Quaint and Quirky Ads of the Past


The excellent Internet Archive is “a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.” It has recently sent me an email entitled  Quaint and Quirky Ads of the Past.

“In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, advertising exploded from a niche art form into a massive industry. Companies began to invest heavily in marketing their products, and many artists would supplement earnings by creating brand advertisements for print magazines. A century later, over 2,800 print graphics have been digitized and preserved in our Advertising Art in Magazines Collection.”

This one struck my fancy because of the word “husky.” As a kid growing up who wore clothes sometimes labeled as “husky,” I am fascinated by the development of the word since 1920.

Brand evolution

“Some household items that were popular from the 1900s to the 1930s remain pantry staples even today. Lipton Tea was marketed as “a glorious lift when you’re weary,” and Lifesavers were proclaimed “an amazing new taste sensation,” while Campbell’s Soup promoted itself as a luxury dinner party course without the hassle. While these brands didn’t retain the prestige they were attempting to claim (recipes like wine Jell-O aren’t an essential dessert for every occasion), advertisements from this time served their purpose of keeping these goods top of mind, even for today’s modern households.”

This is one bossy kid for 1913.

Cigarette Supremacy

“Before tobacco marketing was legally restricted, cigarette advertising was a big business. Popular brands such as Lucky Strike, Camel, and Chesterfield used visually-compelling imagery and memorable slogans, like “It’s toasted,” to differentiate themselves. Holidays were even fair game for promotions, with tobacco companies featuring Santa Claus as a smoker and brand ambassador for their products.”

Such a specific number of doctors endorsed “coffin nails” in 1930.

Likely Discontinued

“Over the past century, many goods have demonstrated their long-term viability. However, several others did not stand the test of time. Products that appeared helpful—such as the Pillow Inhaler (1869), designed to alleviate asthma, bronchitis, and lung ailments, or Magnetic Foot Batteries (1900) for warming cold feet—turned out to be nothing more than snake oil and were banned from sale. Similarly, the Pandiculator (1920), which claimed to improve health and height, was available from 1914 until malls prohibited it in 1942.”

If this brand is still available, as it was in 1946, I cannot find it. 

I’ve been donating a paltry $5.00 monthly to the Internet Archive. “Your monthly donation allows us to continue our work of advancing Universal Access to All Knowledge, and we couldn’t do it without you.

“Your ongoing giving helps us survive, thrive, and grow—ensuring that students, researchers, journalists, librarians, and curious citizens everywhere have access to our digital cultural heritage. Thanks to you, we have a dependable monthly income that helps us plan for the future, build long-term sustainability, and continue to provide consistent services to all our patrons, especially including those who may not be able to afford it.”

I may have to up my donation. 

“So many blacks in ads” redux


pepsiWay back in May 2017, a local blogger named Frank wrote about “Why so many blacks in ads?” I signed up for the comments to his post, and they were numerous. And usually awful. I wrote a reply piece, which generated some bigoted responses.

But not nearly as many as the original post did. And DOES. More than a dozen in 2021 alone. One Anonymous respondent posted: “Did you ever imagine you would create a hate magnet? I’m not saying you are a hater. You asked a reasonable question. But very few replies even attempt to answer the question. They just come here to post hate.”

Another one wrote: “Oh yeah, I am going to print this to a .PDF file and start distributing it on-line every week to the major White Supremacist web sites. Don’t worry, you’ll get full credit. You can try to block me, but as long as this is up I’ll use it. Thanks in advance. Did you realize that there is 137 pages of this racist gold?”

To which, the blogger replied: “Yes, Anonymous, I was trying to seriously discuss an actual question, and was stunned at the volume of comments — far more than on any of my other 1000+ blog posts in 12+ years — with practically all the comments embodying the crudest of race hate. What gets me is how these people actually think they represent a ‘superior’ race when their comments prove they themselves are the inferior ones.

Backlash of fear

I should note that I know Frank in passing and I do believe he was asking an honest question. Even at the time, I thought the query was naive, and that the responses would reflect the venom that exists out there. Still, it has been instructive, sometimes painfully so.

But I think that the premise of the question is fuzzy. There are data on Statista. “During a June 2020 survey conducted among adults in the United States, it was found that 17 percent of responding Hispanics said that they never saw anybody who represented their racial or ethnic background in advertising. The same was true for 10 percent of White and African American survey participants.”

Assuming the accuracy of the perception, it seems that some people are seeing a demographic eclipse. A majority is becoming a minority. And “the fundamental dividing line… is between those who welcome and those who fear the way America is changing.”

I understand that change can be scary, difficult, annoying. Negotiating change feels treacherous, especially if you’re on social media. But it can also be therapeutic. I’ve noticed that in my own circle of friends and churchmates, there are a lot of “aha!” moments. The things they didn’t understand or had never heard of.

I remain cautiously optimistic about the human condition, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

“Why so many blacks in ads?”

“An America fully integrating blacks is a better America.”

Old Navy ad

“Why so many blacks in ads?” is one of those burning issues that I was totally oblivious to until Frank S. Robinson, no relation to the Hall of Fame outfielder, as far as I know, laid it out recently.

He wrote that “I’ve made a point of tallying blacks in ads and commercials. And in fact they are way overrepresented, relative to their 13+% population share.” Oh, dear! And I thought we were supposed to be post-racial!

An “over-educated Trump supporter” named Bruce who’s “a conscientious, growing, practicing follower of Jesus Christ” – that is oxymoronic to me – elucidates further that not only are there too many blacks, but that “women as the head of household and/or the ‘brains of the outfit’ are overrepresented” as well, and breaks down other delineations.

“Urban liberal advertising agency powers are still directing ad content and money to buy ad campaigns, so this should be no surprise.

“However, are they risking a backlash? Are they fomenting a bit of ‘reverse racism’ and unnecessary divisiveness?”

Oh, so NOW it’s “divisiveness”. Maybe I need that course that some GWU law professor suggested to understand certain disgruntled 2016 voters.

To deal with this “scourge”, I recommend:

Frank should look at TV commercials, not just in recent years, but over the period that there has been national television. Let’s pick 1947, because that makes it an even 70 years, and because that was the year the World Series was first broadcast nationally – OK, to six cities from Schenectady to St. Louis.

Bruce should calculate the racial composition of those ads running in the 1950s and 1960s and well beyond versus the racial breakdown. He would discover, shockingly, that there was a certain group that was “overrepresented” compared to its numbers in the population for a very long time.

Moreover, the ads are representing a changing demographic. One in seven marriages in 2014 were of people from different races/ethnic groups, so the commercials represent not just what is but what will be.

At the point that the average number blacks and Hispanics et al. in ads are overrepresented over the seven-decade span – and not just the “non-threatening black friend” (yikes, 1 black person among 4 white people is already over your 13% quota!) – I’ll get back to them on what to do about this “problem”.

Meanwhile, I’ll muse over Frank’s assertion: “That yuppie demographic is where the consumer-spending money is. And for them, blackness is actually attractive; connoting coolness, hipness, with-it-ness, knowing what’s going on. Not inferior but superior. And to this demographic, an America fully integrating blacks is a better America. Putting them in ads hence creates a positive buzz.”

In other words, that assertion from the 1960s and ’70s that some deemed “racist” may be true: Black IS beautiful. And speaking of which, Procter and Gamble put out an ad called the Talk, which a conservative site described, in the title of its article, as “‘Sick sick sick’ racist Procter & Gamble ad crosses every line! If you are white, brace yourself before watching”.

R is for the Rheingold Beer Jingle (ABC W)

My beer is Rheingold the dry beer.
Think of Rheingold whenever you buy beer.

I was listening to our classical music station early one morning, and I hear the Rheingold beer jingle. OK, it wasn’t, really. But it certainly REMINDED me of it.

I discovered here that the melody I heard was in fact the Estudiantina Valse, Opus 191, No. 4 (The Students’ Waltz), a title I had never heard of.

“The tune was composed by a pair of obscure French composers, the tune itself by Paul Lacome (1838 – 1920); But ironically it is often incorrectly attributed to the man who arranged it in a rollicking Strauss-like arrangement for two pianos — named Emile (“Emil”) Waldteufel (1837 – 1915).

“Waldteufel included it in a set of tunes arranged for 2 pianos, published under his own Opus number, which blurred the issue of authorship right down to the present day.” In fact, I have found almost NO one to attribute this to Lacome, only to Waldteufel.

“The Beer jingle with a lyric by an unknown ad agent, used the melody of this famous light-classical waltz tune.”

The lyric was:
My beer is Rheingold the dry beer.
Think of Rheingold whenever you buy beer.
It’s not bitter, not sweet, it’s the extra dry treat
Won’t you try extra dry Rheingold beer?

I remember the third lyric as “it’s refreshing, not sweet…”, but there are a lot of variations.

“Ironic that this melody, which some may remember as the quintessential German Beer Hall tune (images of people with swaying cups all singing in unison) is actually of FRENCH, rather than German, origin.

The beer sponsored Rheingold Theater, a dramatic anthology series, on NBC Primetime in 1955 – 1956. Rheingold Beer, “despite its Wagnerian opera name, was brewed in a little brewery located in Brooklyn, NY; and which tried to use the early medium of TV to get a little respect — or “brand recognition” at least.

Still, Rheingold Beer, “introduced in 1883, is a New York beer that held 35 percent of the state’s beer market from 1950 to 1960. The company was sold by the founding German American Liebmann family in 1963… Rheingold shut down operations in 1976, when they were unable to compete with the large national breweries… The label was revived in 1998…” but it’s not the same, or so I am told.

WHY do I remember the lyrics to a song for a product I have NEVER consumed? Herwitz Associates suggests “a dozen principles for improving memory, but the concepts can just as easily be applied to making a message memorable.”

Listen to Estudiantina Valse here or here or here or here, featuring a 26-tone Violinopan (thanks, Jaquandor!)

Listen to the Rheingold beer jingle here or here or here or here (modern)

September rambling #2: R.I.P. Herschell Gordon Lewis

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It occurs to me that I ALWAYS knew who Arnold Palmer was. From watching him and his army of fans on TV in my grandfather’s apartment, just upstairs from mine, to the epic golf battles between him and Jack Nicklaus, to an iced tea with lemonade drink named for him, to ads for prescription drugs. Arnold Palmer was 87. Here’s Olin and Palmer Team Remembered in Silver; Spencer Olin is a distant cousin of my wife’s

R.I.P. Herschell Gordon Lewis, the “Godfather of Gore”, Has Passed Away at 87; Our business library had a business book of his, called Big Profits from Small Budget Advertising, from 1992, and when we deaccessioned the tome, I scooped it up. So it’s now in the same office at home as my copy of FantaCo Enterprises’ The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis and His World of Exploitation Films, autographed by HGL “to my friend Roger,” also signed by coauthors Daniel Krogh and John McCarty at FantaCon 1983

The Miami Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, one of Major League Baseball’s top pitchers, was killed in a boating accident; he was 24 and had a great backstory

Bill Nunn, Who Played Radio Raheem in ‘Do the Right Thing,’ Dies at 63, which is my age; Love – Hate: Do the Right Thing

Edward Albee, three-time Pulitzer-winning playwright and ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ author, dies at 88

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History of the Volkswagen and especially its groundbreaking advertising

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THE TRUST BOOK ONE: SILENT SCREAM Kickstarter. Goal met, stretch goal sought. Dennis Webster, Bill Anderson, Gabriel Rearte and Laurie E. Smith bring you the Roaring Twenties like you’ve never seen them before

Essay on lettering in comic books

Dominoes, and I don’t mean the bad pizza


Jolene by Dolly Parton and PTX

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The surprising reason music for Marvel movies is so forgettable; the tyranny of the temp track

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Stanley Dural a/k/a Buckwheat Zydeco died at the age of 68. Here’s Beast of Burden.

Alan Vega, artist and punk musician – obituary (HT to Shooting Parrots)

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