Marketing Moments

The advertising and marketing industry rose from nascent forms in the early nineteenth century to become an important force in American society. This section explores the business behind the ads, presenting the rise of the industry, the stories of major figures and firms, changes in technology, innovations in selling strategies, regulation by and cooperation with the federal government, and, most importantly, how advertising became the language of American consumer culture. Explore some of these stories  below, or visit the museum’s Flickr photostream to see a larger collection of historical advertisments taken from the museum’s collections.


Advertisements from the Smithsonian’s collections…

Caroline R. Jones, 1942-1996

Advertising executive Caroline R. Jones joined Zebra Associates in 1969 as vice president and creative director. Zebra, a black-owned, integrated agency helped build what some historians have called the “golden age” of African American advertising, and Jones conducted market research and campaigns that addressed the urban, black and Latino consumer markets.

Estelle Ellis, Marketing to Teens and Working Women, about 1950

Promotion manager and marketer, Estelle Ellis made teenage girls and working women visible as markets in the postwar period.

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Puppets, 1950-51

Kellogg’s offered these soft hand puppets as premiums or prizes to anyone who sent in box tops from Rice Krispies cereal.

Newspaper Ads from William Ramsey collection, about 1750

Reading eighteenth century newspaper advertisements provides an amazing window into an everyday life in such contrast to our contemporary world.

“I Dreamed…” Maidenform Advertisement, 1956

Ida Rosenthal, cofounder of the Maiden Form Company, had a dream, and her advertising agency helped to make it real.

DeKalb Sign, about 1990

In the early 1900s, hybrid seed (a cross between two or more natural varieties) was a revolutionary concept but farmers had to be convinced to buy seed rather than save seed from the previous year’s harvest.

Swift Meat Packing Company Card, about 1914

In a time when most people bought meat from a local butcher, Gustav Swift sought to change the marketplace by developing a system of national packaged meat.

Scovill Nedicks’ Nickel, 1953

“Eat Better for Less,” claims this metal token, a clever co-promotion for Nedicks’ lunch counters in New York City and cigarettes.

Horse Blanket, about 1910

In the advertising world, everything is an opportunity – even a team of horses pulling a delivery wagon.

Samuel Taylor Suit Bourbon Broadside, about 1872

Samuel Taylor Suit chose the recognizable image of the United State Capital to adorn this advertisement for his bourbon in 1872.

The Bill Poster’s Dream, 1877

This cartoon satirized the growing legions of bill posters who dreamed of papering every public fence, wall or lamp post with notices and broadsides. Before outdoor space became real estate that had to be rented or purchased, almost any surface was fair game.

Lydia Pinkham Package, about 1940

Lydia Pinkham’s calm face has sold countless bottles of vegetable compound and became a premier example of advertising that associated the product with its maker.

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