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[Detail] A French officer and his British ally at the front read the New York Times.


Even during wartime, commerce—the buying and selling of products—continues. Advertising is one tool used to attract interest in goods. The pictorial sections of the New York Times and the New York Tribune contained ads on the last two or three pages of each edition. Examining the ads can provide information about what appealed to Americans in the era of the First World War and can also provide evidence of the war’s impact.

Look at several ads from the two newspapers. Some possible ads for your consideration are listed below:

As you analyze the ads, look for common advertising techniques, such as humor, testimonials from famous personalities, appeals to patriotism, facts and figures, suggesting that the product is of high quality or useful to ordinary people, associating the product with positive ideas, and appealing to hidden fears of consumers. Consider the following questions as you analyze the ads:

  • What techniques were used to promote the products? Find ads in a current newspaper that use similar techniques. How are the ads similar to and different from the historic ads?
  • Which of the ads used the war to promote products? Do you think this is an effective approach? Why or why not?
  • Which ad do you find most convincing? Least convincing? Explain your choices.
  • Some of the ads give prices for the products being advertised. How might you determine whether these prices reflect wartime inflation (higher prices)? How effective are the ads?