Eight Awesome 19th Century Advertisements


Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

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27 Responses

  1. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    From hearing older relatives talk, I am pretty sure gay stereotypes existed in the 1930s and v. likely earlier. After all, the phrase “confirmed bachelor,” said with a wink and a nod, has been around a long time.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The casual anti-beardism displayed in these ads just reiterates how little things have changed in the last 100 years.Report

    • I’m just speculating here, but I suspect that the invention of the safety razor is the key. Abe Lincoln and all those Civil War guys had beards. And who can blame them? Shaving was a huge pain in the ass. You either take your life in your hands with a straight razor, or put your life in the hands of a barber, while paying him for the privilege. Some percentage of guys are going to decide it isn’t worth the hassle. Once this percentage reaches a tipping point, beards become the fashion, and more guys grow beards because of that. But along comes the safety razor and suddenly shaving, while still a hassle, is much less of one. So some guys go back to shaving, and at some point the tipping point is reached in which beards become unfashionable: something old guys have.

      Back when I shaved, I never had great luck with electric razors. I could get a ‘good enough’ shave with one for a few days in a row, but once or twice a week I would have to use a real blade. I grew my beard because I decided it isn’t worth the hassle. I have my barber whack it down every couple of months, and do spot trimming as needed. Beards are not unusual within my socio-economic class, so I don’t get push-back. Back when I was doing job interviews, I would be clean-shaven for them, but I have been working for the same guy for seven years now.Report

      • Well, for hundreds of years, shaving had a military implication… to the point where (eventually, anyway) *NOT* having a mustache was a “statement”. (The Amish, for example, do not have mustaches because military people have mustaches.)

        Now I can’t tell the difference between signalling facial hair, counter-signalling facial hair, ironic facial hair…Report

        • Avatar notme in reply to Jaybird says:

          Only enlisted folks have moustaches. Beads aren’t great for hygiene in the field and you can’t wear a gas mask with one. Only the SF wear beards so they can fit in with the locals in the mid east as most men have beards.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        On the other hand shaving was a huge pain in the ass from the Stone Age until the late 19th century and there were plenty of clean-shaving epochs in the West like the time period between Charles II’s restoration to the Throne and the mid-19th century. I don’t think that the popularity of beards has anything to do with how easy it is to shave but other factors.

        It seems that beards started growing more popular in the mid-19th century because they were seen as manly and fitting into the spirit of exploration and boldness in the age. I remember that people in 1850s Britain were told not to gawk with men with beards because they were likely to be Crimean War veterans. Beards were popular during the Counter Culture because they were seen as non-conformist, etc.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      On the other hand, mustaches were popular at the time and mustaches are a form of facial hair that is much harder to get right than a beard.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Note also that these aren’t just mustaches. They’re clipped, waxed, shaped, and styled. Effort and time and care and some kind of product went in to making them look this way. Veblen would have understood: these mustaches are a claim to higher social status.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

          There are some young hipster men that wear mustaches in these styles, complete with the requisite level of care. Mustaches were the first form of facial hair to reappear in the 19th century after centuries of absence and generally remained acceptable after beards grew out of fashion. 19th century dandies started to spout them to show that they took care of their appearance. Military men wore them to show their power. British officers in India and latter throughout the Empire were required to adopt them because it was believed that Indian men would not respect a clean shaving man. Police in Western Pennsylvania adopted them because they thought that the Eastern European immigrants in the mines, oil fields, and steel factories would defer to their authority more than if they were clean shaving.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

      I remember reading about a presidential election in the late 1800’s, the one where Hayes was elected, I believe. The Big Steal before Bush-Gore.
      Anyway, of the eight Republican contenders, six had beards, one a moustache, and one was clean-shaven.
      Of the six Democratic contenders, two had moustaches, and six were clean-shaven.

      Hence, beards are clearly a late-19th century Republican thing.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I love this post SO MUCH.

    In the straight-razor-versus-safety-razor comparison ad, is the guy using the straight razor black? Definitely has darker skin than the depicted-as-handsome white guy with that astonishing mustache using the safety razor. In sympathy for the straight razor guy, I know how uncomfortable it us to pull one’s own nose to one side so as to tauten the cheek.

    And Dr. Cheever can keep his electric belt very far away from my man-junk, thanks anyway, Doc.Report

  4. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    This is a wonderful post!

    Apparently Anheuser Busch’s beer used to be not entirely flavorless – they’ve always been insufficiently bitter, but the hops used to be at least marginally detectable. The recipe has changed over the years to reach the current homeopathic hopping levels.Report

    • Note the grammatical error in the ad. It is a genuine error, not a pet peeve fake error. It might be an English as a second language issue, but my guess is that it is just sloppy copy editing.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to dragonfrog says:

      The Atlantic had a good article about why mass market American beers ended being so tasteless a few years ago. Prohibition is part but not all of the story. Another issue was that even before prohibition, American employers were less tolerant about their employees drinking beer during lunch than European employers. Employees would still drink a beer at lunch but the beer had to be much lower in ABV because of that. This caused American beer manufacturers to specialize in low ABV lagers rather than higher ABV ales, stouts, and borders.

      Prohibition obviously hurt but in a different way than imagined. Europe had a temperance movement to. The European temperance movements were mainly aimed at spirits and liquors though. They decided that beer and wine were something that they could live with. The American temperance movement was much more puritanical and hated all alcoholic beverages. When prohibition was repealed, states still needed to be given a lot of leeway in how they regulate alcohol and this generally favored low ABV beers.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to dragonfrog says:

      Also, “bland” was equated with the qualities of being pure and safe to eat. Lots of spices, salt, and other strong flavor elements were thought to be there to mask some sort of contamination or impurity. So, generations of Americans grew up believing that the more flavor food had, the less you should be eating it. This carried over to beer.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Camp in early mass media entertainment: I always imagined that these were in jokes for people in the know and that they went over the top of everybody else’s heads. On the other hand, getting called a sissy was a fighting word back than.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think there was one on LGM that said “Richmond has fallen and so have our prices” at the end of the Civil War.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    So dudes were the hipsters of the 1880s and 1890s I guess if we go by the original meaning and before we had dudes and hipsters, we had dandies. Interestingly enough, dandies were the social group that started to bring facial hair back in style during the early 19th century by growing mustaches.Report

    • I don’t think dudes and dandies really equate with hipsters. Sure, hipsters put a lot of thought and effort into their look, as did dudes and dandies, but there is a lot of additional cultural baggage with hipsters that doesn’t translate.Report