In 1937 the American shaver company Schick launched one of history’s most tasteless and least effective advertising campaigns – by claiming its products were being used by badly burned survivors of the German airship Hindenburg. These ads ran in LIFE, TIME, Business Week and other magazines in October, before being promptly withdrawn:
This amusing though unsubstantiated story comes from rural Lincolnshire, just north of Gainsborough. According to press reports from 1839, a tailor named Kellett was in nearby Epworth on business when he went on a bender and:
“…sold his wife to a saddler of that place, for a tub (twelve pecks) of Swede turnips… One huge turnip was given as deposit to make good the bargain.”
The drunken tailor may have forgotten the arrangement or not taken it seriously. The Epworth saddler, however, had different ideas. He organised for the balance of the turnips to be delivered to Kellett’s home in Owston Ferry. But delivery of the turnips was taken by the tailor’s wife, who had not been informed of the deal and certainly did not approve:
“…Having heard of the whole transaction, and not liking to be disposed of in such a manner, [she] fell on the poor unfortunate tailor and did beat him about the head with the turnips, then turned him out of the house.”
In 1867 several American newspapers ran the story of Miss Fannie Paine, an employee of the Eagle Works Manufacturing Company in Chicago. Fannie was employed by the company as a bookkeeper the previous May, aged 12 years. She was promoted to paymaster shortly after her 13th birthday. According to one report, in the second half of 1866:
“…she will have paid out about a quarter of a million dollars, keeping the time sheets, payroll and a private account for each of the 400 men employed. She receives the money weekly from the bank, to the amount of $4,000 to $5,000, carries the transaction of paying all the men through, settles and makes her balances with the cashier. She knows every man in the establishment [and its] eleven departments…”
Fannie reportedly made $12 a week, more than the wage of skilled male industrial workers. She also “attends an evening course at a commercial college” and “takes two music lessons each week”. According to other sources, Eagle Works was well known for its progressive employment policies, hiring women and African-Americans at pay rates equal to those of skilled white males – a rarity in Gilded Age America. The company was forced into closure during an economic depression in the mid-1870s.
By the outbreak of World War I, the push for a nationwide ban on alcohol in the United States was in full swing. The American prohibition movement was the sum of many parts, including various religious, women’s and temperance groups. Prohibition may also have enjoyed the financial backing of Coca Cola. During debates on the floor of the US Senate in early 1917 James Edgar Martine, the junior Senator from New Jersey, claimed the prohibition movement was being bankrolled by:
“…the splendid wealth acquired through the manufacture of the decoction known as Coca Cola… The owner [of this company] lives in a princely home in Atlanta… there is a lobby there and $50,000 has been put up for the purposes of maintaining the Coca Cola interests… to shut people off from other beverages and hence make them resort to their drinks.”
Coca Cola was itself invented to dodge Atlanta by-laws prohibiting the sale of alcoholic drinks. Despite its cocaine content and narcotic effects, Coca Cola was permitted to be sold as a medicinal tonic rather than an intoxicant. Cocaine was removed from Coca Cola around 1903 and replaced with high levels of caffeine. However many still considered it a stupefying drink with potential dangers to the welfare of those who consumed it. According to Judge Stark, Coca Cola addiction was responsible for serious social problems in the state of Georgia:
“A half dozen reputable physicians have stated that there are over 300 girls in Atlanta that are Coca Cola fiends and nervous wrecks… Coca Cola and such drinks not only make physical wrecks out of our men but destroy the physical welfare of our women and children and make nervous wrecks of them. There are over 2,700 known Coca Cola fiends in this state, and if all could be numbered it would amount to over 5,000.”
Whether because of prohibition or canny marketing or both, Coca Cola sales boomed over the next decade. In 1920 the company churned out almost 19 million gallons of the drink and generated $US32.2 million in sales. By the end of 1921 there were more than 1,000 Coca Cola bottling plants across the US and the product was available at almost every soda bar in the country.
In September 1774 an Annapolis artist, Charles Peale, attempted to deal with a non-paying debtor by way of the local press. The following exchange appeared in the Maryland Gazette:
“If a certain E. V. does not immediately pay for his family picture, his name shall be published at full length in the next paper. Charles Peale.”
“Mr Elie Valette, pay me for painting your family picture. Charles Peale.”
“Mr Charles Wilson Peale, alias Charles Peale… Yes, you shall be paid; but not before you have learned to be less insolent. Elie Valette.”
There were no further exchanges between Mr Peale and Mr Valette, so presumably the matter was settled.