19th-Century Advertising on Exhibit

Inspired by the upcoming Before Madison Avenue conference, an exhibition highlighting our varied and wide-ranging 19th-century advertising collections will open in our small gallery on February 21. Coordinated with the topics of conference panelists, the exhibition will complement the presenters’ discussions of the iconography of persuasion, advertising stereotypes, the marketing of education, and changing ideals of domesticity. Materials on display will include several broadsides for educational opportunities, at schools such as the Townsend Academy in Massachusetts and the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as well as promotions for individuals, such as penmanship instructor J. M. Schermerhorn and Italian- and Spanish-language instructor Salvader Pinistri. Other printed works will give the viewer a sense of advertising on the city streets, through street signage and less-conventional displays like the pervasive cigar-store Indian.

William Charles. A Boxing Match, or, Another Bloody Nose for John Bull. Philadelphia, 1813. Hand-colored etching.

Leaving behind the busy city streets rife with signage for the tranquility of the suburbs was the dream of many 19th-century Americans, and the development of rail travel made this more feasible. Railways advertised suburban oases on their routes, while auctioneers played up the great value of a home in the country in notices for estate sales. Promotions of these types will be on display, along with ads that showcase the great American domestic mechanical advancement of the mid-19th century: the sewing-machine. So impressive was the development of the sewing machine that the first Japan`ese embassy to the United States in 1860 was given a tour of the Geo. B. Sloat & Co. sewing machine factories in Philadelphia. Cards from this momentous occasion will be featured in the exhibition, as well as advertisements for sewing machines epitomizing their obvious importance to the American market.

Promotional propaganda of another kind will be shown in the work of Philadelphia caricaturist, publisher, and engraver William Charles (1776-1820). Charles, a prolific producer of children’s books, was also well known for his political caricatures, particularly those satirizing the War of 1812. A highly capable self-promoter and astute business man, Charles marketed his 1812 prints in newspapers along the east coast and through subscriptions, to great success. A small selection of his caricatures and an example of his savvy advertising will be on display. The mini-exhibition will be on view through April.
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