Fist Of History

September, 2012Archive for

Pears Soap – A Pioneer in Advertising

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Image Source: Life Magazine, 1890

From 1865 onwards the Pears Soap company employed a new figure named Thomas J. Barrett, considered by many as the pioneer of modern advertising methods.  Barrett used a variety of new gimmicks to promote the Pears brand of soap, focusing on its light color, all natural components, and ability to give ladies a “pleasing” complexion.  However the theories of modern advertising were still being developed and it lead to some very interesting experimental ads.  Fortunately for us Barrett ran a series of these in Life Magazine and they are now presented for your enjoyment.

The ad at the top is a fairly sedate bit of copy but in 1887 the Pears Soap company ran a really oddball advertising run with Life Magazine that I found while digging through the digitized magazines.  Each month a new, equally slightly off-putting ad, was run in Life, always near the front of the magazine and always a large advertisement.  Please enjoy these relics of an age when people were still learning the subtle art of shilling successfully.

Source: Life Magazine, 1887
(Barratt loved to buy famous art and then print it with his bar of soap in the corner)

Source: Life Magazine, 1887
(I love how she seems to be lunging from the paper to force soap into your hand)

Source: Life, 1887
(Soap for all you mothers out there who wash your children in giant seashells)

Source: Life, 1887
(Points for realism – is it just me or does that mother look really annoyed with the whole situation?)

Source: Life, 1887
(Forceful scrubbing for the win!)

Source: Life, 1887
(Values from the Victorian colonial era were fun!  Note the cherubs with glowing water to help the cooling process.)

Source: Life, 1887
(Because Japan is exotic and neat and interesting – like our soap!)

Source: Life, 1887
(You are getting sleepy…very sleepy…buy our soap!)

Pears Soap’s advertising calmed down somewhat after this run, going for more conventional advertisements in the future like the one at the top.  Text advertisements promoting their soap for winning awards or testimonials from celebrities.  However Barratt never entirely ran out of juice when it came to the slightly unusual in the war for attention:

Source: Life, 1901

Other Sources: Wikipedia Entry on Thomas Barratt and on Pears Soap

Political Cartoons Fun!

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

Source: 1902 Life Magazine, I’m guessing criticizing US self promotion

Source: Life, 1901

Source: Life, 1900

Source: Life, 1902 – Oh and no, I have no idea what this is actually about.  Guesses welcome.

Source: Life, 1901

Source: Life, 1901

Source: Life, 1902

A general theme you’ll notice in these is the repeated concern about the influence of corporate trusts in the US political process during this period.  It was a common concern at the turn of the twentieth century just how much impact corporate contributions, bribes, and influence peddling by corporate interests was distorting the political process.  Ah how things have changed…

Source: Life, 1893 – for those who are worried about US government deficits these days.  Another classic worry.