Nineteenth Century Advertising Called Seduction

In the late nineteenth century for the first time new technologies in printing, publishing, and distribution of newspapers and magazines for a national market enabled a new kind of advertising.

The Yale Review in its November 1899 issue included an article called “The Philosophy of Modern Advertising”.  The article said, “Modern industrial conditions have radically changed the character of advertising and the part it plays in the modern economy of a people.  To advertise is no longer strictly synonymous with to ‘inform’.”

Advertising in the nineteenth century changed with the promotion of products like patent medicines, and other bottled health remedies sold around the country. There was no control over what business owners could illustrate and say in their advertising.  It was the wild west period for advertising.

 

Selling  became like seduction, according to  cultural historian Jackson Lears in his book Fables of Abundance.

Lears said: “Perceptions of trickery were ambiguous enough; what may have been ever more disturbing [in advertising] was the tendency to see selling as seduction.”

That is still the way advertising works.  Lears wrote, “That imagery has persisted down to our own time: selling is still equated with seduction; advertisers were seducers, women were their prey.”

The seed and nursery industries at the end of the nineteenth century appealed largely to middle class women.  The colorful lithographs in the catalogs made it difficult to say no to the newest plant.

That was how advertising worked for selling any product.

American gardening in the late nineteenth century meant the seller could use any means to persuade the buyer.  Words and illustrations described a flower, a vegetable, a shrub, the lawn, and trees as essential to an emerging middle class.

The gardener had to have the latest in garden fashion including the style of garden and whatever went with it.

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