Skip to main content

Coupon Lure

May 2024
1min read

I found “The Golden Age of Advertising” (April/May) fascinating, but you omitted what to me was the most fascinating part of the advertisements—the coupon.

I have the year pinpointed: 1929. My parents had moved from Somerville, Massachusetts, to Frostproof, Florida, in 1925, just in time to lose almost everything when the land boom collapsed. We lived in five different houses during the next four years, finally settling in a frame house across from the school where Mother taught. The house had a two-room apartment and a front bedroom that could be rented out.

I don’t believe magazines, other than church magazines, were staples in our house, though the daily paper was. But relatives had them. When my parents went visiting, I could look at Ladies Home Journal and Literary Digest . (Later, I found a treasure trove of old National Geographies in the attic.) Soon I was clipping the coupons and using every available cent to buy penny postcards, gluing on the coupon, and signing Robert S. Cody instead of Bobby Cody in hopes of fooling the companies into thinking I was old enough to use Williams Shaving Cream or Aqua Velva—which appear in an advertisement you reproduced in the article.

Within a few months I must have had a hundred samples to treasure. I hoarded them like a miser, examining the printing and reading the labels. In fact, when I started shaving some years later, I actually used Aqua Velva, so maybe the manufacturers got some benefit.

Whether I invented the idea myself, or knew another child who did it, or someone suggested it on a rainy afternoon, I do not remember. But collecting those faithfully reproduced miniature bottles, tubes, and cartons became my first real hobby and deserves mention.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.