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To students seldom awake before ten,

Like many scholars, I’ve relied on coffee as a lifeline for most of my academic career. By senior year of high school, I was already bringing a plastic mug full of instant Maxwell House (terrible, I know) to class. In college, I even considered footnoting the local convenience store in a freshman year philosophy paper, since I owed their machine-made vanilla lattes at least as much as Kant.

My thoughts turned to coffee this week after reading a great paper-in-progress by a fellow graduate student here at Harvard. Still I wondered, where was the history of coffee on the web? Look no further than the Victorian trade card collection at Miami University in Ohio . Trade cards became popular in nineteenth century America, as a way of advertising products from soap to lawnmowers (to learn more, check out the Baker Library’s online exhibit). In the example below, Uncle Sam himself endorses one brand. The back of the card features these inspiring verses, “Take this from me my people dear / If you’d keep war away/and fill the land with peace and cheer / Do just what I shall say: / I know a beverage full of charm, / there’s magic in the cup. / To cure all ills, to keep from harm, / Drink when you dine or sup.” Sorry, Anglophiles, your Earl Grey tea won’t help you escape the traumas of sickness and strife!Other cards, while produced by coffee companies, didn’t bother to picture the product itself. Arbuckle Brothers, for instance, came up with a number of collectible series, including “sports and pastimes of all nations.”  Check out the gentlemen athletes in the image below, and the coffee instructions on the reverse.

For more coffee-related trade cards, click here. And for yet more cards of all types, check out the collections at the Brooklyn Public Library and University of Iowa.

To see where coffee advertising would go a few decades later, surf over to the always remarkable Prelinger Archives. You’ll quickly discover the theme in these Folgers ads from the 1960s: make a better cup of coffee for your husband, or he’ll be back “at the office” faster than Mad Men‘s debonair Don Draper.  Click on the images below to watch.

Yours perkily,

Stephen

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Dear siesta sympathizers,

Those of you following the Lazy Scholar blog may be asking yourself, “Who is that handsome devil on the homepage?” No, dear readers, it’s not a portrait of yours truly, but rather the official Lazy Scholar mascot—known in his own time and place as Paul Nebeker Bogart. The mixed-media caricature comes from a clever 1905 portfolio depicting famous businessmen from that center of international commerce: Terre Haute, Indiana. Bogart himself was a locally-born lawyer (and later a banker)–but not one afraid of distraction. As the authors recounted, “Law books do not furnish all of Mr. Bogart’s reading. He enjoys literature of another kind occasionally, and frequently looks up authorities other than law, when ‘down’ for a paper before the Literary Club.”

I stumbled across the book while digging around the Internet Archive’s ample Americana collection, which includes a surprising number of similar books, practically a genre of illustrated guides to your local chamber of commerce, apparently quite popular at the beginning of the 20th century. So whether you’re looking for a realtor in Seattle (pictured below), a banker in Indianapolis, an opera treasurer in L.A., a grocer in Fort Wayne, or a New Haven professor—should you find yourself in the early 1900s, you’ll know where to go!

realtor

My favorite, though, for sheer whimsy, has to be the 1918 book Mother Goose Comes to PortlandMaine, that is—one of the few of its kind to include women, not to mention nursery rhyme parodies. Here’s a verse about the president of the local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (pictured below): “Where are you going, my pretty maid?”/”I’m going a-milking, Sir,” she said./  “What’s the idea, my pretty maid?”/  “Constructive criticism, Sir,” she said./  “In asking that people shall give up wine,/  I offer a substitute in its stead.”

wctu
For yet more caricatures, check out the exhibits from the Library of Congress’s Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon. And don’t forget our Canadian neighbors!

Internationally yours,

Stephen

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