The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture, 1880s to 1910s

Ellen Gruber Garvey, Author Oxford University Press, USA $60 (240p) ISBN 978-0-19-510822-4
At the heart of modern American capitalism lies the consumer. But it wasn't always this way; middle-class American shoppers, primarily women, had to first be educated on the benefits and uses of products. Advertisers and editors at the end of the 19th century worked together to seduce magazine readers with then-new promises of a lifestyle of consumption. Author Garvey examines the sophisticated dynamics of the advertiser-consumer relationship during this pivotal period. She focuses primarily on how admen abandoned traditional boastful copy in favor of a more emotional, feminine appeal and thereby insinuated advertisements into Victorian hearts and homes. These ads blurred the lines between advertising, fiction and fine art, utilizing tactics that would raise eyebrows today. For instance, editors frequently published ""puffers,"" advertisements masquerading as short stories, and justified it as part of the natural union between information and commerce. Also included is an exceptional piece on how advertising reversed longstanding taboos against bicycling for women--in order to sell more bicycles. But the exchange worked both ways; women often took what they wanted from advertising and jettisoned the rest. Garvey clearly knows her subject matter; however, her prose is occasionally dry, and the chapters often read as though they were different articles strung together by a few qualifiers. Nevertheless, The Adman in the Parlor is a fascinating investigation of an often overlooked period in American history when the consumer, and not the thrifty-minded, was first celebrated. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1996
Release date: 06/01/1996
Hardcover - 240 pages - 978-0-19-509296-7
Open Ebook - 241 pages - 978-1-4237-5937-9
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