisements from Katharine Kipp, graduate student in the History department at U.C. Davis

In searching through images to write a new blog, I wandered aimlessly through the thousands of ads that Roland Marchand expertly collected.  I amassed a list of at least twenty that were entertaining, astonishing, and thought-provoking or sometimes all three at once.  Ads for face creams, corsets, laundry services, laxatives, and cleaning products filled the pages but I remained stumped.  Which to write about and what to say?

Taking the advice of the expert History Project teachers I have watched over the years discuss strategies for engaging students with primary documents, I stood back and looked at the list as a whole.  I was struck by the obsession with health, youth, and beauty.  Unable to put my finger on exactly how to define this phenomenon, I turned to textbooks and articles to help answer my questions.  But they just did not get at the heart of what was happening in the 1920s.  Finally, I turned to my fellow History Project bloggers for help and it was Patricia Cohen’s post, From advertising to middle age that was ultimately the key.  She writes, “zeroing in on the physical body, the market whips up insecurities, creating a sense of inferiority, then sells the tools that promise to allay those fears.”  And this explains precisely the ads celebrating health, youth, and beauty in the carefree and liberating days of the interwar period.

For example, this 1929 ad for Hinds Honey and Almond Cream “Don’t stare at me like that…” features a husband and wife whose leisurely day at the beach.  Their outing is marred by the husband’s realization, “What’s the matter with your face?…Looks rough. Your face and neck used to be as smooth and young as your shoulders.”  The ad narrates the horrified response of his wife as she realizes “If he had noticed, what about the critical world? Was that why other men seemed less interested—why other women were no longer envious?”  Having established the problem, skin damage over time from exposure to the elements, the ad proceeds to provide the answer, in the form of Hinds Honey and Almond Cream that helps refresh skin exposed to the sun too long and even prevent sunburn.

His Empty Shoes

‘His Empty Shoes’, Lysol Disinfectant 1927

Advertisers of health products utilized the strategy of identifying a new insecurity their merchandise could solve.  For instance, Lysol Disinfectant’s 1927 ad “His empty shoes” is a startling and fear-producing ad. It advises mothers, “be sure—whatever may happen—that you have really done your best to protect your family against germ life.” Interestingly, this ad allows the reader to determine its meaning. For some, the empty shoes simply mean that at night, while children sleep, is the ideal time to ready their precious shoes for the next day of playing, doing one’s best to maintain healthy environments for children to grow and learn. For others, the empty shoes with laces untied, forlorn and forgotten, symbolizes the tragedy of losing a child.  The ad cautions mothers that this tragedy is avoidable if they use Lysol as part of their daily cleaning routine. Regardless of how the reader interprets the ad the end message remains the same: “have you done your best?”

Look here for more 1920s ads.

Advertisements Capture Cultural Norms

McCall's Magazine, 1946

Today we have new commentary on advertisements from Katharine Kipp, graduate student in the History department at U.C. Davis

Advertisements are an excellent way to engage students in historical thinking as they provide an opportunity for students to identify historical events and ideas and analyze their meaning.  In particular, ads are a great way to discuss cultural norms.  One example from the Marchand Collection, is the 1946 advertisement for McCall’s Magazine featuring a mother reading Lives of Great Men to her adolescent son all the while the father, perhaps, perches high above them both.  The caption reads, “HE shapes the mind” while “SHE shapes the character.”  It echoes perfectly the 1940s and 1950s reinforcement of traditional gender roles that followed the turmoil of World War II and reflects the anxieties of the conflict between the US and Soviet Union.  Stability was paramount during the Cold War.  Both sides vied for control of newly emerging free nations and sought to present their path—communism or capitalism—as the clear choice for rule.  To ensure stability at home during this tenuous time, a culture of consensus or conformity asked the population to agree on traditional gender roles for men and women that celebrated women’s domesticity.  This ‘domestic containment’ confined women to the home where they were charged with creating a safe haven for the family.  Linking national security and traditional gender roles, the United States sought safety both abroad and at home.  Men and women worked together for a singular purpose.  As the ad states, “Man and woman are in partnership—each with an essentially different role to play in preparing an oncoming generation for the business of living.”  Domestic containment of the 1940s-1950s did not necessarily relegate women to a subservient position to their husbands.  Rather, it attempted to create a partnership–women as experts of the domestic realm, men as the authority of the public sphere.

In addition to domestic containment, the ad addresses the presence of specialist and self-help literature in the 1940s and 1950s.  The ad argues, “McCall’s is a magazine women really live by—and for that reason, a potent medium for moving ideas into women’s minds,” a sentiment shared by other advertisers and writers of popular help books of the era.  Magazines such as McCall’s and books such as Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care (1946) found a ready and willing audience of women searching for help in ‘professionalizing’ their role as wife and mother.  McCall’s Magazine guided “Women’s Thinking” as it served “her specialized interests in homemaking and family life” just as Dr. Spock appealed to women’s interest in child rearing.

Finally, the ad is also useful for reviewing important roles for women throughout US history.  Examples include republican motherhood, the cult of domesticity, and separate spheres.  Revolutionary ideas of republican motherhood are echoed here, as mothers (the purveyors of morality and responsibility) were tasked with creating good Republican citizens.  It also harks back to the cult of domesticity and separate spheres of the middle nineteenth century that gave women power and influence over the private sphere or the home.  Linking ideas across time helps students see patterns in history and aids information retention.

For more from Katharine Kipp, see Enlisting the Citizen Consumer in World War II


Manhood and Success

From the Culture of Character to the Culture of Personality

Bradley and the "Culture of Personality" click on image to see full version

Douglas and the "Culture of Character" click on image to see full version

Commentary from Tim Yates, former History Project staff member: The Marchand Collection offers a wealth of images that can be used in the classroom to illustrate and prompt discussion of what cultural historians mean when they abstractly describe the shift from a inner-directed nineteenth-century culture of character to an other-directed twentieth-century culture of personality.    The socioeconomic causes of this shift also involved other abstract historical concepts such as the shift from producerism to consumerism, for which the Marchand Collection also provides useful illustrations beyond the ads discussed in this post.  While Douglas and Bradley are both products of the longstanding American emphasis on self-improvement, they are different historical types.  Douglas represents the successful inner-directed producer come industrialist who helped Americans overcome scarcity through factory production.  Expanding factory operations enabled the kind of industrial mass-production pioneered by Henry Ford in the early twentieth century.  The productivity of nineteenth-century middle-class men such as Douglas led to the emergence after 1900 of middle-class men such as Bradley, who increasingly found themselves selling mass-produced goods or doing other kinds of white-collar work in the office environments of large corporations or public bureaucracies.  Success in many of the jobs created by mass production and consumption required other-directed management of social impressions.  Advertisers and self-improvement promoters offered twentieth-century self-makers a range of new solutions for the changing circumstances, solutions that centered on personality enhancement.  Explore the Marchand collection for examples of advertising appeals to personality enhancement as well as images depicting the rise of mass production.  This chapter of American history raises other historical questions that the Marchand Collection might help elucidate.  How did middle-class American women experience of the cultural shift from character to personality and the underlying shift from a producer-oriented to a consumption-oriented economy?  When and how did working-class and ethnic-minority groups experience this new twentieth-century culture?  How did the rise of a mass-production and mass-consumption economy shape American politics over the course of the twentieth century?  How does the nineteenth-century emphasis on character influence our society today?  How does the more recent culture of personality influence your life?


Douglas and the Culture of Character: This advertisement for W.L. Douglas shoes vividly illustrates popular nineteenth-century American ideas about manhood and success.  The ad promotes W.L. Douglas shoes in an appeal emphasizing the qualities of Douglas the shoemaker, a self-made man sincerely dedicated to the craft he began learning it as a young child.  Cultural historian Warren Susman has argued that nineteenth-century America “was a culture of character” rooted in “producer values” that idealized thrift, discipline, work, morality, duty, citizenship, and reputation.  Americans considered these qualities prerequisites for true success.  Douglas has these qualities.  He contrasts both the nineteenth-century drunkard who weakly squandered money and became a slave to alcohol, and the confidence man, who spent his energies in criminal schemes hinging on the cultivation of false social impressions.  Douglas is a hard-working man who has achieved self-mastery by directing his energies inward to develop discipline.  He frequently spends his days in Boston thriftily purchasing his own supplies to eliminate the  middleman costs, which, the ad assures readers, his stores do as well.  Upon returning from Boston, he often works alone late into the night.  Relentlessly efficient and productive, Douglas is a sincere man of character, and character translates into affordable shoes with quality.

“Bradley” and the Culture of Personality: This 1922 ad for “Nerve,” a series of six pocket-sized self-improvement courses created by William G. Clifford and promoted by Fairfield Publishers, Inc., offers a new narrative of success, one that differs from the W.L. Douglas shoe ad in historically important ways.  Here the individual–a man named Bradley–is subjected to a new set of psychological demands for self-mastery conveying a new model of success.  In this ad the language of character has been replaced with the new language of what Susman identifies as emerging culture of “personality,” which generated new models of success and manhood emphasizing self-confidence, self-realization, and self-gratification, and celebrating the kinds of impression manipulation that formerly signaled the immorality of the nineteenth-century confidence man. The ad informs readers that Bradley, who once lacked self-confidence and a sense of self-worth, has become a man whose “vividness and charm” magnetically attract “favorable attention,” and a man consequently awarded with a $12,000-a-year job. Whereas the Douglas ad featured imagery of individual productivity, this ad shows Bradley walking into a room and commanding favorable attention.  Bradley is a success because he is well-liked and charming.  His self-improvement bears little or no resemblance to Douglas’s thrift, hard work, and long-honed skills at producing a purchasable good.  Instead, Bradley is a success because he has “gain[ed] the self-assurance that strongly impresses people,” “overcome nervousness,” developed “an impressive and winning personality,” and mastered the ability to “deal with ‘big’ people as easily” as easily as he interacts with “his closest friends” by learning to “dominate and control” both “business and personal conditions.”

Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women:  A Study of Middle Class Culture, 1830-1870.
Jackson Lears, Fables of Abundance:  A Cultural History of Advertising in America.
Roland Marchand, Advertising and the American Dream:  Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940.
Warren Susman, Culture as History:  The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (see especially “Personality and the Making of Twentieth-Century Culture,” pgs. 271-285).

Timothy (Tim) Yates received his Ph.D.  in U.S. History in 2007 from U.C. Davis, where he worked for the History Project as a digitizer of images from Roland Marchand’s and Karen Halttunen’s teaching collections, a research assistant for summer programs, and a Teaching American History grant contributor.  Tim currently works as a consultant for ICF International analyzing the history of built environments for development projects requiring federal and/or state regulatory compliance.  Tim’s most notable recent work for ICF has consisted of researching and writing histories of National Historic Landmark sites and resources such as Mission San Gabriel and the Doyle Drive and Veterans Boulevard Highway Exchange (the south approach roads to the Golden Gate Bridge).

19th-Century Advertising & Anti-Chinese Sentiments

"No more Chinese cheap labor," exclusionist, c. 1880


Today’s post comes to us from Wendy Rouse who teaches United States history at San Jose State University.  Her book “Children of Chinatown: Growing up Chinese American in San Francisco, 1850-1920” examines the unique experiences of Chinese immigrant children living in San Francisco during the exclusion era.

Chinese immigrants began arriving in the United States in large numbers following the discovery of gold in California in 1848.  After work in the mines dwindled, many Chinese immigrants found employment for the railroads, in agriculture or in factories.  Others opened their own businesses operating laundries, restaurants, and stores. Economic depression and nativist sentiment created hostility toward foreigners in the 1870s.  White laborers worried that a cheap Chinese labor force represented a threat to their own jobs.   Hostility often led to violent attempts to oust the Chinese from cities and towns in the West. Anti-Chinese politicians and labor leaders gained political power especially in places like California.  These groups successfully lobbied for the passage of legislation that would restrict the number of Chinese who could immigrate into the country.  In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act effectively banned Chinese immigrants from coming to the United States.

The above advertisement for celluloid collars was created during this era of intense anti-Chinese sentiment and is especially useful in helping students understand the intensity of the hostility toward Chinese immigrants.  The Chinese laundryman in the image is visibly upset about the potential of losing his business as a result of the invention of “celluloid cuffs, collars & bosoms” which required less starching and washing than traditional collars and would therefore eliminate the need for services offered by Chinese laundries. A happy Uncle Sam looks on as Columbia points to the writing on the wall which indicates that the invention means “no more Chinese cheap labor.”  The caption “Othello’s Occupation’s Gone” suggests identification between Shakespeare’s character Othello and the Chinese immigrant.  This advertisement reflects the popular attitude of the era that the “Chinese must go.”  In this case, however, it is not exclusion laws or violence that drives the Chinese out, but invention and therefore the advance of industrialization and modern civilization which is driving out the Chinese immigrant.

For more on this topic see Roland Marchand’s documentary source problem “THE CHINESE MUST GO!!!–The debate over the California Constitutional Convention available for university, high school and middle school classrooms.


From advertising to middle age

Today’s post comes to us from Patricia Cohen, a reporter for the New York Times and the author of the new book, In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age. She has previously worked at the Washington Post and Rolling Stone magazine.

After finishing Roland Marchand’s Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, I felt that distinct combination of admiration and envy: I wished I had written it. When I did get around to writing my own book, a social and cultural history of middle age titled  In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age, I found his research extraordinarily useful. His insights informed a lot of my own thinking about how advertising helped shape views of what life’s middle years were supposed to look and act like.

This imagined midlife lies at the intersection of self-improvement and mass consumption, two of the most powerful movements of the twentieth century. Faith in the perfectibility of man through his own efforts, combined with the promise of the marketplace’s transformative abilities have created what I call (to crib President Eisenhower’s phrase) the Midlife Industrial Complex.

This amalgam is a complex in both the institutional and emotional sense: a massive industrial network that manufactures and sells products and procedures to combat supposed afflictions associated with middle age; and a mental syndrome that exaggerates angst about waning powers, failure, and uselessness in one’s middle years. Zeroing in on the physical body, the market whips up insecurities, creating a sense of inferiority, then sells the tools that promise to allay those fears.

The origins of the Midlife Industrial Complex date back to the 1920s, when America became a visual culture – what the poet Vachel Lindsay called a “hieroglyphic civilization” – and consumerism attached itself to the growing self-help movement. A perfect example can be found in the Marchand archives. “She looks old enough to be his mother,” two women remark about a friend in a 1928 advertisement for Lysol disinfectant. “And the pity of it is that, in this enlightened age, so often a woman has only herself to blame if she fails to stay young with her husband and with her women friends.”

The poor Lysol-less woman was not fated to a life of neglect and aging: she could have done something about it. In this democratic arena, youthful beauty is not confined to genetic luck or wealthy pampering; it is within everyone’s reach, part of an individual’s inalienable right to pursue happiness. As Helena Rubinstein reputedly said, there are no ugly women, only lazy ones. In the language of self-improvement, middle age doesn’t simply happen to you; it is what you make of it.

What reviewers are saying about In Our Prime:

“A brilliant, wide-ranging book…Cohen’s lively prose and thoughtful insights make this a joy to read.”—Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

“Very fine…lucid, straightforward and conversational… a thorough—and thoroughly fascinating—cultural history of aging.”—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

“Her book is a fascinating biography of the idea of middle age, ‘a story we tell about ourselves.’  — Gail Sheehy, The New York Times. 

Enlisting the Citizen Consumer in World War II

Del Monte Ad Katharine Kipp, graduate student in the History department at U.C. Davis, shares her thoughts about using advertisements to teach history.

The Marchand Collection features a vast selection of advertisements from various eras. I particularly like those printed during WWII by Del Monte Foods that asked the average citizen, women in particular, to help with the war effort through their consumption habits. I find these ads appealing because they offer an engaging and useful way to discuss the WWII home front. They provide a significant amount of material for students to examine, and do not require reading all of the text in order to fully understand the meaning of the ad as a whole. These images can help enhance lessons covering a wide range of issues.

First, they provide an opportunity for teachers to talk about the role of women on the home front. Typically, classroom discussions draw upon Rosie the Riveter as the primary example of women’s participation in WWII. These ads provide an opportunity to widen the scope on women’s lives during the war. The ads “drafted” female consumers by targeting their domestic sensibilities. They were asked to “Enlist Now!” in an effort to combat the challenges of rationing. Specifically, the ads argue that “Unless You Do Your Part” the rationing system will not work. Essentially these ads help demonstrate the link between a consumer and a patriotic citizen by reminding the audience that purchasing for one’s own self-interest would undermine the war effort. Consumers had to work together with producers to see the nation through the war. Use these ads alone or coupled with war industry ads to discuss the variety of ways women were called upon to contribute to the war effort.

Secondly, teachers can use these ads to help transition to Cold War lessons. They help transition the discussion from self-interest consumption as a potential danger during WWII, to consumption as vital for national stability during the Cold War era.

Finally, I think these ads combined with others from the 1940s and beyond offer an appealing way for students to discuss advertising in general—the importance, pitfalls, and significance. I find ads are a great way to engage students in discussion as they often portray stereotypes and gender roles, provide insight to socioeconomic issues of the era, and offer a glimpse into the mindsets of both the producer and consumer.

Click here to explore more advertising images in the Marchand Archive. How do you use advertisements to teach history? Share your thoughts here.