There is something magical about a child in an advertisement. You feel more connected because a child is part of the scene.
Advertising as a modern science took off in the late nineteenth century. Businesses went to any measure to move a consumer, even including children in an ad.
The garden industry was no exception.
Pamela Walker Laird in her book Advertising Progress: American Business and the Rise of Consumer Marketing writes, “A trade card from Scourene portrayed a women in a lacy dress happily scrubbing pans, while lawn-mower advertisements frequently showed elegantly dressed children mowing lawns.”
Notice in the cover of the 1889 seed catalog from Peter Henderson [below] that the child is no ordinary child but a child from an upper class family that lived in a beautiful suburban home with an extensive lawn and hollyhocks that look like they were on steroids.
Laird said in her book: “Nineteenth century advertisers almost always portrayed their consumers as prosperous members of the upper-middle and upper class, or their servants.”
The garden catalogs, written for women,were the major form of advertising for the company. W. Atlee Burpee once said “The catalog is the salesman.” It was probably quite important for the businessmen to include such an image of a child.
What strikes me about this Henderson catalog cover is that it was clearly intended for the woman of the house who bought the seeds and plants.
It must have worked because by the end of the nineteenth century the Peter Henderson Company in New York was one of the largest seed companies in the country.
The child in this ad certainly did not cut the lawn but simply represented the prosperous upper class, who lived in a large home, surrounded by a lawn and an ornamental garden.