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Women Often Featured on the Cover of Old Seed Catalogs

Did you ever wonder why women appeared on the cover of seed and nursery catalogs in the late nineteenth century?

It certainly was not by accident.

In 1901 economist Emily Fogg-Meade wrote an article called “The Place of Advertising in Modern Business” which appeared in the Journal of Political Economy. She said, “Women constitute the large body of consumers. This is especially so in the middle class. The housewife chooses the home, selects the furnishings, provides the menus; she buys her own, her children’s, and often her husband’s clothing, and plans the festivities.”

Fogg-Meade believed in advertising as a means of driving up the purchase of consumer goods.

To depict a woman in an ad was therefore essential.

She wrote, “The attention of such people [women] can only be attracted to new articles by the strongest possible stimuli.”

In the same article she said, “The dealer or manufacture who caters to these people must supply strong incentives and inducements…He must excite desire by appealing to imagination and emotion.”

Fogg-Meade spread her ideas  when modern advertising emerged as essential for any business.

She concluded, “All this can only be done by extensive advertising.”

The Maule Seed Catalog of 1900, courtesy of Christine Faller on Pinterest
The Maule Seed Catalog of 1900, courtesy of Christine Faller on Pinterest

Thus it was no surprise that seed and nursery companies used the image of middle class women both on the cover and in the pages of the catalog they sent around the country. [left]

To appeal to American gardeners meant that women, as major consumers for the home, needed to see themselves in the ad and on the cover in the catalog that sold seeds and plants.

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