Then As Now

By Ray Schultz

Is there no getting away from advertising? It pops up everywhere online, even in the middle of content, instead of being gated off. And it’s annoying even for someone who works on the fringes of the business

But it’s nothing new. In this brief paragraph, Frank Presbrey describes the ad acene in the 1860s, before the telephone or even electricity. It’s from The History and Development of Advertising, his 1929 classic:

A merchant would hire a man to stand and look fixedly at a placarded announcement; many would stop and read what seemed so interesting to him. At busy street corners boys were distributing handbills, while others went from hosue to house. Every horse car had packages of them tied to the rods in the cars so that passengers could pull them off. Drugstore counters had piles of free almanacs carrying advertisements for patent medicines. (A generation later one patent-medicine house—Ayer—is said to have distributed 25,000,000 almanacs in a year.) Advertising cards were common in the saloons of river steamers and other excursion boats. Novels contained an assortment of advertisements in the back pages—an old practice. Advertising assailed the eye to an extent which then was sensational.


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