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Ask The Man Who…

May 2024
1min read

To endorse their products, early admen used even the President. Permission? They seldom bothered to

Whenever and wherever possible, get a testimonial: so goes one of the time-tested canons of advertising. Any name will do, but it always helps to use a familiar one. As D. Jay Culver has discovered in gathering his notable collection of Americana, the admen of the late nineteenth century often invoked the dignity and prestige of that most familiar and perennial celebrity of all—the President of the United States. Why not? There was someone you could trust. But in those days of freewheeling business ethics nobody bothered to ask permission first. The result was that unwitting (and often posthumous) presidential endorsements were bestowed on everything from hot irons to hair renewers. A typical example is the 1870 barrel-top lithograph at left, which not only appropriated Thomas Jefferson’s name as a trademark for its pure rye whiskey but had the gall to install a still behind the familiar facade of Monticello. To prove that the souls of departed Chief Executives were not the exclusive property of the liquor interests, George Washington (upper right) stands in full general’s regalia before a hacked down cherry tree (Grant Wood take notice!) to announce that he “cannot tell a lie” about a certain popular milk biscuit. Below, the careworn face of U. S. Grant appears on a box label for a cigar called “Our Chieftain”—surely just the thing for smoke filled rooms. But for a devious appeal to manly ambition, nothing can match the teaser at bottom right. Oh well, promise him anything, but give him the White House. One is tempted to add that a good deal of effort and heartache could be spared simply by avoiding a razor.

—Robert Cowley

Trouille with Mexico? Don’t call the Marines— just send cigarettes (Duke’s Cameo, of course). The remarkable piece of diplomatic advice above appeared in an 1886 issue of Puck . Fortunately, Grover Cleveland never followed it. One imagines, too, that Mr. H a yes and his wife had better things to talk about than sadirons. And Cleveland and his two-time opponent Benjamin Harrison seem out of place playing checkers in formal attire (the kibitzers are politicians James G. Blaine and David B. Hill). The President really needed a hair renewcr, though whether Hall’s was his brand—or whether Chester Arthur dyed his whiskers—no one knows. Finally, Garfield (right) greets his Cabinet, all attired in suits by—who else?—A. J. Nutting.

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