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  • Reprint Retrospective—"Historical Roots of Consumer Culture" from Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion
Abstract

This is a reprint of "Historical Roots of Consumer Culture," Chapter 5 from Michael Schudson's book Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion: Its Dubious Impact on American Society (Basic Books, 1986). The selection is accompanied by an interview with Michael Schudson about the book, the development of consumer culture, the relationship between advertising and journalism, and Schudson's research since this book's publication. The reprint and interview's goals are to encourage reflection on advertising's place in consumer culture as well as advertising's changing relationship to journalism. In the interview, Schudson covers the inspiration for Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion, his work on cigarettes and anti-smoking efforts, the blurring lines between advertising and journalism, his recent book on transparency, fake news, and advice on conducting advertising and journalism history research.

Keywords

advertising, consumer culture, fake news, journalism, mass consumerism

Fig. 1. Cover of Michael Schudson's Book Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion. of Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion.
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Fig. 1.

Cover of Michael Schudson's Book Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion.

Go to Reprint of Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion.

Editorial Introduction to Reprint

Professor Michael Schudson is one of the world's most prominent scholars of journalism, mass media, and consumer culture. To feature his classic book on advertising and to encourage reflection on advertising's place in American consumer culture, Advertising & Society Quarterly is reprinting Chapter 5 on the "Historical Roots of Consumer Culture" from Schudson's book Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion: Its Dubious Impact on American Society (Basic Books, 1984/1986).

Today, when individual and community identities are influenced heavily by consumer culture that permeates through advertising and mass media, Schudson's chapter helps sort through how and why American society has become so centered on consumerism and brand affinities. Schudson's chapter explains how advertising has played one important part in the entrenchment of consumer culture in the fabric of American life. However, he does not wish for readers to assume that advertising should take center stage. When modern advertising emerged at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, it was one factor among many that led to mass consumer culture's hold on the American way of life and thinking.

To contextualize this reprint's arguments, Advertising & Society Quarterly had a conversation with Michael where he covers the inspiration for Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion, his work on cigarettes and anti-smoking efforts, the blurring lines between advertising and journalism, his recent book on transparency, fake news, and advice on conducting advertising and journalism history research.

This reprint is just one snippet of this longer important book on advertising's place in American society, culture, history, and the economy. The editors encourage readers to read or revisit Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion. Advertising & Society Quarterly has reprinted two other chapters from the book on "An Anthropology of Goods" and "Advertising as Capitalist Realism."

Interview with Michael Schudson

The Book's Inspiration and Key Lessons about Advertising.
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The Book's Inspiration and Key Lessons about Advertising.

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Professor Michael Schudson, a prominent sociologist of journalism and the mass media, explains the origins of his book Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion: Its Dubious Impact on American Society. We learn that the book was inspired by conversations with his students at the University of Chicago about the increasing power of branding, advertising, and mass mediated messages on individuals and society. In writing Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion, Schudson aimed to interrogate and historicize advertising's impact, techniques, and place in American society.

Advertising's Place in the Emergence of Consumer Culture and Journalism.
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Advertising's Place in the Emergence of Consumer Culture and Journalism.

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Before discussing the goals of his chapter on the "Historical Roots of Consumer Culture," Schudson explains how his book's research included interviews with many advertisers who revealed their skepticism about advertising's effectiveness to persuade.

To summarize the historical roots of consumer culture, Schudson explains that advertising was an important feature following consumer culture but not necessarily the driver of consumer culture. Although life was still mainly localized, advertising and consumer culture emerged on a mass scale in the late 19th and early 20th century at the same time as other significant changes in American society: urbanization, advances in mass transportation, and department stores.

Schudson's Work after Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion.
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Schudson's Work after Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion.

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After the publication of Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion, Schudson mainly focused his research and teaching on journalism, but he has made significant contributions to the study of advertising through his work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on anti-smoking advertising. In this segment, Schudson discusses his teaching about advertising history as well as his work on cigarettes and smoking.

Transparency and Consumerism in Schudson's Recent Book The Rise of the Right to Know.
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Transparency and Consumerism in Schudson's Recent Book The Rise of the Right to Know.

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Schudson details his recent book The Rise of the Right to Know: Politics and the Culture of Transparency (Harvard University Press, 2015), which examines the topic of transparency in popular and intellectual culture. He details the topic of one chapter that is highly relevant to the study of advertising and consumer culture: labor activist Esther Peterson's work for the Giant Food Corporation in the 1960s and 1970s on consumer packaging, product labeling, and nutrition facts.

On the Blurring Boundaries between Journalism and Advertising; Fake News.
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On the Blurring Boundaries between Journalism and Advertising; Fake News.

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As an expert in journalism history and sociology, Schudson is alarmed by the "masquerade" involved in recent trends to blend advertising with journalism through sponsored content and native advertising. Schudson explains the positive affordances that come with digital trends in journalism as well as the dangers that accompany new revenue models. When asked about the rise of fake news, Schudson reminds that fake news has always been an issue in journalism. However, the current political moment presents a time where major leaders undermine the credibility of legitimate news sources by calling them "fake news," which leads to a culture that prioritizes personal opinions and hunches over dispassionate facts and evidence-based arguments.

Finding Credible Information in a Digital World.
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Finding Credible Information in a Digital World.

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Related to the topic of fake news, Michael Schudson discusses concerns about how to navigate the minefield and pitfalls of fake and misleading information in an information-rich digital media environment. For Schudson, the digital revolution is the most significant change in communication since the advent of the printing press. How legitimate, evidence-based knowledge is vetted, spread, and received will be the challenge facing society moving ahead.

Advice to Advertising and Media History Researchers.
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Advice to Advertising and Media History Researchers.

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To conclude, Michael Schudson provides advice to advertising and media history researchers: pan for research gold by spending time exploring archival materials in new ways and dive deeply into relevant primary and secondary sources.

 

Reprinted from Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion: Its Dubious Impact on American Society by Michael Schudson. Copyright © 1986. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Advertising & Society Quarterly added illustrations for this reprint.

Chapter 5
Historical Roots of Consumer Culture

In American society, people often satisfy or believe they can satisfy their socially constituted needs and desires by buying mass produced, standardized, nationally advertised consumer products. This was not always the case nor is it today a universal phenomenon. Why should it be so prominent a characteristic of contemporary American culture?

One approach to that question is to seek out the historical roots of consumer culture, and that is the task for this chapter. A set of clues may be found in one of the most famous American novels, Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie. In 1900, Dreiser published this book about Caroline Meeber, a small-town Midwestern girl who goes to the big city, Chicago, to seek her fortune and her future. The first few pages of the novel quickly identify the new social world Carrie walks into and Dreiser saw growing up around him, a social world that gave rise to consumer culture.

This trailer for the TV series Mr. Selfridge (2013) depicts the rise of the department store and consumer culture. Like Sister Carrie (1900), it is a fictional representation of society.
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This trailer for the TV series Mr. Selfridge (2013) depicts the rise of the department store and consumer culture. Like Sister Carrie (1900), it is a fictional representation of society.1

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Fig. 2. Two fictional, late 1800s department stores are depicted in British TV series The Paradise (2012) and Mr. Selfridge (2013).
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Fig. 2.

Two fictional, late 1800s department stores are depicted in British TV series The Paradise (2012) and Mr. Selfridge (2013).2

Fig. 3. Mass consumerism took off in the early 1900s, as seen in this 1909 picture of Chicago, Illinois.
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Fig. 3.

Mass consumerism took off in the early 1900s, as seen in this 1909 picture of Chicago, Illinois.3

Fig. 4. This June 15, 1912, cover of Chicago Dry Goods Reporter reveals the public's intrigue over the newest fashions sold in stores.
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Fig. 4.

This June 15, 1912, cover of Chicago Dry Goods Reporter reveals the public's intrigue over the newest fashions sold in stores.4

The Meaning of Goods in an Urban and Mobile Society

It is notable that the protagonist of Sister Carrie is a woman seeking her fortune, not a man. This upends the conventions of Western myths and fairy tales and opens a new tradition that Sinclair Lewis continued in Main Street and any number of feminist novels of the past decade have extended. Carrie is eighteen years old, she intends to find her pot of gold and to have adventures, and if "romance" holds any privileged place in her scheme of things, that is at least not clear in the beginning.

A woman seeking a fortune is not parallel to a man seeking his. While Sister Carrie is looking for work and therefore is concerned to find a place in the production side of the economy, she is very sensitive, more so than a man is likely to be, to signs of status and person displayed in items of consumption. She notices every detail of the dress of the man on the train who speaks to her. Dreiser comments:

A woman should some day write the complete philosophy of clothes. No matter how young, it is one of the things she wholly comprehends. There is an indescribably faint line in the matter of a man's apparel which somehow divides for her those who are worth glancing at and those who are not. Once an individual has passed this faint line on the way downward he will get no glance from her. There is another line at which the dress of a man will cause her to study her own. This line the individual at her elbow now marked for Carrie. She became conscious of an inequality. Her own plain blue dress, with its black cotton tape trimmings, now seemed to her shabby. She felt the worn state of her shoes.5

When a woman seeks her fortune, the group of independent, individualist, questing human beings has widened. It has also changed. Now success—and even the road to success—is not paved by work and career alone but by lifestyle and consumption.

Fig. 5. A female clerk is shown in this April 1912 column in the Chicago Dry Goods Reporter. Many women started to work as clerks in stores as consumer culture rooted itself into everyday American life in the early 1900s.
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Fig. 5.

A female clerk is shown in this April 1912 column in the Chicago Dry Goods Reporter. Many women started to work as clerks in stores as consumer culture rooted itself into everyday American life in the early 1900s.6

It is notable that Carrie seeks her fortune, not by ship like Odysseus or raft like Huck Finn or foot like Tom Jones, but by train. Train travel, by the 1880s when the novel's action takes place, was a standard means of transportation, though only two generations old. Train travel differs from travel by foot or horse or wagon in a number of respects. It is, of course, faster. It is more comfortable. And it is socially distinctive. In train travel, one is a public person. One travels in the company of strangers where intimacy is a possibility—an opportunity or a danger—but where resources to avoid intimacy are also available. This made train travel unique as a form of transportation, but also made it a metaphor for the experience of the city dweller. If, as sociologists have argued, the modern world is a "world of strangers" and the city is a place of habitation where strangers are likely to meet, Carrie has become a city person from the moment she steps on the train.7 And, indeed, she does meet a stranger, the sinister Charles Drouet.

Carrie arrives in Chicago and, after a night's sleep at her sister's, goes out looking for a job, walking through the wide streets and past the giant buildings. The scene, again, is a familiar one in literature, including nonfiction. Think of Benjamin Franklin, the young printer, walking alone through the streets of Philadelphia, looking for a job carrying two loaves of bread under his arm. By the end of the nineteenth century, it is an image of special importance. Dreiser himself delighted in walking through the streets of cities. As a newspaper reporter in the 1890s, he walked the streets both as vocation and as pastime:

My favorite pastime when I was not out on an assignment or otherwise busy, was to walk the streets and view the lives and activities of others not thinking so much how I might advantage myself and my affairs as how, for some, the lightning of chance was always striking in somewhere and disrupting plans, leaving destruction and death in its wake, for others luck or fortune.8

The scene of Carrie in the streets, then, is a forceful reminder that she is alone, anonymous, fresh and hopeful but nonetheless a reed in the gale of the city, unidentified, unsupported.

Fig. 6. The sidewalks of State Street in Chicago were often crowded with pedestrians because of the increase in commercial activity. This newspaper advertisement for Schlesinger & Mayer shows the elaborate, still existent façade by architect Louis Sullivan.
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Fig. 6.

The sidewalks of State Street in Chicago were often crowded with pedestrians because of the increase in commercial activity. This newspaper advertisement for Schlesinger & Mayer shows the elaborate, still existent façade by architect Louis Sullivan.9

Carrie seeks a job at several department stores and Dreiser feels called upon to insert a small historical and sociological essay on department stores. Carrie is attracted to them because she has seen their ads in the Daily News, a Chicago paper she read in her hometown in Wisconsin. She walks into a department store and it is as if she has walked into fairyland:

Carrie passed along the busy aisles, much affected by the remarkable display of trinkets, dress goods, stationery, and jewelry. Each separate counter was a show place of dazzling interest and attraction. She could not help feeling the claim of each trinket and valuable upon her personally, and yet she did not stop. There was nothing there which she could not have used—nothing which she did not long to own.10

The department store, like the city street, like the railroad coach or compartment, was a new kind of public place. It changed the entire act and art of shopping. One did not simply enter a shop and ask the storekeeper to go to his shelves or backroom for an item. In the department store, things were displayed, and the shopper had a range of things to observe. In Chicago in the 1890s, department stores were called "monsters," "inventions of the devil," "vultures," and "producers of crime, sorrow, and disgrace." These epithets were hurled not by communists or anarchists but by the North Side Businessmen's Association. Republicans in the state legislature introduced a law that would require a $20 license for any retail store carrying one line of merchandise, with the fee doubling for each additional line of goods. If a department store carried ten lines of merchandise, the fee would be $10,240. The measure did not pass but this legislative effort suggests the degree of business anxiety over the department stores.11

Fig. 7. This photo of a Michigan department store (ca. 1910-1915) shows the copious amount of merchandise to be moved in the early 1900s.
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Fig. 7.

This photo of a Michigan department store (ca. 1910-1915) shows the copious amount of merchandise to be moved in the early 1900s.12

The department stores first, but then other retailers, began to change their business practices. Speed of sale became a factor it had never been before and the idea of "stock-turn" or, as we say today, turnover, became important. By the early 1900s, even dry goods and clothing stores in Emporia, Kansas, which had traditionally received carloads of goods twice a year, "began to get goods monthly in smaller packages; quick sales, quick turnovers in these stores were making more profits."13 Customers became relatively more anonymous. They were less part of a buyer-seller relationship, more part of an audience for a spectacle of sales. With goods made visible before them, "eye-catching" appeal became a more vital attribute of a product, and merchandising for the retailer began to be less a matter of knowing the stock and more a matter of presenting it well.

Indeed, department stores made themselves great stages. The clerks acted as friendly, but elegant, hosts. People thought of the stores as social centers and dressed up to go shopping. Department stores displayed original paintings of new artists and claimed to do so better than museums. Department store owner John Wanamaker said: "In museums, most everything looks like junk even when it isn't because there is no care or thought in the display. If women would wear their fine clothes like galleries wear their pictures, they'd be laughed at."14

Fig. 8. John Wanamaker opened stores in Philadelphia and New York, and is known for his pioneering in marketing and advertising. This is one of the earlier locations in 1896, known as the "Grand Depot."
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Fig. 8.

John Wanamaker opened stores in Philadelphia and New York, and is known for his pioneering in marketing and advertising. This is one of the earlier locations in 1896, known as the "Grand Depot."15

Fig. 9. Wanamaker expanded by building a 12-story granite store with 9 floors for retail space and a glorious hall with an organ from the St. Louis World's Fair. This photo from the 1930s shows the size and glamour of Wanamaker's Philadelphia store.
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Fig. 9.

Wanamaker expanded by building a 12-story granite store with 9 floors for retail space and a glorious hall with an organ from the St. Louis World's Fair. This photo from the 1930s shows the size and glamour of Wanamaker's Philadelphia store.16

Fig. 10. This card shows the extravagant interior of Chicago's Marshall Field's, which was typical of major stores in the early 1900s. The dome is a glass mosaic by Tiffany & Co.
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Fig. 10.

This card shows the extravagant interior of Chicago's Marshall Field's, which was typical of major stores in the early 1900s. The dome is a glass mosaic by Tiffany & Co.17

Daniel Boorstin has argued that the department stores democratized luxury by putting expensive goods on display before any customer who cared to peruse them.18 It was not that simple. The department stores carried very high-priced goods and would sometimes provide an appropriately elegant, and forbidding, setting for them. Macy's introduced a ladies' waiting room in 1891 which, according to Macy's ads, was "the most luxurious and beautiful department devoted to the comfort of ladies to be found in a mercantile establishment in the city. The style of decoration is Louis XV and no expense has been spared in the adornment and furnishing of this room."19 Luxury was not democratized so much as made markedly more visible, more public, and more often articulate—through advertising—than it had been before. The department stores did less to provide equality in consumption than to encourage a democracy of aspirations and desire. They contributed to the democratization of envy.

Fig. 11. Palatial luxury is advertised in this 1892 ad for Macy's new Sixth Avenue location in New York City.
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Fig. 11.

Palatial luxury is advertised in this 1892 ad for Macy's new Sixth Avenue location in New York City.20

Carrie Meeber walked, but department stores could succeed at the end of the nineteenth century because at that time American cities became "riding" rather than "walking" habitations. Until the mid- nineteenth century, Eastern cities huddled close to their waterfronts. Travel was on foot or, if one was very wealthy, by carriage. In the 1820s hackney coaches began to appear. These were followed by the horse-drawn omnibuses that carried as many as forty people cheaply, comfortably, and quickly enough for persons of middling wealth to live beyond the walking distance of their employment and become omnibus commuters. One traveler in the 1850s marveled at New York's Broadway omnibus that brought together rich and poor, "men, women and children, in silks and rags—brokers and bankers, tinkers and tailors, laborers and lawyers."21 But only later, when extensive intraurban rail lines developed and then cable lines and electric surface lines and then, by the turn of the century, elevated trains and subways, was a wider metropolitan area made available to large numbers of people at relatively little cost. This easy access to transportation changed the spatial possibilities of daily life. People did not any longer have to live within walking distance of their place of work; suburbs developed and the middle class especially began to move out and to become commuters to work. People did not have to shop in their own neighborhoods any more. They could take the train to some other part of town or to "downtown" to do their shopping. Thanks to newspaper advertising, they could learn what goods were available at what prices in all parts of the city if there were stores that sought a city-wide clientele for their wares.

This kinetoscope film shows Chicago in 1897, which is the same time period and setting of the novel Sister Carrie. A motorized bus full of women goes by the camera set on State Street.
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This kinetoscope film shows Chicago in 1897, which is the same time period and setting of the novel Sister Carrie. A motorized bus full of women goes by the camera set on State Street.22

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The department stores were just such stores and they were crucial to subsidizing the growth of urban newspapers. In the 1880s, the ratio of editorial matter to advertising in daily metropolitan newspapers changed from about 70-30 to 50-50 or lower. Advertising revenue represented 44 percent of total newspaper income in 1880, 55 percent by 1900.23 Of the expanding use of advertising in the late nineteenth century, the most important by far was department store advertising. Charles Russell, a New York reporter and editor, remarked that at the end of the nineteenth century the newspaper became "an appendage of the department store."24 In Robert and Helen Lynd's survey of Muncie, Indiana, newspapers of 1890, 23 percent of all advertising in the papers was department store advertising.25 Department store ads were important not only in size but in style. Wanamaker's, for instance, sought self-consciously to "journalize" advertising, to make ads more newsy, informationally accurate and up-to- date with copy changing daily.26

Fig. 12. John Wanamaker ran new ads daily and even called it news. This ad published in 1903 in the Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, suggests that people traveled to the department store.
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Fig. 12.

John Wanamaker ran new ads daily and even called it news. This ad published in 1903 in the Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, suggests that people traveled to the department store.27

Carrie Meeber, at home in a small Wisconsin town, was one person, but alone in Chicago was someone else. If she was attracted to the goods in the department stores, her attraction was closely connected to her new and uncertain social position. Where people live and die in the same small community, the people they associate with as adults are the same people they grew up with as children. When they look around for affirmation of their identity, when they seek, as Erik Erikson puts it, a sense of continuity in their own lives, the evidence is all around them.28 People derive a sense of self as the self is reflected back in the opinions of other people. When "significant others" remain much the same throughout one's life, identity has a clear foundation. Indeed, it may never become problematic. Further, when a person's status in the community is established by birth or family, the consequences of one's own achievements or failures are not so far reaching. The ne'er-do-well son of the aristocrat is still an aristocrat. The peasant's son who learns to read and write and study the Bible is still a peasant and defers to the aristocrat. Status is no more problematic than identity.

No community was ever quite like the ideal I describe but many communities were more like it than almost any community has been since the industrial and democratic revolutions produced a highly mobile, urban, class society in which social mobility became a real possibility and a powerful ideology. Geographic and social mobility in modern society are especially potent forces for personal disruption. As Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann have argued, mobility has severe psychological consequences.29 Relations weaken with the people who socialized the mobile individual. The norms, rules, attitudes, and behaviors that to the child seemed natural, seem foreign to the adult who has moved away. What was internalized is now seen as external, arbitrary, even alien. The individual is separated from the past. This often is a great but wrenching liberation. One's roots are left behind and individuals thus become more and more dependent on people immediately around them to reaffirm their identities. Identity becomes less tightly connected to one's family of origin, more closely connected to one's associates, whoever they may be.

In contemporary society, geographic or social mobility does not just happen, people expect it to happen, so the family exercises a different kind of control than it once did. The family provides a socialization process for its children that anticipates their mobility. Children learn to pay attention not just to their parents but to their peer group and to the mass media. Their parents may encourage them to separate themselves from the family, to be independent. The battle in middle-class American households, when there is a battle, is not whether or not the child can go out with friends for the evening but how long the child will be allowed to stay out. From the parents' point of view, this is a struggle to retain authority but it is not intended to keep the child from friends. What the parents want the child to learn is that they must fight the battle, but the parents fully expect and intend to ultimately win a war only by losing each fight. The family remains crucial, but more and more, a common culture, that includes advertising and the mass media, plays its part. Berger and Luckmann argue that young people are encouraged to acquire "a prefabricated identity, advertised, marketed, and guaranteed by the identity-producing agencies."30 This is too harsh. If the commercial and national forces for "prefabrication" through persuasion have grown, the local forces toward standard personalities through coercive religion, education, and family have weakened. This is worth remembering before condemning too quickly the new patterns of socialization.

Take, for instance, the evidence the Lynds' Middletown study provides on "anticipatory socialization." The Lynds found that Muncie, Indiana, mothers of the 1890s generation valued "strict obedience" and "loyalty to the church" as the most important attitudes to instill in their children. Working-class mothers of the 1920s also found these to be the most important social values but "business-class" mothers of the 1920s thought "independence" to be just as important as obedience and more important than loyalty to the church. They also cited "frankness" as being very important. In their new emphasis on independence and frankness, these mothers knew and planned for the fact that their children's world would differ from their own. They encouraged children to confront the new world and to be independent because their families could not teach them all they would need to know. At the same time, the parents feared the children would be lost to them unless frankness was also encouraged.31 With a more mobile society and, to some extent, a more open social fabric, realms in which choice rarely figured become open to individual decision making. Most important decisions—who to marry, what career to enter, what religion to adhere to—become matters of selection. As the early 1900s brought improved systems of transportation and communication and a vastly improved system for the distribution of goods to rural parts of the country, consumer "lifestyle" and individual expression and identity-formation through lifestyle became more widely available. William Leiss has ably argued that a society of high-intensity consumption is not so much one in which new needs are manufactured and foisted upon consumers as one in which citizens lose a secure understanding of what their needs are and to what extent commodities can satisfy them. Needs become "ambiguous" as individual choices multiply."32

The mass media help escort people into the wider world of choice, broadening horizons, blurring provincial demarcations. On the one hand, the media enlarge people's sense of their own and the world's possibilities; on the other hand, the media lead people to constantly compare themselves to others or to images of others. As Daniel Bell has suggested, "Mass consumption meant the acceptance, in the crucial area of lifestyle, of the idea of social change and personal transformation."33 But as well, it left people in flux, in uncertainty, full of anxiety about social standing and meaning, vulnerable to the turns of fashion more than playful with them, just as Carrie Meeber walking down Van Buren Street in Chicago was vulnerable to the social forces around her.

Fig. 13. This ad for girdles uses aspiration and class to move product.
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Fig. 13.

This ad for girdles uses aspiration and class to move product.34

In this world, external signs hold great importance and people leap at anything that can be used to signify. As anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss suggested of primitive totems, and as Mary Douglas has more recently suggested of commercial commodities, they are "good to think."35 In other words, they are symbols that people use as maps for charting a complex and uncertain world. People in the new mobile, urban world of the late nineteenth century required new symbol systems. They needed to locate and identify themselves and they sought what they believed would prove "good to think." People could, and did, recreate villages in cities and reestablish location rooted in family and neighborhood. At the same time, they could not ignore the presence of a wider world: the mass media would not let them be long insensitive to it. Most people needed to connect themselves to the wider world, the socially and geographically mobile, most of all.

There were various ways to find identity and placement in the larger world. Income was especially convenient because it provided a ranked identification, because it was subject to transformation, and because it tended to be a good, though by no means perfect, index of a variety of socially meaningful traits, including political power and social standing. It had the disadvantage of being, by itself, invisible. Increasingly, however, an index for income was visible and available in the status and quality ranking of consumer goods. Material goods became "visible symbols of inner worth" in worlds where few other symbols had permanence or continuity. As Berger and Luckmann put it, where there is high mobility "conspicuous patterns of consumption take the place of continuous interpersonal contacts within an individual's biography…. Material objects rather than human beings must be called upon to testify to the individual's worth."36 Consumer goods begin to be an index and a language that place a person in society and relate the person in symbolically significant ways to the national culture.

During the nineteenth century, more and more goods manufactured in factories rather than in homes poured onto the market. More and more necessities of life were bought outside the home and outside the neighborhood, too. An excellent example is clothing. In 1790, 80 percent of all clothing was made in the home for family use. A century later, for men and boys, 90 percent was made outside the home.37 As for women's clothing, while much was still made at home, it was made on a store-bought sewing machine according to patterns purchased from women's magazine companies like Butterick's. As late as 1910, newspaper advertisements for yard goods outnumbered those for ready-made dresses in the newspapers of Muncie, Indiana, but by the 1920s Middletown, too, responded primarily to ads for ready mades.38

Fig. 14. This 1903 ad shows how it was very common for women's clothes to be made at home using more easily accessible and reliable sewing materials.
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Fig. 14.

This 1903 ad shows how it was very common for women's clothes to be made at home using more easily accessible and reliable sewing materials.39

Fig. 15. The Delineator, published by Butterick, was a magazine designed to describe patterns but it also carried ads, and the articles ranged from music and books, and cooking to home décor and etiquette. Inside is a "fashion plate" indicating what number sewing pattern to request.
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Fig. 15.

The Delineator, published by Butterick, was a magazine designed to describe patterns but it also carried ads, and the articles ranged from music and books, and cooking to home décor and etiquette. Inside is a "fashion plate" indicating what number sewing pattern to request.40

The availability of store-bought, ready-made clothing helped extend and democratize fashion. While clothing or ornament is used universally to mark sex, age, and status, "fashion" is primarily a Western and modern phenomenon, at least on a mass scale.

Fashion differs from dress in that it is not a traditional expression of social place but a rapidly changing statement of social aspiration. It emerged, as Ann Hollander writes, "as a form of presumption—the desire to imitate and resemble something better, more free, more beautiful and shining, which one could not actually aspire to be."41 The early emergence of fashion was limited by the number of people able and willing to be fashionable and by the supply of fashionable things. In the nineteenth century, more people could participate in fashion as the development of machine-manufactured clothing made up-to-date goods more widely available. Fashion set a person in social space, linked to and differentiated from social groups. It also located a person in social time—in relation to others, being avant garde or au courant or behind-the-times, and in relation to one's own past, offering an index and symbol of the distance one had traveled from past experience and a readiness, or lack of readiness, to encounter something new.42

Fashion in dress, better than any other example of consumption, is a material, externalized symbol system that connects people to social worlds and individualizes them in those worlds. For more and more people in the late nineteenth century and after, clothing came to be expressive and signifying. But so, too, did other material objects. Where buying replaced making, then looking replaced doing as a key social action, reading signs replaced following orders as a crucial modern skill. Shorthands for expression and signification became more and more desirable and useful to urbanites; manufacturers exploited the desires of people for social location and identity with the production of "brand name" goods. Brand name goods appeared at the end of the nineteenth century for a number of reasons; they were accepted for the reasons discussed here. In a mobile society, commercial products with familiar names provide people with some sense of identity and continuity in their lives. And in a society with a high concern for social mobility, material possessions of known and ranked standing provide statements of social status and may provide entry into desired social worlds.

Fig. 16. Ads for clothing such as Arrow collars sold not only the clothes but also a story about social standing.
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Fig. 16.

Ads for clothing such as Arrow collars sold not only the clothes but also a story about social standing.43

But it will not do to hang everything on this "identity" argument by itself. It explains too much, I think, and therefore too little. It is exactly the kind of argument by sociologists that rightly raises the hackles of historians. It is notoriously difficult to make such an argument historically specific. People have used a growing number of manufactured consumer goods for some time, beginning at least in the eighteenth century.

Compared to the world of today, Carrie Meeber's notion of material variety looks anemic and the proliferation of brand names at the turn of the century paltry. At what point can it be said that people actively construct their identities from material things? If this is in some measure always true, when does it become predominantly true? And to what extent does it remain, even today, a rather modest truth, with people's surest sense of self and deepest foundation of social standing derived from family and occupation, not lifestyle?

That is one problem; there is another. People do not necessarily find whatever they may seek in the way of status and identity from consumer goods. Indeed as Marcus Felson has suggested, consumption today may do more to mask social standing than to express it. From the point of view of society, consumer lifestyles may confuse social ranking; from the point of view of the aspiring individual, however, this very confusion may serve personal ends.44

The growing importance of standard, identifiable products and brands may be conceived in a manner less dependent on psychological assumptions about identity. Some brand names, like "Yves St. Laurent," offer identity and status, but others, like McDonald's or Coca-Cola or Kentucky Fried Chicken, do not. Their promise is not identity but familiarity and reliability of product. Where consumers do not make their own goods and do not buy at neighborhood stores where they know and are known to the merchant, brand names become a form of consumer protection. The brand-name good, as economist George Akerlof argues, is "an institution which counteracts the effects of quality uncertainty "45 Brand-name goods and other standard products such as the "convenience foods" that it is fashionable to complain about have this quality. Frozen concentrate rather than fresh orange juice has this advantage, as a waitress explained to writer John McPhee in his fruitless search for a Florida restaurant that served fresh orange juice: "Fresh is either too sour or too watery or too something. Frozen is the same every day. People want to know what they're getting."46 A survey of five hundred housewives found that purchasing a major brand or a brand previously used is taken to be a better means of reducing risk in a purchasing situation than government reports or word-of-mouth information.47 The housewives are not seeking status or identity when they opt for the brand name; they are minimizing risk to their families. In the late nineteenth century, they were doing the same thing. The world was changing so that available products were less often local and known and local retailers were more often large institutions serving a wider public than before. Further, the consumers themselves were less often local and known. Geographic mobility was high and immigration was at a peak. There was plenty of incentive, then, for shoppers to seek the guarantee of predictability that brand names would provide.

In Sister Carrie's world of the 1880s, all this was just beginning. Carrie Meeber was dazzled by goods, not by brand names. But in another generation, Sinclair Lewis's George Babbitt would be proud of his brand names. They connected his life in Zenith, Ohio, to the high and mighty of America. "These standard advertised wares—toothpastes, socks, tires, cameras, instantaneous hot-water heaters—were his symbols and proofs of excellence; at first the signs, then the substitutes, for joy and passion and wisdom."48 For historian Daniel Boorstin, the goods of mass consumption are not to be denounced so glibly. He refers to the relations people establish with one another through the insignia of mass consumption, through the sharing of Pierre Cardin shirts or Harley-Davidson motorcycles as "consumption communities." This is a tendentious phrase; it incorporates into a slogan the very question that needs to be addressed about a consumer society: is there any community of consumption? And if there is, what kind of community is it? Does the sharing of goods—not the sitting down at table and breaking bread together but the impersonal sharing, the fact that John Smith from Buffalo and Jill Jones from Santa Barbara both wear Jordache jeans—does that establish a sense of community between them?

The answer is no, it does not establish any kind of community a person could put much stock in. Boorstin here is ideologue more than analyst. But may not Sinclair Lewis be an ideologue in the other direction? Is there not something to the sharing of things and the names for things that helps build a culture—at least a world of shared meanings if not shared ideals and relationships? Goods themselves are not (only) the enemies of culture and not (only) the debasement of culture and not (only) something foisted unwillingly upon defenseless consumers. Goods are constituents of culture and the sharing of their names is a part of what it means to partake of culture.

Culture, anthropologist Mary Douglas asserts, is the sharing of names—and this includes the sharing of names of material objects. When she looks at consumer goods in modern society, Douglas sees not a bundle of utilities, as the economist would, nor even a bundle of social ties, as I have been suggesting, but a bundle of symbols, elements in cultural classification schemes. For Douglas then, when people buy goods, they are not just trying to satisfy "needs" in a narrow sense but are trying "to construct an intelligible universe" with the goods they choose. She says:

Enjoyment of physical consumption is only a part of the service yielded by goods; the other part is the enjoyment of sharing names the anthropological argument insists that by far the greater part of utility is yielded … in sharing names that have been learned and graded. This is culture.49

Surely there is something to this. A personal name is sometimes called a "handle" in American slang and this is a revealing term. Through the name, we handle or come in contact with and touch and hold people and things. Think of expatriates or travelers. Americans who travel abroad and meet fellow Americans do not typically reach out to each other by discussing the Declaration of Independence or the spirit of free enterprise. They talk about peanut butter and playfully compare the merits of Peter Pan and Skippy and Jif, or they discuss chocolate chip cookies, Frye boots, a 1957 Chevy, what they would give for a real milkshake, whether they have been on Woodward Avenue in Detroit or Melrose in Los Angeles, or to the Broome Street bar in Soho in New York. They take pleasure in the very saying of these names and in the familiarity the words establish.

But what kind of society is ours that produces the particular system of naming we have? What is special about a system in which words like "Chevy," "polyester," and "Holiday Inn" take on importance? Who does the naming in our society, who has the power of words, and how is that power used? Douglas's position, by itself, does not get to these issues. Her views provide no room for politics and no standards for judging the place of goods in society. For her, it seems, people make good cultural use of goods in any society at any time, and the number or kind of goods they use is beyond comment.50

The concepts of "identity" and "culture" and the changing needs of people in a mobile society do not suffice to explain the shift to a consumer society in the period 1850 to 1930. Nor do they explain "materialist" values. As Neil Harris points out, a consumer society is not the same thing as a materialist society; nineteenth-century Americans were regarded by most observers, including the trenchant Tocqueville, as archetypal materialists, even in 1830. But materialism was connected at that date to both consumption and production. People still made things at home and satisfied material longings that way. This became less true by the end of the nineteenth century. Industrialization displaced home industry and, in a rather short span of years, people found themselves unable "to match, in precision, variety, attractiveness, and especially cost, the provision of objects produced by American manufacturers, from clothing and furniture to food and drink." The changing nature and significance of consumption, then, grew not from autonomous changes in the life of the citizen or the family but from the intersection of such changes with the emergence of large-scale consumer goods industries. I turn, then, to a consideration of changes on the production side of the economy.51

Fig. 17. This ad for Heinz captures perfectly the spirit of Victorian consumption. The "old way" looks very difficult compared to the "new way."
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Fig. 17.

This ad for Heinz captures perfectly the spirit of Victorian consumption. The "old way" looks very difficult compared to the "new way."52

Consumer Goods and the Production Side of the Economy

Fig. 18. This 1900 ad for Tangin was one of many patent medicine brands claiming to cure women of their many "womanly ills." Patent medicines were a major contributor to the rise of consumer culture in American society at the turn of the last century.
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Fig. 18.

This 1900 ad for Tangin was one of many patent medicine brands claiming to cure women of their many "womanly ills." Patent medicines were a major contributor to the rise of consumer culture in American society at the turn of the last century.53

The Lynds found that 25 percent of all advertising in the Middletown papers of 1890 was patent medicine advertising, slightly ahead of department store advertising.54 When Press and Printer of Boston tabulated advertisers who made regular use of advertising, they found that 425 of the 2,583 enterprises counted sold medicines and drugstore items, more than double the next leading category.55 It is hard to exaggerate the importance of patent medicines in the history of advertising. "The backbone of the typical advertising agency's business in the nineteenth century was patent medicine, and the Ayer firm was no exception to this rule," writes Ralph Hower, N. W. Ayer's historian. Patent medicine advertising made up a quarter of Ayer's total advertising volume in its first decade, the 1870s. It was "the mainstay of every agency of importance at the time." Some agencies even became part owners of the patent medicine companies—Rowell, Lord and Thomas of Chicago, and Pettengill and Company of Boston. Ayer did the same thing less deliberately, gaining an interest in exchange for unpaid bills.56

Ads for patent medicines intended two things. First, they sought to establish a clear, memorable identification for their product. This was more important than the particular "promise" about what the medicine would do. It was most important to establish a name people could remember, feel comfortable with, and believe to represent an important or well-established firm. The identification would often be with something exotic as in Hayne's Arabian Balsam, Hoofland's Greek Oil, Osgood's Indian Cholagogue, or Jayne's Spanish Alterative. Things remote, ancient, mystical were often used, relying where possible on established folk beliefs. Dr. Lin's Chinese Blood Pills suggested longevity. Turkish Wafers—for men only—suggested the romance and sex of veils and harems and hookahs.

Fig. 19. In the late 19th century, arresting color visuals in ads such as this card for Warner's Safe Nervine were used to draw attention to and sell patent medicines.
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Fig. 19.

In the late 19th century, arresting color visuals in ads such as this card for Warner's Safe Nervine were used to draw attention to and sell patent medicines.57

Most patent medicine advertising was repetitious and dull. Many ads, all identical, would be placed in the same issue of the same newspaper. Dr. Donald Kennedy's Medical Discovery and Dr. T. Felix Gourard's complexion cure did not change copy during more than forty years of advertising. There was great weight placed on establishing and maintaining product identification, by the continuity and repetition of a name or trademarked image. Regarding the latter, James Harvey Young writes:

The trade-mark, indeed, was a fixed star in a universe of flux. The ownership of medicines might change again and again, and so might the formula. The diseases for which medicines were advertised might vary over time, and sometimes even names were altered. Trade-marks, however, protected first by common law and then by federal statute, endured forever.58

Secondary to product identification was product identity. By identification, I mean simply the association of a name or picture with a given product. Product identity, by contrast, associates the product with its function and, to some extent, with its intended market. So, for instance, some of the patent medicines promised to be especially potent for women's illnesses or for common colds or for general nervousness or depression or for baldness or for sexual disorders. But most often, it appears, the patent medicines were relatively weak in product identity. This has to do with the products themselves: they were not standardized, they were not reliable, and they did not do the things they claimed. Not surprisingly, their claims changed from time to time.

Fig. 20. Patent medicines made up a large part of advertising in the late 19th century, such as this ad showing Brandreth's claim to cure constipation.
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Fig. 20.

Patent medicines made up a large part of advertising in the late 19th century, such as this ad showing Brandreth's claim to cure constipation.59

Further, although the medicine ads invoked medical authority or testimonials from ministers or scientific terminology and Latin names, the advertisers were well aware that they faced a skeptical public. Some ads tried to make use of the skepticism. In booklets advertising his Microbe Killer, William Radam attacked other patent medicines. Gullible people, he explained, would buy these worthless products because "the public likes to be humbugged." He went on: "People should not be led away by every charlatan who jumps up before them and talks: but as long as the world lasts there will probably be fools in it, and fools are a godsend to rogues."60 Similarly, the manufacturers of Vin Mariani used as advertising a pamphlet mailed to physicians entitled, "The Effrontery of Proprietary Medicine Advertisers." The competition among medicines, carried out largely through advertising, was severe, and it has been estimated that less than 2 percent of remedies launched in New York had even modest success.61

In the mid nineteenth century, patent medicines were the most prominent advertised product. In the 1870s and 1880s, department store advertising came to match that of patent medicines. But, in retrospect, the development on the production and distribution side of the economy most important in creating an advertising-oriented consumer culture was the emergence of advertising for nationally branded goods. This was spawned by a relatively small group of new, technologically and organizationally innovative manufacturers. Nearly all of the first national advertisers were enterprises that used new continuous-process machinery to produce low- priced, packaged consumer goods. The massive increase in output made possible by the new machinery led manufacturers to build large marketing and purchasing networks and to engage in widespread advertising. These enterprises included many that remain to this day the leading advertisers in the country: Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, H. J. Heinz, Borden, Eastman Kodak, Quaker Oats, Pillsbury, Campbell Soups, Carnation, Libby McNeil & Libby, and American Tobacco. They produced cigarettes, soap, canned foods, breakfast cereals, matches, and photographic film and equipment. These are, with a partial exception of photographic equipment, exclusively "experience" goods. Thus they are products whose advertising is likely to include very little direct information and is likely to focus on the reputability of the manufacturer. Probably the single largest newspaper advertiser in the 1890s was a firm of this sort, Royal Baking Powder.62

Fig. 21. This ad for the newly branded product Royal Baking Powder ran in the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1896. Branding products became important to the mass production of goods in an increasingly urbanized society in the late 19th century.
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Fig. 21.

This ad for the newly branded product Royal Baking Powder ran in the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1896. Branding products became important to the mass production of goods in an increasingly urbanized society in the late 19th century.63

The Quaker Oats Co. may be taken as an example. Oats were raised in quantity in the late nineteenth century, especially in Iowa, Ohio, and Illinois. Ferdinand Schumacher, a German immigrant, was the first to develop a branded oat product for human consumption. When he began milling in Ravenna, Ohio, he used the same techniques millers had used since the fifteenth century. He believed his oatmeal to be a cheap and healthy substitute for the American breakfast that immigrants regarded as excessive. At first, then, his products circulated among German-American communities. But oatmeal and oat mush began to grow more popular and Schumacher soon had competitors. The competitors, too, operated on ancient milling techniques until Schumacher's innovation in 1875, a machine to convert hulled kernels into a coarse meal. About the same time, George Cormack at Rockford, Illinois, devised labor-saving systems for moving grain in and out of the mill. In 1877 Asmus J. Ehrrichsen, an employee of Schumacher's, developed the steel-cut process. Instead of crushing the grain through millstones, the hulled oats were cut into meal by fine knife blades, providing a uniform, flaky meal. A year later, Schumacher used porcelain rollers to manufacture rolled oats and converted his whole production to rolled oats which flaked rather than crushed grains.

Fig. 22. The patent image for Schumacher's "Oat Meal Machine."
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Fig. 22.

The patent image for Schumacher's "Oat Meal Machine."64

In the meantime, one of Schumacher's competitors, Henry Parsons Crowell, was quickly adopting all the latest innovations. His mill, also at Ravenna, by 1882 became "the first in the world to maintain under one roof operations to grade, clean, hull, cut, package, and ship oatmeal to interstate markets in a continuous process that in some aspects anticipated the modern assembly line."65 Crowell called his product "Quaker Oats." The development of highly efficient "continuous-process" methods was the first critical step in establishing a capacity for national advertising of cereals. The new technology expanded the industrial capacity of firms so that increasing production at little increased cost was no longer difficult. The main problem for the cereal manufacturers and others like them was "to move their goods quickly enough or to advertise them effectively enough to keep their high-volume production facilities operating steadily."66

Henry Crowell registered the trademark of a "figure of a man in Quaker garb" in 1877, the first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal. Crowell—and then Schumacher, too, when they joined forces with Robert Stuart of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to create the American Cereal Company—pioneered in packaging, promotion, and advertising. Crowell introduced a folding carton for Quaker oats packaging, a method that had been patented only ten years before. Because the unfolded package lay flat, it could be easily printed on and so the Crowell carton displayed the Quaker emblem in four-color printing with recipes printed on the package. This was the beginning of the end of selling cereal to the retailers in bulk (although in health foods stores, the old methods of retailing have been revived).67

Fig. 23. This turn of the century Quaker Oats poster shows the trademarked man and the square box—both important steps in ramping up national manufacturing and advertising.
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Fig. 23.

This turn of the century Quaker Oats poster shows the trademarked man and the square box—both important steps in ramping up national manufacturing and advertising.68

In 1886, for the first time, as the historian of Quaker Oats reports, a housewife could read a sales message on a food package: "We would call your special attention to the purity, rapidity of preparation, and the fact that they did not sacrifice sweetness and flavor for the sake of rapid cooking." This was followed by several recipes. It is curious that the message refers to the Quaker Oats company as "they" rather than "we." While the packaging was part of a continuous-process production, the company's copywriters clearly saw the package as something put around the product itself rather than as an integral part of the product and its identity.

The emphasis in advertising for nationally branded products, as for patent medicines, was more on identification than on identity. The advertising profession of the day "seemed to equate quality with quantity" and valued the ubiquity of a product name and trademark above all else.69For Quaker Oats, making the Quaker symbol well known was the all- important task. Claims for the specific merits of Quaker oats varied and types of appeals changed. Ads at different times connected Quaker products to "love, pride, cosmetic satisfactions, sex, marriage, good health, cleanliness, safety, labor saving, and status seeking."70 But the Quaker Oats symbol was permanent and visible everywhere, on billboards, streetcars, newspapers, calendars, magazines, blotters, cookbooks, Sunday church bulletins, metal signs on rural fences, company-sponsored cooking schools, free samples given away house-to-house, booths at county fairs and expositions.

Quaker Oats did not limit itself to advertising as a tool, nor did the other early national advertisers. Advertising was but one aspect of a national marketing effort. According to historian Alfred Chandler, it was by no means the most important feature. More crucial than advertising was the development of national and sometimes global organizations of managers, buyers, and salesmen that the early mass marketing firms created. The new technology of continuous-process production made possible a new social invention—not advertising but the organization chart, a regular hierarchy of responsibility, an administrative structure responsible for marketing as well as the production of the manufactured good. In Chandler's view, the key innovation that made mass marketing possible was not advertising but corporate organization.

Fig. 24. This organizational chart helped all parties involved better understand how a vast organization like a railroad worked toward the same goals.
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Fig. 24.

This organizational chart helped all parties involved better understand how a vast organization like a railroad worked toward the same goals.71

What happened with cereal happened with other products I have mentioned, too, and in the same era, between 1880 and 1900. These industries did not gradually drive out competitors to become slowly concentrated—they were oligopolistic almost from the beginning. Once established, it was very difficult for competitors to break into the market. Why? Chandler's answer is:

The most imposing barrier to entry in these industries was the organization the pioneers had built to market and distribute their newly mass-produced products. A competitor who acquired the technology had to create a national and often global organization of managers, buyers, and salesmen if he was to get the business away from the one or two enterprises that already stood astride the major marketing channels.72

While advertising may be today a "barrier to entry" into markets, it was not a barrier in the late nineteenth century.73 What was a barrier was the extensive marketing organization and the long-term ties between executives and managers and jobbers and retailers that constituted the human side of the organization. That was not easy for newcomers to duplicate. However, if advertising was not guaranteed market power in relation to competitors, it was certainly a form of market power in relation to retailers. Manufacturer advertising gives a firm direct communication to consumers and a way of forcing retailers into distributing their product without making price concessions to the retailer.74

By the turn of the century, advertising had become an important element in the American economy. Some of the reasons for the rise of advertising can be understood as "market driven": advertising provided information about what goods were available for sale in a society that no longer consisted of face-to-face economic relations. Some of the early informational advertising and the department store advertising was market driven, in this sense. So, too, was the development of warehouse catalog advertising, such as that of Sears and Roebuck. But some of the development of advertising is better thought of as "producer driven": for firms where technology had solved production problems, advertising arose as part of a marketing effort to sell goods whose supply could be increased easily at little additional production cost. In the case of the patent medicines, advertising was the main marketing tool. For nationally advertised, branded products that arose in continuous-process production industries after 1880, advertising was one important element in a marketing mix that included direct salesmanship, packaging, and the establishment of hierarchical, national marketing organizations.

Fig. 25. These pages from the 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog represent a tiny sampling of the merchandise available by mail order, which allowed consumer culture to permeate to all corners of the country.
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Fig. 25.

These pages from the 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog represent a tiny sampling of the merchandise available by mail order, which allowed consumer culture to permeate to all corners of the country.75

The distinction between market-driven and producer-driven advertising bears on the controversy over whether advertising creates or simply responds to felt needs. To the extent that advertising arose in response to social and economic changes in a mobile market society, it is difficult to see it as an original or prime cause of consumer culture. To the extent, however, that technological developments in industrial manufacturing precipitated growing investment in distribution and sales and advertising, advertising can be seen as a somewhat independent, not solely reactive, force in American society. I do not think the historical record resolves the debate about advertising's role in creating "needs," but I do think it reveals some of the complexity of the issue and makes it hard for anyone to leap with unqualified certainty to one side ("advertising just responds to social trends") or the other ("advertising is the creator of consumer culture").

The Media and the Agencies as Promoters of Promotion

Having considered, at least briefly, social changes that altered people's desires for goods and susceptibility to advertising and changes in manufacturing that led to markedly greater incentives for businesses to seek national distribution and the advertising that accompanies it, I have addressed the largest factors in the late nineteenth century that paved the way to a goods-intensive consumer culture. But a long footnote needs to be added on additional forces that institutionalized advertising itself as an element in the consumer complex. Advertising is a relationship between a producer (or distributor) who advertises, an agency that creates the ad, a medium that carries the ad, and an audience of consumers to whom the ad is directed. I have thus far considered market-driven forces that enabled the rise of advertising (changes in the lives of the people who represent the market for consumer goods) and producer-driven forces (changes in the technology of industry and the social organization of retailing). There were also changes in the mass media and the emergence of advertising agencies—together these can be taken as "self-generating" sources of advertising. The media live off advertising revenue and the advertising agencies' reason for existence is advertising. The presence of these institutions in the economy has been a force for the growth of advertising.

The first advertising agents were more the servants of the newspapers than of the firms that bought advertising space. Volney B. Palmer (1799- 1864) is generally regarded as the first agent, having begun his business in Philadelphia in 1841. He was an agent for newspaper publishers around the country with authority to make contracts with advertisers on behalf of the publishers. Soon thereafter, the typical agent became a true middleman, a space jobber who sold newspaper space to advertisers and then bought the space to fill his orders. This was typical of agents in the 1850s.

As the agency system developed, agents moved from space jobbing to "space wholesaling." The leading agent of the 1860s and 1870s, George Rowell, initiated the practice of buying newspaper space in advance, in large lots, and reselling it in smaller lots to advertisers. In 1867, Carlton and Smith (and later J. Walter Thompson) began the "advertising concession agency" in which the agent made annual contracts with newspapers he served, taking over "most of the risk and management of the entire advertising space in the papers."76 Competition among agents was based in part on the assurances of the agents to advertisers regarding circulation figures of the papers they represented. Rowell began in 1869 to publish a directory of newspaper circulation figures; as this directory became established, it was more and more difficult for newspapers to continue their decades-old habit of lying about circulation.

Nonetheless, the advertising agency remained for some time an institution of very limited scope. It bought and sold space. It did not produce ads. But its activities, however limited, provided businesses a real service, thanks to the growth of national markets and the developments in transportation and communication that made that growth possible. Merchants did not know much about the media for advertising outside their own town or region. Agents emerged to exploit business's ignorance of institutions that had become relevant for commercial success. The advertising agency's growth parallels the rise of credit agencies, which appeared about the same time. Both rated the worth of out-of-town businesses: the credit agency judged businesses one might sell or extend credit to, the advertising agency judged the value of newspapers as media for advertising. Both tried to standardize rating systems, the credit agency trying to make reliable judgments about net worth and the advertising agency trying to establish newspaper circulations reliably.77

This is not to say that businesses all quickly recognized that advertising agencies would be useful—or that advertising itself would be useful to them. From 1840 to 1870, according to advertising historian Ralph Hower, "the agency's chief service … was to promote the general use of advertising." In the 1870s and after, agencies actively propagandized for the idea of advertising. In 1876 N. W. Ayer & Son began publishing The Advertiser's Guide, a quarterly magazine with reprinted newspaper articles, jokes, and short news items "together with material urging the advantages of advertising." In 1886 Ayer developed its motto, "Keeping Everlastingly At It Brings Success," meant not so much to encourage its own employees as to remind businessmen of the advantages of advertising regularly.78

The first promotional work of the agencies, then, was to sell the idea of advertising to business. At N. W. Ayer and other agencies, this work continued into the twentieth century, indeed, to this day. Ayer's first efforts to be more than a space broker—to write copy, obtain illustrations, and plan whole campaigns—were designed as ways to promote the idea of advertising to Ayer's own potential clients. Between 1900 and 1910, Ayer advertised its own services in Profitable Advertising and The Bill Poster and for years thereafter in Printer's Ink. Between 1919 and 1932 Ayer regularly placed full-page ads in Saturday Evening Post and Literary Digest, speaking in general terms of the philosophy of advertising at Ayer.

Fig. 26. N. W. Ayer & Son routinely advertised their expertise and service in Printer's Ink. Here, they sell a book for advertisers to identify where to place newspaper advertisements.
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Fig. 26.

N. W. Ayer & Son routinely advertised their expertise and service in Printer's Ink. Here, they sell a book for advertisers to identify where to place newspaper advertisements.79

The advertising agency began to shift from an institution serving the media to an agency serving the advertiser when George Rowell developed the "open contract" system in 1875. Rowell announced:

One thing we clearly perceived … , that advertising agencies succeeded best when studying the interests of advertisers not newspapers We have fully decided to announce as a rule for our future guidance (but which we have followed pretty closely for the past three years) that we will not hereafter be a party to any competition for advertising contracts.80

N. W. Ayer followed suit, taking Rowell's scheme a step further to a full "open contract" in which an advertiser agreed to an exclusive arrangement with an agent for a period of time. There would not be competition for the advertiser's business on each occasion for advertising. The agent would learn over time the best way to handle a given advertiser's account. The contract would be "open," meaning that specifications for where to buy advertising space would be flexible, the advertiser making final decisions.81

Only after this change did advertising art and copy become part of the responsibility of the agency. Between 1880 and 1900, agencies began to write copy for their clients. As the volume of advertising increased, skill in writing copy became more important. Buying more space or using heavier type or larger type sizes was not enough, and agencies that could offer services in writing more persuasive advertisements gained a competitive edge. As early as 1880, N. W. Ayer announced to businessmen that they had skills in the composition and illustration of newspaper ads. Only in 1900, though, did Ayer establish a separate Copy Department. The first systematically trained copywriting staff began at Lord and Thomas (later to become Foote, Cone & Belding) in 1904 under the guidance of Albert Lasker and John E. Kennedy.82

Fig. 27. N. W. Ayer encourages producers to advertise through their proclamation that "production is a liability until consumption is assured." N.W. Ayer claimed advertising helped assure consumption.
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Fig. 27.

N. W. Ayer encourages producers to advertise through their proclamation that "production is a liability until consumption is assured." N.W. Ayer claimed advertising helped assure consumption.83

As agencies became established, they became an independent force promoting the idea of advertising, and so did their trade journals and trade associations. The early years of Printer's Ink, begun in 1888 as a promotional tool for George P. Rowell's agency, were dominated by its efforts at "interpreting and justifying the work of the general advertising agent to advertisers and potential advertisers." While the boosterism receded somewhat in the early twentieth century, Printer's Ink in the 1890s was full of homilies like "Advertising is the steam propeller of business success" and "United they stand, divided they fall—business and advertising."84 When advertising clubs began to appear, they, too, became boosters for the idea of advertising in the business world. The first, the Sphinx Club, was organized in New York in 1896. A national association of clubs, the Associated Advertising Clubs of America, held its first meeting in 1905 and by 1916 had more than fifteen thousand members. Printer's Ink held in 1915 that the chief value of this club movement was "the education of businessmen generally to the importance of advertising as a business force."85 The advertising agencies, however successful they may have been in stimulating the growth of advertising in general, were surely successful in promoting the use of agencies by businesses. In examining directories of advertisers, historian Daniel Pope found that 20 percent of firms listed as advertisers in New York in 1901 used advertising agencies, but that this increased to 35 percent in 1911. In Boston, similarly, the figure jumped from 20 percent in 1901 to nearly 50 percent in 1911.86

The media, too, increasingly dependent on advertising revenue, actively promoted the use of advertising. The media try to convince businesses that it pays to advertise and that, in particular, it pays to advertise in one specific medium. Today, the pages of advertising trade journals are full of advertisements from radio stations, television stations and networks, magazines, and newspapers. Each extols its own ability to attract the largest consumer audience or the most affluent consumer audience or the largest audience per dollar spent on advertising. While the media today are particularly competitive, this is not a new development. The San Diego Union, for instance, in the 1890s, took pains to inform prospective and current advertisers that advertising was worthwhile. The front page "ears" in 1891 often included messages to advertisers. From June 18 to June 25, 1891, for example, the left-hand ears read: "The Brainiest Advertisers in this enterprising city use the daily and weekly Union right along. They wouldn't stay if it didn't pay them.'' If that was not encouragement enough, the right-hand ear said: "It pays to Advertise. In the Spring. In the Summer. In the Fall. In the Winter."

Fig. 28. Newspapers touted the power of advertising to encourage new businesses to advertise their products and services.
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Fig. 28.

Newspapers touted the power of advertising to encourage new businesses to advertise their products and services.87

The advertising agencies, meanwhile, were growing not only larger and more important but more self-important. Agencies, especially the larger agencies with national advertisers as clients, sought to gain "professional" standing for advertising men. Thus they eagerly supported a move toward "scientific" advertising by sponsoring market research and by welcoming the language and literature of psychology into advertising work. Old-timers like George Rowell were not friendly to psychology, but others seemed to be obsessed with discovering what "human nature" is. American ad men were particularly taken with the work of Walter Dill Scott at Northwestern, an academic who became the earliest guru of scientific advertising.88

The psychology that entered market research and advertising was eclectic. Behaviorists, Freudians, and a host of others coexisted. One of the most eminent psychologists of his day, John Watson, when forced from his position at Johns Hopkins, left the academic world for a job at J. Walter Thompson where he quickly rose to a position as vice-president. Watson is representative of psychologists in market research in his fundamental assumption that all people are alike. As he wrote in 1935, "As a psychologist, I decry the fact that we are all trained so much alike—that there is so little individuality in the world. But, as an advertising man, I rejoice; my bread and butter depends on it."89 But the first development of significance in market research was not to see the common elements in human nature but to see the obvious differences; especially to recognize that there are two sexes and that women, not men, are the primary consumers in American culture. "The proper study of mankind is MAN," said one ad in Printer's Ink, "… but the proper study of markets is WOMAN.''90 It was a cliché among advertisers by the 1920s that women are the "purchasing agents" of their families; the trade journals cited the figure that 85 percent of all consumer spending is done by women.

Even shaving cream and safety razors were advertised to wives. The view of the man as hapless, a bumbler—a figure who reappeared in comic strips like "Blondie" or television sitcoms like "Ozzie and Harriet," was well known in ads in the 1920s:

What does a man know about complexion, the skin? Nothing. He rips and hacks away at his face and then washes it with strong soap, sprinkles on a little powder, and believes he is a beauty parlor wizard.

You, the woman of the family, understand what the care of the skin means. You realize that a good lotion is invaluable. Protect that foolish husband of yours against himself: start that college-boy son of yours in the right path—put a bottle of Facefriend in the bathroom closet and see that they use it after shaving. They know no better—help them.91

Or, again:

Year after year … dark blue with white dots is a standby. Men are unbelievably primitive in such matters. Here are ties, modern in pattern and stylish in fabric. Go to the nearest haberdashery and say: "I desire to select some neckties for my husband" (Sweetheart, Son or Father, or Brother). Dig Jim out of the dark-blue-and-white-dot habit. Make him stylish whether he wants to be or not. Help him in his utter helplessness.92

Fig. 29. At the turn of the century, some clothing ads encouraged men to aspire to an upwardly mobile life through the purchase of "proper" clothes associated with the upper class.
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Fig. 29.

At the turn of the century, some clothing ads encouraged men to aspire to an upwardly mobile life through the purchase of "proper" clothes associated with the upper class.93

If the difference between men and women came to be seen as important, so did the difference between the affluent and people of moderate means. In Britain, advertising literature between the wars "strongly emphasized that the low-paid were able to buy only a limited range of products."94 In the United States, this was also clear. The advertiser understood the difference between "quality" and "mass" audiences, as Walter Lippmann observed in 1922 in Public Opinion:

… in respect to most commodities sold by advertising, the customers are neither the small class of the very rich nor the very poor. They are the people with enough surplus over bare necessities to exercise discretion in their buying. The paper, therefore, which goes into the homes of the fairly prosperous is by and large the one which offers most to the advertiser. It may also go into the homes of the poor, but except for certain lines of goods, an analytical advertising agent does not rate that circulation as a great asset.95

While the language of psychology, in the 1920s and again in the 1950s, attracted the greatest interest and controversy in advertising, sophistication about basic sociological variables like class and gender has had a more pronounced impact on advertising practice.

Fig. 30. This 1902 ad for washing soap can make anyone doubt their intelligence and place in society.
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Fig. 30.

This 1902 ad for washing soap can make anyone doubt their intelligence and place in society.96

The advertising agencies by the 1920s were becoming institutions of considerable resources and confidence. But advertising agents were not only men of confidence; they were confidence men. Their livelihood depended on selling to business the idea that advertising was an effective marketing tool. It would be naive to read their sales pitches to the business community as honest accounts of the power of advertising. Yet this is what Stuart Ewen has done in Captains of Consciousness, probably the best-known book among nonspecialists on the origins of American advertising. For Ewen, advertising is "a cultural apparatus aimed at defusing and neutralizing potential unrest."97 It was part of a political attack on organized labor in the early decades of this century. What scientific management was to the workplace, advertising was to the cultural realm, an effort at control of the workers. Business sought to "invest the laborer with a financial power and a psychic desire to consume." Through advertising, classes engaged in production—and in politics—became masses, preoccupied with consumption and the passive enactment of corporate-manufactured dreams.98

Abstractly, Ewen's account makes sense—a view that sees the system of corporate capitalism as a highly rational and self-conscious juggernaut. Historically, however, it is without foundation. There are three problems with the construction of the argument. First, the evidence is, as I have suggested, inappropriate to the conclusions. Almost all the businessmen Ewen cites are not "captains of industry" showing their self-conscious understanding of the capitalist system but corporals of advertising and marketing, trying to make their case to the business world in terms they think will most delight it.99

Second, it does not make sense to imagine that capitalists who wanted to keep down "the workers" would try to do so by placing ads for consumer goods in magazines with an affluent, middle-class readership. Yet advertising was strongly directed toward the middle class and most of Ewen's examples of advertisements come from Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal and other magazines whose readership was affluent. And female. Capitalists may not all be mental giants but it seems unlikely that they would try to hold down working-class, largely male, rebellion by writing toothpaste and deodorant ads to a middle-class, largely female, readership.

Third, research reported after publication of Ewen's work suggests that despite growing affluence in the 1920s, the working class did not share very much in the prosperity. It is probable that the workers could not afford very many of the widely advertised goods. One's psychological hunches can then work either way—either this would lead the workers to work harder to be able, one day, to join in middle class prosperity, or it would lead to frustration that might trigger political activity.100

Ewen recognizes, near the end of his book, that advertising in the 1920s was not successful in changing the habits of the working class, in part because the workers did not have money to consume and in part because advertising tended to be directed toward the affluent. He then restates his thesis more modestly, holding that business in the 1920s created in advertising a "model of social control."101 That is a more cautious position, but it still assumes a self-consciousness in the business community that I do not believe can be demonstrated. That advertising is a form of social control can scarcely be denied, but that it was a calculated, classwide effort at social control is very doubtful. The development of advertising did not happen accidentally but nor was it a self-conscious business scheme to turn workers into consumers.

The problem of advertising is more complex. Twentieth-century advertising and twentieth-century consumer culture have roots in the changing nature of the market in the late nineteenth century which developed along with changes in modes of transportation and communication, urban growth, and a cultural climate for and social fact of social and geographic mobility. In addition, changes in the manufacturing processes in various industries and the capacity to increase output without substantial increases in product costs encouraged a new emphasis in business on marketing and distribution; the growing independent influence on business of the media and advertising agencies also stimulated the development of advertising.

The social transformation that gave rise to advertising not only made mass-produced and advertised products more important to people but altered the criteria for consumption, the qualities in goods deemed desirable. The growth of a consumer society has been a qualitative as well as a quantitative change. I have now sketched in the general context for this position; the next chapter offers a case study to identify more precisely what it means.

Michael Schudson

Michael Schudson grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He received a BA from Swarthmore College and MA and PhD in sociology from Harvard. He taught at the University of Chicago from 1976 to 1980 and at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) from 1980 to 2009. From 2005 on, he split his teaching between UCSD and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, becoming a full-time member of the Columbia faculty in 2009.

He is the author of seven books and co-editor of three others concerning the history and sociology of the American news media, advertising, popular culture, Watergate, and cultural memory. He is the recipient of a number of honors; he has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Resident Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, and a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellow. His most recent books are The Rise of the Right to Know: Politics and the Culture of Transparency 1945-1975 (Harvard, 2015) and (with C. W. Anderson and Leonard Downie, Jr.), The News Media: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford, 2016). In 2004, he received the Murray Edelman distinguished career award from the political communication section of the American Political Science Association and the International Communication Association.

Schudson's articles have appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Wilson Quarterly, and The American Prospect, and he has published op-eds in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Financial Times, and The San Diego Union.

Footnotes

1. "Mr Selfridge trailer," YouTube video, uploaded by STACK Presents, October 29, 2013, accessed March 12, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DrMoAsC1ho.

2. "The Paradise (Season 1)," DVD cover, Amazon, accessed March 12, 2018, https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/5138rgJwm0L._SY445_.jpg; "Mr Selfridge - Series 1," DVD cover, Amazon UK, accessed March 12, 2018, https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71bcAUK5eeL._SY445_.jpg.

3. "Marshall Field department store, Chicago, Illinois, 1909," American Enterprise Exhibition "Shopping," The National Museum of American History, courtesy of Chicago History Museum, accessed March 12, 2018, http://americanhistory.si.edu/american-enterprise-exhibition/corporate-era/shopping.

4. Chicago Dry Goods Reporter, cover, June 15, 1912, HathiTrust, accessed March 12, 2018, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112106960054;view=1up;seq=1157;size=125.

5. Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (New York: Bantam Books, 1958 [Doubleday, Page, 1900]), p. 4.

6. Chicago Dry Goods Reporter, April 27, 1912, 3, HathiTrust, accessed March 12, 2018, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112106960054;view=1up;seq=839.

7. See Lyn Lofland, World of Strangers (New York: Basic Books, 1973), and Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976), p. 39.

8. Theodore Dreiser, Newspaper Days (New York: Horace Liveright, 1922), p. 139.

9. The Inter Ocean, October 8 1903, Nineteenth Century US Newspapers database.

10. Dreiser, Sister Carrie, p. 17.

11. "The Department Store Question," editorial, Chicago Tribune, February 26, 1897, and "Big Stores Are in Scorn," Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1897. For a discussion of similar, and more successful efforts, in France, see Michael B. Miller. The Bon Marché: Bourgeois Culture and the Department Store, 1869-1920 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), pp. 212-13. For a brief history of the American department store, see Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (New York: Random House, 1973), pp. 101-18.

12. "Elliott, Taylor, Woolfenden, first floor from front, Detroit, Mich.," Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Digital ID: (digital file from original) det 4a21079, accessed March 12, 2018, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016812780/resource/.

13. William Allen White, The Autobiography of William Allen White (New York: Macmillan, 1946), p. 400.

14. Quoted in Neil Harris, "Museums, Merchandising, and Popular Taste: The Struggle for Influence," in Material Culture and the Study of American Life, ed. Ian M. G. Quimby (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), p. 152. Again, see Miller, Bon Marché, pp. 168-77, for a similar account of Bon Marché in Paris. As interesting and delightful as Miller's book is, his view that "it was the department store that was largely responsible for lowering prices and for creating overpowering urges to consume" (p. 184) cannot be accepted.

15. "Wannamaker's Store, Phila.," Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Digital ID: (digital file from b&w film copy neg.) cph 3b17486, accessed March 12, 2018, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b17486.

16. "2. INTERIOR COURT - John Wanamaker Store, Thirteenth & Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA," Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Digital ID: (None) hhh pa1340.photos.138430p, accessed March 12, 2018, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print.

17. "Central courtyard with Tiffany dome, 1907," American Enterprise Exhibition "Shopping," The National Museum of American History, http://americanhistory.si.edu/american-enterprise-exhibition/corporate-era/shopping.

18. Boorstin, Americans, p. 107.

19. Quoted in Harris. "Museums," p. 152.

20. New York Herald, April 3, 1892, America's Historical Newspapers database.

21. Joel H. Ross, M.D., What I Saw in New York (Auburn, N.Y.: Derby and Miller, 1851), p. 170.

22. Thomas A. Edison, William Heise, and James H. White, "Corner Madison and State Streets, Chicago," video, Library of Congress Paper Print Collection, accessed February 26, 2018, https://www.loc.gov/item/00694183/.

23. See Michael Schudson, Discovering the News (New York: Basic Books, 1978), pp. 93, 206.

24. Charles Edward Russell, These Shifting Scenes (New York: George H. Doran, 1914), p. 309.

25. Robert Lynd and Helen Lynd, Middletown (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1929), p. 532.

26. Joseph Appel, Growing Up With Advertising (New York: Business Bourse, 1940), pp. 25, 43, 92, 97. Appel was John Wanamaker's advertising manager.

27. Evening Times (Trenton, NJ), February 19, 1903, America's Historical Newspapers database.

28. Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society (New York: W. W. Norton, 1950), p. 261.

29. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, "Social Mobility and Personal Identity," Archives Européenne de Sociologies 5 (1964): 331-43.

30. Ibid., p. 338.

31. Lynd and Lynd, Middletown, p. 144.

32. William Leiss, The Limits to Satisfaction (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), pp. 61-63 and elsewhere. Robert Lynd sensed this growing ambiguity of needs when he wrote of the proliferation of consumer goods in the 1920s, suggesting that "it is an open question whether factors making for consumer confusion in our rapidly changing culture are not actually outstripping the forces making for more effective consumption." Robert Lynd and Alice C. Hanson, "People as Consumers," in President's Research Commission on Social Trends, Recent Social Trends in the United States (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1933), p. 911.

33. Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 1976), p. 66.

34. Dry Goods Reporter, March 9,1912, 40, HathiTrust, Accessed March 12, 2018, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112106960054;view=1up;seq=514.

35. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Totemism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), p. 89, and Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood, The World of Goods (New York: Basic Books, 1979), p. 62.

36. Berger and Luckmann, Social Mobility, p. 339.

37. Boorstin, Americans, pp. 97, 99.

38. Lynd and Lynd, Middletown, p. 165.

39. Philadelphia Inquirer, February 19, 1903, 9, America's Historical Newspapers database.

40. The Delineator, June 1899, cover and 647.

41. Anne Hollander, Seeing Through Clothes (New York: Viking Press, 1978), p. 362.

42. There is a large literature on fashion. America's premier analyst of clothing, Thorstein Veblen, saw dress in the late nineteenth century as primarily intended for the display of economic position. See Thorstein Veblen, "The Economic Theory of Women's Dress," in Essays in Our Changing Order, ed. Thorstein Veblen (New York: August M. Kelley, 1964 [1934]), p. 67. The essay appeared first in Popular Science Monthly 46 (November 1894). See also the rich and provocative book by Hollander, Seeing Through Clothes; Edward Sapir, "Fashion," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York: Macmillan, 1933), vol. 6, pp. 139-44; Georg Simmel, "Fashion," in Georg Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms, ed. Donald N. Levine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971); and Herbert Blumer, "Fashion: From Class Differentiation to Collective Selection," Sociological Quarterly 10 (Summer 1969): 275-91. Also valuable is Neil McKendrick, "The Commercialization of Fashion," in The Birth of Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth Century England, ed. Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, and J. H. Plumb (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982) on fashions in clothing and other consumer goods, from pottery to cut flowers.

43. "1907 Arrow Collars and Cluett Shirts advertisement," Art and Artists blog, "J. C. Leyendecker - part 1," posted by Paul Webb, Monday, March 30, 2015, accessed March 12, 2018, http://poulwebb.blogspot.com/2015/03/j-c-leyendecker-part-1.html.

44. Marcus Felson, "Invidious Distinctions among Cars, Clothes and Suburbs," Public Opinion Quarterly 42 (Spring 1978): 49-58 and Marcus Felson, "The Masking of Material Inequality in the Contemporary United States: Felson's Reply," Public Opinion Quarterly 43 (Spring 1979): 120-22.

45. George Akerlof, "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," Quarterly Journal of Economics 84 (August 1970): 499. For relevant comparative material on how the use of trademarks and advertising in the Soviet Union acts as a kind of quality control and consumer protection, see Marshall I. Goldman, "Product Differentiation and Advertising: Some Lessons from the Soviet Experience," Journal of Political Economy 68 (August 1960): 346-57 and M. Timothy O'Keefe and Kenneth G. Sheinkopf, "Advertising in the Soviet Union: Growth of a New Media Industry," Journalism Quarterly 53 (Spring 1976): 80-67.

46. John McPhee, Oranges (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1967), p. 21.

47. Ted Roselius, "Consumer Ranking of Risk Reduction Methods," Journal of Marketing 35 (January 1971): 56-61.

48. Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1922), p. 95.

49. Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood, The World of Goods (New York: Basic Books, 1979), pp. 75-76.

50. In American society, the names of products are not only culturally shared but privately owned. Brand names that become household words take from manufacturers the exclusive rights to the words. Bayer lost the right to "aspirin" and Abercrombie and Fitch lost the rights to "safari." The words cellophane, escalator, shredded wheat, ping-pong, yo-yo, thermos, and zipper all began as brand names. In recent litigation, the FTC challenged American Cyanamid's right to exclusive use of the world "formica." Xerox advertisements urge people to say "photocopy" rather than "xerox" as a verb to keep xerox in the public mind while keeping it from becoming a dictionary term. Similarly, commercials that stress "Sanka brand" decaffeinated coffee try to keep "Sanka" from being synonymous with decaffeinated coffee. The intention in these cases is to protect the name as a piece of property, to prevent its being part of a truly common culture. If culture is the sharing of names, it is also the structured absence of sharing, and this, too, requires examination. See Walter P. Margulies, "FTC vs. Formica Inc.: Trademarks Face Challenge of Their Lives," Advertising Age, August 13, 1979, pp. 53-54.

51. See Neil Harris, "The Drama of Consumer Desire," in Yankee Enterprise, ed. Otto Mayr and Robert C. Post (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981), pp. 196-211.

52. The Delineator, February 1902, 184.

53. Printer's Ink, Sept. 12, 1900, 20.

54. Lynd and Lynd, Middletown, p. 532.

55. Frank Presbrey, The History and Development of Advertising (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1929), p. 362. See also an account of the predominance of patent medicine advertising in this period in Grace Margaret Busso, "A History of the Des Moines Register" (M.A. diss., University of Iowa, 1932), p. 134. For a detailed and interesting account of one key patent medicine, see Sarah Stage, Female Complaints: Lydia Pinkham and the Business of Women's Medicine (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979).

56. Ralph Hower, The History of an Advertising Agency: N. W. Ayer & Son at Work, 1869-1949 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1949), pp. 44, 91-92.

57. "Warner's Safe Nervine Tiger Revisited," Warner's Safe Cure Blog, posted by Steve Jackson, December 28, 2009, accessed March 12, 2018, https://warnerssafeblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/warners-safe-nervine-tiger-revisited/.

58. James Harvey Young, Toadstool Millionaires (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), p. 167.

59. Brandreth's ad, The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 19, 1903, 16, America's Historical Newspapers database.

60. James Harvey Young, Toadstool Millionaires, p. 152.

61. Ibid., pp. 103, 169.

62. For the general analysis here, I rely on Alfred D. Chandler. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977). On Royal Baking Powder, see Daniel Pope, The Making of Modern Advertising (New York: Basic Books, 1983), p. 148.

63. Royal Baking Powder ad, Milwaukee Sentinel, May 25, 1896, 9, Nineteenth Century US Newspapers database.

64. "Henry Kruse. Oat Meal Machine," patent, December 7, 1875, US Patent Office repository, https://www.google.com/patents/US170745.

65. Arthur F. Marquette, Brands, Trademarks and Good Will (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), p. 33.

66. Chandler, Visible Hand, p. 287.

67. Marquette, Brands, p. 52.

68. "The Quaker Oats standing 'Quaker Man' logo c.1900," Wikipedia Commons, last revised December 12, 2017, accessed March 12, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaker_Oats_Company#/media/File:Quaker_Oats_(3092914571).jpg.

69. Pope, Modern Advertising, p. 236.

70. Marquette, Brands, p. 51.

71. "Organizational diagram of the New York and Erie Railroad, 1855," Wikipedia Commons, last revised November 26, 2016, accessed March 12, 2018, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2b/Organizational_diagram_of_the_New_York_and_Erie_Railroad%2C_1855.jpg. For more background on this elaborate chart, see: Rebecca Onion, "The First Modern Organizational Chart Is a Thing of Beauty," Slate, February 5, 2014, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/02/05/the_first_modern_organizational_chart_is_a_thing_of_beauty.html.

72. Chandler, Visible Hand, p. 299.

73. This is a much debated point. See, for instance, the account in Mark Albion and Paul Farris, The Advertising Controversy: Evidence on the Economic Effects of Advertising (Boston: Auburn House, 1981).

74. Vince Norris, "Advertising History—According to the Textbooks," Journal of Advertising 9 (1980): 3-11. Norris places too much emphasis on advertising as a weapon against retailers but he is right to call attention to the importance of this factor.

75. Groceries and Ladies Watches, Sears, Roebuck & Company, Catalogue No. 112 (190-): 14, 49, https://archive.org/details/catalogueno11200sear.

76. Hower, Advertising Agency, p. 16.

77. See Bertram Wyatt-Brown, "God and Dun & Bradstreet, 1841-1851," Business History Review 40 (Winter 1966): 432-50 and James H. Madison, "The Evolution of Commercial Credit Reporting Agencies in Nineteenth-Century America," Business History Review 48 (Summer 1974): 164-86.

78. Hower, Advertising Agency, p. 96.

80. Hower, Advertising Agency, p. 56.

81. Ibid., p. 58.

82. See John Gunther, Taken at the Flood: The Story of Albert D. Lasker (New York: Harper, 1960), p. 62.

83. "Imagination," ad by N. W. Ayer, Saturday Evening Post, October 2, 1920, HathiTrust, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=dul1.ark:/13960/t4bp0c72j;view=thumb;seq=1.

84. Daniel Pope, "The Development of National Advertising 1865-1920" (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1973), p. 284.

85. Ibid., p. 309.

86. Ibid., p. 357.

87. San Diego Union, June 19, 1898, front page, America's Historical Newspapers database.

88. Daniel Pope, The Making of Modern Advertising, pp. 239-42 and Quentin Schultze, "An Honorable Place: The Quest for Professional Advertising Education, 1900-1917," Business History Review 61 (Spring 1982): 16-32.

89. David Cohen, J. B. Watson: The Founder of Behaviorism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 193. See also Kerry W. Buckley, "The Selling of a Psychologist: John Broadus Watson and the Application of Behavioral Techniques to Advertising," Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 18 (July 1982): 207-21.

90. Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, forthcoming).

91. Quoted in Robert Wilber, "Men's Wear Stores for Women Only," Printer's Ink, September 15, 1917, p. 162.

92. Robert Wilber, "Men's Wear Stores for Women Only,," p. 164.

93. Royal Tailored ad, Saturday Evening Post 186, no. 3 (October 4-November 8, 1913), HathiTrust, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112033785806;view=1up;seq=11.

94. James Curran, Angus Douglas, and Barry Whannel, "The Political Economy of the Human-Interest Story," in Newspapers and Democracy, ed. Anthony Smith (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1980), pp. 288-347.

95. Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: Macmillan, 1922), p. 205.

96. Pearline ad, The Delineator, March 1902, 501.

97. Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture (New York: McGrawHill, 1976), p. 12.

98. Ibid., pp. 25, 33, 43, 109.

99. The one regularly cited person in Ewen's book who was not in advertising is Edward Filene, and even he was not an industrialist but a renegade department store owner. Filene supported independent unionism, helped establish the credit union movement, and, a life-long Democrat, supported Franklin Roosevelt in both 1932 and 1936, splitting openly in 1936 with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that he had helped to found. Filene's insistence that employees at Filene's Department Store be represented in corporate decision making eventually led to his own ouster from management in 1928; he had hoped to transfer store management entirely to the employees. This is scarcely the representative voice of American capital. See Louis Filler's biographical sketch in Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 11, supplement 2 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958), pp. 183-85 and also National Cyclopedia of American Biography 45 (1962): 17-19.

100. On the disposable income of workers in the 1920s, see Frank Stricker, "Affluence for Whom?—Another Look at Prosperity and the Working Classes in the 1920s," Labor History 24 (Winter 1983): 5-33. Stricker argues that "… the masses were not affluent enough to worry about clean-smelling breath and fancy cars." The response to Ewen's book has varied from uncritical admiration—a reviewer in Contemporary Sociology called it a "masterwork"—to extremely hostile criticism, especially in the history journals. Probably the most balanced review is by Daniel Horowitz, "Consumption, Capitalism, and Culture," Reviews in American History 6 (September 1978): 388-93, which identifies the reason for the importance of the book: "It is the first major study by a radical historian that moves from analysis of capitalist control of production to that of corporate hegemony in consumption." See also Sue Curry Jansen's review of Stuart and Elizabeth Ewen, Channels of Desire, in Contemporary Sociology 12 (July 1983): 423 and the reviews of Captains of Consciousness by Otis A. Pease, American Historical Review 182 (October 1977): 1092-93 and Morton Keller, Journal of American History 64 (June 1977): 210. Ewen's work has had more influence in sociology than in history. See, for instance, Michael E. Sobel, Lifestyle and Social Structure: Concepts, Definitions, Analyses (New York: Academic Press, 1981), pp. 31-41, which closely follows Ewen's argument.

101. Ewen, Captains of Consciousness, p. 204.

Additional Information

ISSN
2475-1790
Launched on MUSE
2018-03-29
Open Access
No
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