Lydia Pinkham Package, about 1940


Lydia Pinkham’s calm face sold countless bottles of vegetable compound and became a premier example of advertising that associated the product with its maker.  Her confident demeanor asked consumers to trust her in treating various female ailments and created a strong brand that kept the product alive for over a century. Although her image seems quaint now, Pinkham’s advertising was quite sophisticated. In the late nineteenth century, drummers  (salesmen) blanketed stores with trade cards, agents wrote songs, and newspapers made her image one of the most recognizable figures of the time. As brand choices proliferated, consumers sought assistance on which products to buy. Pinkham embodied the “savvy neighbor” who dispensed advice along with the product; each package invited women to write her with questions or concerns. Manufacturers and advertisers who sought to replicate Pinkham’s success created fictional personas, like Betty Crocker, that could offer guidance and put a friendly face on national brands.


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