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
Venus Rises from the Sea, Wearing Eight Yards of Wet Flannel
“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
Factory Conversion or Diversion
Incidents, Examples, and Aftermath
Sunlight and Glass, Pleasonton and Prisms
Kitty Foyle and Philadelphia, the “grand homey old town”
For inquiries, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. 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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