19th and 20th Century Advertising


In the 19th century new technologies were developed and brand-new methods invented. As a result a surplus of production was formed. Warehouses of many factories were overflowing. In this way it was necessary to create useful advertisements, which would cover all large spaces, utilizing a large variety of mass media sources. The first advertising agent who created such a network was Volney Palmer. In 1841 he proclaimed himself as an advertising agent in Philadelphia and then created similar offices in Boston and New York. About 20% of the commission for media brokers was paid to the publishers. Texts of ads were offered by the head of the company or its representative. People who wanted to put their ads in the newspaper paid him a commission. Such activities became very popular during the second part of 19th century in all European countries.


Significant advances in advertising development were made by American brokers. In the early 1850’s, John Wanamaker caused a revolution in the retail trade. He created a price lists for a variety of goods and returned the money if the commodity was not of the promised quality. As a result, he gained a lot of profit by using this strategy and he then opened a network of consumer goods shops. The reason of such great success was professional advertising.

5. Jules D. Hugeinin Vuillemin


Harper's Weekly, September 26, 1868 

 In 1880 businessmen employed the best creator of advertising texts – D. E. Powers. Powers started to develop advertisements using brand-new information. This strategy had become very popular in American trade circles and by the 20th century advertising had become a form of science.

“In the 1880s a new era of advertising began: New methods of manufacturing led to greatly increased output and decreased the costs for the producers of consumer goods. The products now could be packaged at the plant. Moreover the telegraph network was in place and the continent has been crisscrossed by a network of railroads….” All these were assumptions that now allowed nation-wide distribution and nation-wide advertising. This state supported the growth of advertising agencies and dictated their activities.  


The most widely advertised consumer products at this time had been patent medicines.

Rosemary, Hair Dressing
Harper's Weekly, March 26, 1859,

In 1893 more than half of over a hundred firms spending more than fifty thousand dollars annually on advertising were patent medicine manufacturers. But only 20 years later, most of these firms were no patent medicine manufacturers anymore but manufacturers of food, soap, cosmetics and automobiles. These firms began to market their packaged goods under brand names. Some of the first brands were firms like Ivory, Colgate, Wrigley and Coca Cola.

Colgate & Co. Toilet Soaps
Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1868

 Colgate & Co. Toilet Soaps


Previously such everyday household products like milk, sugar, soap, rice and candles had been sold in neighborhood shops from bulk packages.


Victor: The Only Perfect Lawn-Mower in the World
Harper's Weekly, April 20, 1872


During 19th century the majority of advertisements were published in the newspapers and advertising leaflets. Although newspapers were a prerogative of well-off class of community but the situation began to change in the early 1860’s when people got the opportunity of receiving publications by post. First magazine advertisements appeared in The Southern Messenger. For a few years the editor of this magazine was Edgar Po. Many of the magazines that began to publish advertisements as the separate charter in the 19th century have continued doing it nowadays.  Such editions are Cosmopolitan, Ladies’ Home Journal, Readers Digest and some others.


4. Phelan's Billiard Tables
Harper's Weekly, February 13, 1869


Despite of the popular brands of newspapers the majority of information in the advertisements was unreliable and apocryphal. Moreover advertisements sometimes were immoral and absurd. For example in the countryside of one American city advertisement was placed in the monument of a non-existent person and it stated: “This person killed himself with the handgun with Colt system”. Then “publishers” enumerated the value of this handgun. As the result of such inhuman actions people stopped trusting advertisements and began to consider advertising as something negative.

John B. Dunham Pianos
Testimonials from several musicians
Harper's Weekly, December 31, 1864



The situation radically changed in the 20th century, the heyday of legal regulations in advertising, a process that the U.S.A. was very influential in. We have to mention that the most successful American advertisers were those who domesticated meaning and advertising methods. All of them were the heads of advertising agencies. We can say that these people created a contemporary advertising process:


Albert Lasker (Lord & Thomas). His firm created advertisements for many large companies such as General Electric, Quaker Oats, RCA, and Lucky Strike.

Stanley Resor (J. Walter Thomas)

Raymond Rubicam (Young and Rubicam)

Leo Burnett (Founder of Chicago School of Advertising)

Claude C. Hopkins (employed by Lord & Thomas, earned about $ 185,000 a year)

Bill Bernbach (Doyle Dane Bernbach)

David Ogilvy (Ogilvy & Mather)


Advertising agencies today are highly specialized companies which employ a large number of people in a variety of business and creative skills, including advertising and marketing specialists, designers, copy writers, artists, economists, psychologists, researchers, media analysts, product testers, librarians, accountants, bookkeepers, and mathematicians. This business sector makes billions of dollars each year, depending on the economical growth and development of a country but also enhancing exactly this.

The agencies make money in different ways, buying time for an ad on radio or television for a customer or space for an ad in a newspaper of magazine. They always keep up to 15% of the cost as a commission, which has become a standard in the advertising industry and covers a huge part of the agency’s income. Of course, the range of offers of an agency is much bigger than simply providing space or time for ads on TV, radio, newspapers or magazines. They offer their customers whole packages of approaches for a specific population group.


The first radio-advertisement was broadcast in 1922 in New York on the WEAF radio station.

Thus in the 1920s advertisers and their agents had come to realize radio's possibilities. With its drama and immediacy, radio could convey their message directly to the consumer who would not need to purchase a publication or even need to be literate.      


In the 1950s television was introduced and quickly developed into THE advertising-media. In the 1950’s common income from the advertising industry rose to $ 10 billion a year. In 1980’s this index was $ 100 billion! Now advertisers could demonstrate the use of their products and present well-known figures to praise it. They could also affect emotions through television.


Today advertisers spend millions of dollars for their campaigns, although they don't always know how effective their advertising dollars really are.