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[Detail] Vacuum cleaners on display at the J.C. Harding & Co.

5) Advertising

In the 1920s, almost everything that could be sold was sold through print, radio, and film ads. Claude Hopkins, the president of the Lord and Taylor advertising agency and author of Scientific Advertising, compared advertising to “a war, minus the venom. Or much, if you prefer, like a game of chess . . . We must have skill and knowledge . . . We dare not underestimate opponents . . . We also need strategy of the ablest sort, to multiply the value of our forces.” Searches on merchandising and advertising present a number examples of the specific strategies Hopkins refers to in his book.

Although film and radio were in their infancy in the 1920s, advertising agencies embraced the media in an effort to reach new consumers. The science of print ads was applied to the new technology and a cross-promotional effort between print and radio advertising increased the strength of the agencies. This synchronicity between print and radio advertising is celebrated in two speeches by William Rankin in "Advertising and its Relation to the Public." While speaking before the Broadcasting Division of the New York Advertising Club, Rankin praises the value of newspapers:

It is the daily newspapers that have helped most to make the Radio the great success it is today. The splendid support that they have given the Radio since its beginning . . . and the fine things that they are doing for it every day of the week are the real reasons for Radio’s enormous popularity.

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Advertising and its Relation to the Public

Examine any number of periodicals available throughout Prosperity and Thrift to see if the print ads (and even a short film advertisement celebrating Werner’s rust-proof corsets) adhere to the claims made by Hopkins, Rankin, and others.

  • What do newspapers gain from promoting radio?
  • Is this relationship part of what Hopkins describes as “multiplying the value of our forces”?
  • How does advertising respond to different media?