Liquid Assets

A Texas Pioneer’s Unusual Gift to His City

Henry Rosenberg arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1843, a nineteen-year-old Swiss fabric apprentice with an eight-dollar-a-week job waiting for him. When he died fifty years later he was a wealthy banker, and had developed considerable feelings of gratitude to the city that had made him rich. Many would-be benefactors consider donating libraries; Rosenberg gave the city a fine one. But he had another idea as well, one which developed into a civic legacy unusual even in a city known for its elaborate architecture.Read more »


“Simplicity and Silence will characterize the 1912 Cartercar” began the copy in the company’s advertising brochure of that year. But however simple and quiet the machine may have been in operation, no automobile of the era enjoyed a more complicated and elaborate promotional campaign.Read more »

Rat Sheets

The last few years have seen the growth of what is known as “comparative advertising”: commercials that, rather than flogging a product with simple hyperbole, actually name competitors and specify their deficiencies. This trend has whipped up an enormous amount of controversy in the advertising industry, but in fact it is merely the timid revival of a century-old American circus tradition. Read more »

A Plundered Province Revisited

The Colonial Status—Past and Present—of the Great American West

The pelts of beaver, the dust of placer gold, the tongues and hides of buffalo, the proteinaceous feed of native grass, the smeltings of precious and commercial minerals, the viscous gush of oil: these have been the elementals of the American West shipped eastward to enrich the nation while the West historically went begging, went bankrupt, struggled to recover before being exploited anew. Bernard DeVoto defined the cycle of mercantilism and misuse in a celebrated essay in Harper’s in 1934.Read more »

Marks For The Marketplace

The Curious World of the Trademark

Millions of readers have been pleasured by the writings of John Steinbeck, but there was no joy in the Atlanta headquarters of the Coca-Cola Company when the Pulitzer-prize-winning novelist’s The Wayward Bus reached the executive suite.

”‘You rather have a coke?’ ” asked the traveling salesman who was trying to move in on the blonde at the bus stop lunchroom.

”‘No. Coffee’ ” she replied. ” ‘Cokes make me fat.’ ” Read more »

The Businessman And The Government

Corruption, Yesterday and Today

The recent spate of revelations of bribery by American corporations of government officials, domestic and foreign, has left many with a sense that the business ethics of the nation are going to hell in a handbasket.Read more »

The Way I See It

Back in the early years of the present century the advertising industry cooked up an art form that had a quaint and brief life.

Which is to say that the industry used to get out pamphlets using fictional situations to draw attention to the merits of the product that was being advertised. These were aimed straight at the ten-year-old mind, and inasmuch as I was just ten when I first met them I became a devoted reader. Read more »

The Tyranny Of Oil


In October, 1973, Arab states clapped an embargo on oil shipments to the United States. All at once the nation had to go on daylight-saving time, throttle back on the highways, and turn down thermostats. Millions of baffled Americans found themselves lining up, sometimes for hours, at filling-station pumps. Up to that moment Americans had paid little heed to the quarrels of the Middle East. Until the Second World War that part of the globe had been strictly a British problem.Read more »

Esprit De Corporation

In the booming 1920’s, when business was nearly America’s national religion and advertising its Holy Writ, the Mather Poster Company of Chicago designed a set of texts to inspire greater peaks of productivity from the workingman. These posters, recently shown in New York’s Hundred Acres Gallery, now rate as Nostalgia, possibly even Art; but a half century ago they represented a dead-serious campaign employing an early version of the power of positive thinking. Read more »

Bubble, Bubble No— Toil, No Trouble

The brisk little Italian immigrant promised you 100 per cent interest in ninety days. Some people actually got it

Seen from the high oval windows of Boston’s City Hall on that sultry June morning in 1920, the line of stiffbrimmed straw hats bobbing along School Street resembled a roiled, wheat-colored stream. Among the straws were dark blotches of cloth caps, women’s brighter hats, and even the official visors of the police. On the honky-tonk outskirts of Scollay Square the stream grew denser and contracted into the cleft of Pi Alley.Read more »