Recently with the help of Zoom I attended a wonderful lecture on Frederick Law Olmsted…
At the end of the nineteenth century, advertising had become a business of drawing consumers to a product, one they often times didn’t know they even needed.
The draw was an image, illustration, even dialog shown in an ad.
I just read the new edition of the book Soap, Sex and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising by advertising historian Juliann Sivulka.
I was fascinated with her stories about products and their advertising.
The idea of the book is that advertising sells fashion, love, security, comfort, all the things we want. The way to get these intangibles is, according to advertising, through a product.
That means to have a garden that is worth anything it has to have the garden products that are advertised.
And so the late nineteenth century seed companies and nurseries used bold colors and illustrations to sell a plant, lawn seed, or landscape services.
This book provided insights into how we came to be consumers in a product-driven culture.
It seemed natural for me to link the history of advertising and late nineteenth century American gardening.
At that time every seed or nursery business, if it was successful, advocated modern advertising as the way to reach gardeners. W. Atlee Burpee served as a prime example.
A firm believer in the emerging modern form of advertising, Burpee wrote his own copy for the catalog even though he had an advertising department within the company.
In his 1897 catalog he wrote, “Advertising is as necessary an annual expenditure as the payment of taxes or rent …. Intelligent buyers realize that a good thing is worth advertising, and thus, making more sales, instead of increasing, advertising actually reduces the cost of goods.”
Like every modern business, the green industry bought into advertising as the new way to attract and keep a customer. It was no surprise that the latest plant became a must-have for a gardener