Tidbit Tuesday: Yes, They’re Trying To Sell You Something

Oh, hello there! Looks like it’s time for a new Tidbit Tuesday!

tidbit tuesday(source)

(Yeah, a year late, I know.)

Frodo sez “Ur late.”


Recently I completed an essay on advertising and marketing in food. During my travels across the internet, I had the pleasure of uncover several facts about food marketing over the centuries. Here are some of my favorites.

  • In the 18th century, plastering bill stickers (posters or paper advertisements) on blank walls, fences, and other outdoor canvases was taxed, so merchants invented sandwich boards and hand carry placards. Free advertising!
18th century advertising

18th Century Human Billboards. Easy peasy.


  • Trade cards were a popular alternative to posters and leaflets. They contained images and a small amount of text detailing products or services offered and the location of the business.
confectionery trade card

From the exclusive “Esther Martin” Collection, better known as the “I found this when I was cleaning my room” Collection. This is a trade card for F. Knoppel Confectioner in Philadelphia.

  • Although newspaper advertising was introduced in the 18th century, editors remained skeptical of the benefits of such advertising well into the 19th century. For that reason, they put restrictions on the ads; they could not use large font type, illustrations, or extend over several columns. That’s why ads from the era look like buttpains to read. To beat these restrictions, advertisers used smaller letters to create larger capital letters and images.
18th century ads

I double dog dare you to try advertising your product like this today.


  • The first radio jingle is attributed to the General Mills Cereal Wheaties. Since direct radio selling wasn’t permitted, jingle just wondered, “Have you tried Wheaties?” It goes like this:

For your enjoyment, I have also included several TV commercials for foodstuffs from the mid-20th century.

Cheerios Cereal, 1952

Birds Eye Frozen Baby Food, c. 1950

Various Snack Ads, c. 1950s

Keep eating and asking, my friends.


Works Cited:

-“Advertising in the 18th Century.” Jane Austens World. N.p., 24 July 2011. Web. 11 June 2014. <https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/advertising-in-the-18th-century/>.

-“Cereal: History in a Bowl.” American Eats. History Channel. 1 June 2006. Television.

-“History: 19th Century | AdAge Encyclopedia of Advertising – Advertising Age.” Advertising Age AdAge Encyclopedia. N.p., 15 Sept. 2003. Web. 14 June 2014. <http://adage.com/article/adage-encyclopedia/history-19th-century/98706/>.

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