Advertising is associated with manipulation and outright deception, but advertisements for local businesses are obliged to offer sober fact as well. During the period of Philadelphia’s industrial glory, that obligation was accepted with enthusiasm. Businesses accumulated particulars like a Victorian furnishing a parlor: lists of products and services, testimonials, and sketches of products or properties, as in the wonderful specimen below. The information in these advertisements is a historical source like any other, though unusually tidy and concise. The material can usually be allowed to speak for itself.

To begin, here (see menu above or complete links below the figure) is a first set of galleries arranged by subject. Some have serious themes: the pervasiveness of mourning customs; the mushrooming of small businesses in the shade of a great invention; the unmistakable new look of the 1920s. Some are just for fun.

Click on an image to see the advertisements in a slide show. Galleries will be added as inspiration strikes. In addition to the pages here, there are less weighty posts; please have a look at them.

Office Party: Diversion from Dennison and Others

Daylight and Delusion

Venus Rises from the Sea, Wearing Eight Yards of Wet Flannel

You Must Take the Red Car

“Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas”: Startling Specimens in the Type Catalogues of MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan

The Fictional Life and the Afterlife of TOWN CRIER OF PHILADELPHIA

The TOWN CRIER and the Talkies: Jay Emanuel and Other Reel Fellows

Marks, Manicules, and Markland: Street Signage in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia

FJ Geissinger, Phila Metal Cornice Works, Bickelhoupt Skylight 1847 6n at Berks 1890 CD.jpg
Boyd’s Business Directory, 1890







Grave Site


The Civil War

Factory Conversion or Diversion

Palmer’s Patent Limbs

Incidents, Examples, and Aftermath

The 1920s

Time Machine Wish List

Odd Electricities



Sunlight and Glass, Pleasonton and Prisms

Dismantling the Centennial

Kitty Foyle and Philadelphia, the “grand homey old town”

Worth Looking Into

For inquiries, please write to or If you are looking for a particular advertisement, let me know. A large and somewhat shaggy database of Philadelphia locations is also available to anyone who might benefit from it.

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