Nearly every product that can be marketed since the 19th century has been designed to catch the eye of the consumer and ensnare their interests in hopes of securing a purchase. Looking back, there have been some questionable ads, founded in some less-than-concrete claims. There have been medicine ads recommending cure-alls to every ailment imaginable and fashion and beauty ads, declaring reasonable prices for quality attire. There have even been transportation, food, livestock, and movie ads, all supporting local businesses.
In the 1800s, the main marketing strategy for newspaper ads seemed to be sporadically announcing sales with eye-catching titles. In fashion, claims of new trends came with nearly every edition of the paper.
One line from September of 1886 announced, “There is a new fashion of wearing ribbons around the neck with the ends almost falling to the feet,” while subtly advertising ribbons and lace on the same page.
Medicines were another common advertisement. One announced, “Dr. John Bull’s Tonic Syrup will cure fever, aches, chills and all malarial diseases!” along with the super-comforting claim, “contains no chloroform.”
Along with professionals and doctors, ads used testimonies from “customers” of the product, like one 1892 ad that read, “Rev. C. F. Brooks says his little girl is in trouble with malaria very severely, and that since he gave her Sulphur Bitters, he never thinks of leaving New York for his summer resort without a few bottles, for they always cure his family, and are far superior to quinine.”
The early 1900s saw many of the same types of ads, but one change was in the fashion section, where women’s clothing shifted dramatically from corsets and gowns to simpler fashion staples such as blouses and skirts. The main shift in advertisements was the transportation industry. The arrival of early cars caused a stir and a brand new wave of ads dedicated to the engines that were taking the world by storm.
Perhaps the most interesting era of marketing was the 1950s and 1960s. Page upon page of newspaper is filled to the brim with ads of the newest innovations. Refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, washing machines, and other new luxury items made a splash in local newspapers. Fashion pages declared new sales for every holiday and occasion, and new medicines claimed cures for common diseases or lotions and balms that would beautify the user.
These days, an online website has just as many ads as an old newspaper. Granted, the content is much different than the days where the majority of the ads were for livestock feed and tonics with mysterious ingredients.
Advertisements can be a helpful indicator of the lifestyle of local Highland County citizens. It’s very clear looking back through all the fashion, food, medicine, agriculture and commerce ads that the early Ohioans were passionate about supporting local businesses.