Friday, August 4, 2017

Remembering the Airship USS Akron

Among the most familiar images to Americans was the crash of the Hindenburg zeppelin in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937, killing 36 of the 97 people aboard.  It was not, however, the greatest airship disaster.  That was the destruction of the USS Akron in a storm off the New Jersey coast on April, killing 73 of the 76 crewmen and passengers aboard.  Representing the greatest loss of life in any airship crash, today the accident is little remembered.

In its heyday, the Navy’s airship Akron was highly publicized resulting in a number of images and artifacts. The Akron and her sister ship the Macon were among the largest flying objects ever made.   While the German zeppelins were larger, they were filled with hydrogen.  The Navy craft hold the world record for helium-filled airships.  A photograph shows the interior of the huge hangar where the Akron and Macon were constructed.  Called the Goodyear Airdock, it was constructed in 1929 at an equivalent cost today of $26.4 million.  When it was built it was the largest structure in the world without interior supports.  It encompassed 364,000 square feet of space, an area equal to eight football fields placed side by side.

It is there that the Akron, shown here under construction, was built. The airship was 785 feet long and had a hull diameter of 133 feet and a height of 146 feet, six inches.  The skeleton was formed of a new lightweight alloy called “duraluminun 17.”  

Zeppelin and other rigid designs used a single keel at the lowest point of the hull circumference but the Akron boasted three keels, one running along the top of the hull and one on each side, 45 degrees up from the lower centerline. Each keel provided a walkway running almost the entire length of the ship. The strength of the main rings, the lower keels, and the fact that helium, instead of flammable hydrogen, was to be used, also allowed the designer to mount the engines inside the hull, improving streamlining. Goodyear was extraordinarily proud of the Akron issuing a postcard showing the airship protruding from its airlock.

The city of Akron, indeed all of Ohio, was proud of this flying behemoth.  A postcard depicts the ship flying over the skyline.  Akron has had many nicknames, one of which is "City of Invention”.  The third would include this airship.  She was the world’s first flying aircraft carrier, with the capacity for holding F9C Sparrowhawk fighter-reconnaissance planes in its belly.  Using a crude hooking system, the planes could be launched and recovered while the Akron was in flight.

Another photo showed the Akron floating over New York City in 1933.  It was powered by eight Maybach (German) in line engines hitched to two wooden propellers, each of which was two bladed.  The airship was capable the making 63 miles an hour cruising speed and a maximum speed of 79 miles an hour.  Its fuel capacity was 20,700 gallons weighting 126,000 pounds.  That gave the airship a range of 6,840 miles without refueling.  

The Akron’s first transcontinental flight in May 1932 was recognized with a special envelope marking the occasion.  Leaving from Lakehurst, it took more than 44 hours to reach San Diego, slightly faster than delivery by train.  The cover shown here gives no clue to what happened on its arrival. Since neither trained ground handlers nor specialized mooring equipment were present, the landing at Camp Kearny was a dicey proposition. By the time the crew started the descent, the helium gas had been warmed by sunlight, increasing lift. The mooring cable had to be cut to avert a catastrophic nose-stand by the airship which then floated upward. Most of the mooring crew—predominantly “boot camp” seamen—released their lines although four did not immediately let go.  Two of them plunged to their death, two others, although injured, were saved.

This was just a foretaste of what was to come.  On the night of April 3, 1933 the Akron was on a routine operation along the Atlantic Coast  with a rear admiral aboard when it encountered severe weather.  Heavy winds struck its sides, causing the airship to plunge toward the ocean.  A strong gust tore lower rudder cables away causing the nose of the vessel to pitch up and the tail down.  Upon striking the water the lower fin was torn away as the Akron broke up rapidly and sank in the wave-tossed Atlantic.  The crew had not been issued life jackets and end had come so quickly that life rafts could not be deployed.  The accident left 73 dead, the admiral among them, and only three survivors.  President Franklin Roosevelt called it “a national disaster.”  On Memorial Day 1933 the Navy Department issued a special “In Memoriam” cover.

The loss of the Akron marked the beginning of the end for the airship in the U.S. Navy.  When its sister dirigible Macon was damaged in a storm two years later and sank, the program ended.  This time, however, the crew had been issued life jackets and 70 of the 72 aboard were rescued.  Although today “Snoopy” may sail the Metlife blimp over the Superbowl, the use of manned airships for military purposes long has been over.

Other mementos of the Akron that may be of interest to collectors are paperweights and desk ornaments issued when the airship was still a matter of national pride.  Goodyear used a blob of its dualuminum 17 to fashion a replica of the Akron’s dock that completely fails to convey the immensity of the structure.  There also are other replicas of the giant balloon that come up for sale from time to time, two of them shown here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Pocket Mirrors: Reflections of the Evolving Shoe Industry

Among the manufacturing and service industries regularly presenting the public with giveaway advertising items like paperweights and pocket mirrors, the shoe industry of the early 20th Century stands out as a major participant.  On September 28, 2012, I presented on this blog a group of 10 paperweights under the title “Shoes Preserved Under Glass.”   Herein is presented eleven advertising pocket mirrors — all related to the footwear industry.   They present the fashion in  the shoes of the time as well as the methods of merchandising.  Just as important they point up major changes taking place in shoe manufacturing.

In 1904, a cartoonist named Richard Outcault went to the St. Louis World’s Fair where he hoped to sell the rights to a pair of comic page characters he had created known as Buster Brown and his dog, Tige.  Among buyers was a St. Louis shoe manufacturer named George Warren Brown.  For the princely sum of $200 he bought the rights to feature the pair in his marketing and never looked back.  In ensuing years Buster and Tige became closely identified with Brown’s shoes, as on the pocket mirror shown here.  By 1958, largely through creative advertising, the Buster Brown line had become the largest brand of footwear for children.

Contrast that pocket mirror with a similar item for Granby Rubbers.  This mirror is in black and white with a photo of a young girl seemingly stuffed into an overshoe, a clumsy image.  The Granby Rubber Co. was a Canadian outfit founded by Samuel Henderson Campbell Miner in 1882 to manufacture rubber clothing items, including “…Rubbers for city or country and Overshoes for country.”  His factory, one that reputedly made 5,000 to 6,000 pairs of shoes daily, was located in Grandy said to be Miner’s “… town financially and sentimentally.”  The boss was mayor for more than two decades.

A similarly conservative figure was August Schreiner of Rochester, New York, who advertised the “The Snow Shoe” on a pocket mirror.   A shoe and boot trade publication in 1916 said of him:  “Mr. Schreiner is one of a very few of our old shoemen who continue to make custom shoes.  This, he says, obliges his older customers and he does quite a brisk business in this line.”  In less than three years, however, Schreiner was advertising in the local newspaper the equivalent of a bankruptcy sale, saying”  “A force of circumstances, which none could foresee, prompts this action.”  

While Schriener was harking back to the days of the village shoemaker where footwear was made customer by customer, industrialization had long since taken shoe manufacturing out of the workshop and into the factory.  Even then an outfit like the Stonefield-Evans Shoe Company of Rockford, Illinois, was insisting that it employed only “highly skilled tradesmen.”  Acquired by Sam Stonefield, who had started in work in a shoe factory when he was ten years old, the factory made only men’s shoes employing 140 of those skilled cobblers, keeping output at a modest 600 pairs daily.  

By contrast, the Bradley & Metcalf Company of Milwaukee, one of the largest boot and shoe manufacturers in the Northwest, even as early as 1870 was replacing those skilled workers.  A company foreman told a local newspaper that of the 450 men now employed in the establishment, “Perhaps not more than ten were sufficiently skilled to be of any service ten or fifteen years ago.”  The Bradley & Metcalf spokesman added:  “The simple fact proved to be that the division of labor  — one single and simple operation being assigned to each class of workmen — and the introduction of machinery has enabled manufacturers to substitute unskilled for skilled labor.”   Indeed, in some shoe factories the workforce might include child labor.

Conditions in shoe factories were such to spur the development of a strong and militant labor union for shoemakers by 1889, evolving to become the Boot and Shoe Worker Union (BSWU) of the AFL.   Regarded as a “radical” union in its early days, the BSWU was formed to establish uniform wages for the same class of work, including equal pay for women, and to abolish child, convict, and contract (low paying home industry) labor.   The union was international, including French-speaking Canadian workers.  

The presence of a labor union made shoe manufacturers increasingly concerned about keeping their workers happy.  Among them was Thomas Gustave Plant, a French-Canadian immigrant who made his fortune manufacturing footwear under the Queen Quality Shoes label.  His largest shoe factory was in Roxbury (now Jamaica Plain) Massachusetts and self-proclaimed to be the largest shoe factory in the world.  Plant provided numerous innovations and amenities for his employees,  including a company park where they could have lunch and recreate.  And not just another park.  Completed in 1913, the facility was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., park architect son of the man who developed Central Park in New York City.

Despite occasional labor unrest, communities were eager to have shoe factories locate within their boundaries.  The Friedman-Shelby Shoe Co. of St. Louis in 1907  built a factory in Kirksville, a community of about 20,000 in North Central Missouri but only after the town had furnished a free site, free water for five years and tossed in a bonus of $60,000, equivalent to almost $1.5 million today.  For its investment Kirksville secured employment for 300 workers who produced 1,800 to 2,000 pairs of shoes daily.  Friedman-Shelby sold the 60 by 300 foot four story factory to another shoe company in 1916.  Reflecting consolidation occurring in the industry, Florsheim Shoe Company eventually bought it and shut it in 1973.

The “Enna Jettick” shoe brings us back to the wardrobe changes that were affecting the industry.  As shirts got shorter and shorter, women were giving more attention to make fashion statements with their shoes and investing more money in them.  The company behind this brand was Dunn & McCarthy, a shoe manufacturer of Auburn, New York, in business since 1867.  The Enna Jettick line was issued during the flapper era of the 1920s and, true to the zany antics of that era, advertised with its own blimp airship.  In Auburn, the company bought a park on the banks of Cayuga Lake, installed a merry-go-round, and in 1930 named it Enna Jettick Park.

The face of each of these pocket mirrors shows us the image that the advertiser chose in order to sell his products.  Behind each mirror is a story of an industry in flux virtually from the end of the Civil War until the 1920s as the transition from village cobbler to industrialized manufacturing occurred and changed forever the way shoes are made and merchandised.

Note:  For anyone interested in the origins of the celluloid-backed pocket mirror as an advertising giveaway, I have treated that subject in a post of July 4, 2009.  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ephriam S. Wells Was “Rough on Rats” And People?

 R-r-rats!  Rats! Rats!
Rough on Rats,
Hang your dogs and drown your cats;
We give a plan for every man,
To clear his house with “Rough on Rats.”

Recently my doctor suggested that I begin a regimen of a blood thinner called “warfarin.”  When I suggested that this medicine began existence as a rat poison, he readily agreed.  That encounter got me thinking about an artifact I recently bought at a bottle show, a small metal box containing an earlier, very popular American vermin poison called “Rough on Rats.”

Shown here, the box lid is a colorful celluloid picture of a Chinese gentleman with  a long pigtail, a cooly hat, and an embroidered tunic who apparently is about to eat a rat while in his other hand he holds a second rat, apparently also about to be consumed.   The racist image perpetuated a long-held belief among some Americans that the Chinese on a regular basis ate live rats as a snack.  The Chinese also appeared in “Rough on Rats” advertising.  

Trading on anti-Chinese prejudice in the U.S., however, was not the primary sin of Ephriam S. Wells, a New Jersey druggist who invented “Rough on Rats.”  It was his seeming indifference to the other effects of his product that soon became associated with a significant increase in murders and suicides by poisoning.  As Professor Loren Gatch has described:  “Thanks to Wells, Americans were poisoning each other in increasingly large numbers.  Newspapers of the era were littered with lurid accounts of the despondent and depraved.”

Unlike Europe and other European countries, the United States had no national poison control laws and state regulation often was weak and inconsistent during the late 1800s.  Despite “Rough on Rats” being largely white arsenic with some fillers, Wells was able to able to elude laws some state laws that outlawed the sale of poisons to minors or required registration when sold to adults by marketing his arsenic under its trade name.  Nowhere in its ads or packaging were there warning to humans.

“If Wells felt any ethical qualms about the abuse of his rat poison, he never recorded them,”  noted Prof. Gatch.  Rather he concentrated his effort on merchandising the product through humorous and often colorful magazine ads and trade cards.  “I desire to state,”  Wells announced, “that I have written all my own advertisements and designed all my own cuts and illustrations without a single exception.”  The lighthearted treatment of the druggist’s nostrum also acted to deflect concern among the public about its lethal qualities.  Above, for example, are six variously colored cats all gazing in astonishment at a can of “Rough on Rats.”  The caption reads:  “Our occupation gone — Rough on Rats Did it.”  

What more amusing subject for an ad could there be than a bespectacled rat with     pointer who is describing to smaller rats the dangers of Wells’ product.  “This is what killed your poor father.  Shun it!” the ad reads.  Avoid anything containing it throughout your future useful careers.  We older heads object to its special roughness.” 

A similar card, shown below,  includes the other pests “Rough on Rats” was to eliminate, including gophers, chipmunks, mice, flies, roaches, ants and even down to bed bugs.
Still another colorful Wells trade card depicted a rat being chased in turn by a cat, a dog, a boy with a hatchet, a man with a whiskey bottle, and a woman with a broom.   The druggist took advantage of this card to market other proprietary medicines he had invented, including “Well’s Health Reserve,” and “Mother Swan’s Worm Syrup.  Wells also featured a series of “Rough on” medications to remedy toothaches, itches, corns and even piles (hemorrhoids).

In 1982 Wells took the additional step of publicizing his rat poison by commissioning sheet music to sing its praises, anticipating the advertising jingle.  The song was created by two well-known music men of the time. W. A. Boston wrote the lyrics including the chorus, repeated several times, that opens this post.  The music, by Juniper Jones, was suggested as suitable for dancing.  

Working from his factory located at the corner of Grand Street and Summit Avenue, Wells concentrated on selling “Rough on Rats” and his other products full time through mail order sales, with extravagant spending on advertising in the United States and other English speaking countries. It paid off.  Over the next twelve years his profits exceeded $2 million, equivalent to $50 million today, from individual sales of items costing ten to twenty-five cents.  Shown here is a company check that features the rat poison and various other Wells products.
Beginning as a lowly drug store clerk and often on the brink of bankruptcy, Well’s concoction of a powder that was odorless and tasteless to its rodent victims but deadly, eventually brought him fame and fortune — even though “Rough on Rats,”  a name suggested by his wife, too frequently also was administered to humans.  In the last decade of his life Wells retired to his summer house in Glenmoore, New Jersey, living like a country squire and raising horses.  

Wells died — of natural causes — in March 1913, leaving a substantial estate.   The “Rough on Rats” brand continued to be sold into the 1950s.  Like other successful nostrums, it attracted copycats, one of them perpetuating the racist Chinese image. 

Note:   Thanks to Professor Loren Gatch for much of the information provided in this post as well as for a number of the images shown here.  Professor Gatch was associated with the University of Oklahoma when he published an article on Wells and his anti-Chinese bias.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Putting a Woman on the Moon — with Beer

Long before the U.S. space program had put men on the moon, the geniuses responsible for beer advertising had put a woman there.  The most iconic of these is the “High Life Girl” shown here on a bar mirror exactly as she looked 110 years ago when the Miller Brewing Company made her their symbol.  The mirror currently can be bought at Home Depot.

The Miller girl, however, was not the first young maid to grace a beer promotion.  That honor may go to a French poster dated 1895 that was entitled “Bieres du Croissant”  showing a damsel with a large bread product in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other.   It is done in the “art nouveau” fashion so popular at the time.  Her large hat may have had an influence on subsequent images.

A Canadian brewery was also ahead of Miller in depicting a moon maiden.  That image, shown here, seemingly dates
from about 1900.  Eugene O’Keefe, a wealthy banker, purchased an existing Ontario brewery and renamed O’Keefe & Company.  It was the first to produce lager beer in Canada, along with ales and porters.  O’Keefe was one of the first brewers to use trucks for beer delivery, first to build a mechanically refrigerated warehouse and one of the first to advertise extensively.

Nor did Miller Brewing immediately set the girl swinging in the heavens.
Miller High Life Beer first hit the market on December 30, 1903.  Soon after its release, it was advertised with a drawing of a woman in what looked like a circus costume, complete with whip, standing on a crate of Miller High Life and offering up the “Champagne of Bottle Beers.”  Over the years various members of the Miller family have claimed an ancestor as the model for the girl but none has proved definitive.

Why Miller decided to send her aloft has been lost in the mists of time.  One account has the company advertising manager, A. C. Paul, hiking alone in the Wisconsin North Woods — possibly lost — suddenly struck with a vision of the High Life Girl on a moon.  When he returned to Miller’s Milwaukee headquarters he ordered the sky-high images.  And the rest is history.
The image was promoted vigorously and seemingly caught on quickly with the drinking public.   The brewery provided its customers with wall signs, bar mirrors, and serving trays featuring the girl in the moon.  Retail customers were gifted with metal “pin backs” at beer gardens and festivals.

I have been particularly taken with the enameled watch fobs bearing the Miller High Life Girl.  Those items were given away to special customers and meant to be displayed on the outside of a vest or coat, attached to a watch stowed in a chest-level pocket.  The two shown here clearly were produced by different artisans, each with their own ideas of appropriate colors.  On the one at right the girl’s hair appears to have obscured her eyes.

With the coming of National Prohibition in 1920 the Miller girl got a rest.  With Repeal in 1934, the brewery resumed normal business and she returned, this time with a somewhat different look.  While earlier she had been in profile, seemingly looking off toward some distant star now she was facing the public directly, no longer a girl but a mature woman, a “glamor girl” perhaps.  This more realistic image was equally promoted with manifestations in many forms, including the crown tops on Miller beer.

With the further passage of time, as shown on a Miller bar sign, the figure of the High Life Girl evolved two more times, with the last manifestation the one at far left, an illustration meant to convey a symbol rather than a realistic pose.  Its more contemporary look has found favor.  The image shown here is a bar stool seat that can be purchased on-line.  Thus, this icon in its several forms continues to fascinate the beer drinking public. 

As with other successful symbols, Miller’s girl-in-the-moon had its imitators.  Falstaff Brewing had its roots in a brewery founded in 1940 in St. Louis by a German immigrant named Johann Adam Lemp.  The name was changed to Falstaff Brewing with the featured brew of the same name.  The company about 1910 issue a trade card called “The Falstaff Serenade.” drawn by Swedish-American artist, Valentine Sandberg.  The card shows a garlanded young woman playing a mandolin and singing to an shining Falstaff logo.
What was good enough for beer also provided a symbol for Lafayette Club Whiskey, trademarked with the federal government by the Frank Murphy Co. of Chillicothe, Ohio.  Murphy registered as a trade mark a woman in a gown sitting on a moon while another woman holds up a globe (presumably the earth) on which is written “Old Lafayette Club is unexcelled by any whiskey on earth.”

In addition to imitators any successful icon is sure to get its caricatures.  Such is the drawing here of the girl-in-the-moon.  The cartoon is by George Coghill who contends that Miller is one of his favorite beers and that after seeking a t-shirt with the image to no avail, so he made his own drawing after deciding she should look more “witch-like.”  On his website he wrote: “I also decided to give her a shorter skirt, as well as hike it up a bit and show more leg. She's also a bit more busty than the previous version. Definitely going for more of a pin-up style with her this time around.”

My guess is that the Miller girl-in-the-moon will be with us in one form or another for a very long time to come.  Having survived 110 years even as advertising fashions and social mores have changed massively, this icon has demonstrated staying power matched by few other ad symbols.  Whatever kind of epiphany Mr. Paul may have had, lost among the pines, it has proved to be a winner. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Celebrity Women in Ads: The Good, the Bad, and the Shootist

The British started it.   Their advertising geniuses by the mid-1800s had figured out that by putting celebrity faces in ads — people like Queen Victoria — the attention of the public was virtually assured.  Their U.S. counterparts were not long in copying.  Among those singled out were the Good — the young and beautiful wife of a President, the Bad — the notorious wife of a millionaire, and the Shootist — a woman whose rifle was her livelihood.

The Good — Frances Folsom Cleveland.  A close friend of Frances’ father, Grover Cleveland met his future wife shortly after she was born.  As she grew up, he doted on her and the bachelor’s feelings toward her turned romantic while she was still in college.  Now President, the 49-year-old Cleveland proposed, she accepted, and at 21 she married him in the White House in June 1886.  The ad men had a field day.   Her face appeared on trade cards in both photo and illustration advertising a wide range of products.

At right is a colorized portrait of Frances that frequently was used.  This one was issued by the Philip Best Brewing Company of Milwaukee, the forerunner of the Pabst Brewery.  It advertises the “Best” Tonic, an alcoholic elixir that was alleged to be concentrated liquid malt and hops, capable of curing dyspepsia, strengthening the system, and just the thing for nursing mothers.  Identified on the cards as “Mrs. President Cleveland,” Frances’ image could be obtained by sending 12 coupons obtained — one each — on bottles of “Best” Tonic.

My favorite image of Mrs. Cleveland is the illustration above on a trade card for Ivory Tooth Polish.  Done pointillist style it is a strong representation of the First Lady, one that increases her appeal by showing a few strands of hair out of place.  It clearly was drawn from the photograph shown right.  There Frances is advertising “Seal of North Carolina Plug Cut Tobacco,” claimed to smoke cool, last long, and “not bite the tongue.”  By softening the eyes and providing a fuller mouth, the drawing presents a much handsomer woman.

The Sparks Medicine Company of Camden, New Jersey, found it expedient to use a photo of Frances to advertise its “Sparks’ Perfect Health” nostrum, said to be a remedy for kidney and liver distress.  Dating from about 1885, her image appears on in a transfer printed ironstone plate that likely was available upon submission of coupons.  Issued by the Sparks Medicine Company of Camden, New Jersey, it was designed by Robert H. Payne of another Camden firm, “Porcelain Show Cards.”

The “Lady of the White House” was not done any favors by the Yatisi Corset Company for its trade card picture of her.  She seems intensely absorbed in some task, perhaps getting accustomed to her Yatisi corset, claimed on the back of the card to be “recommended by all the prominent physicians in all the leading cities of the U. States and Canada.” She was, however, guaranteed to to be able to return it after wearing for ten days and have her money refunded.  

A final look at the First Lady is a trade card from W. F.McLaughlin Company, a coffee merchant located in Chicago. William Francis McLaughlin came from Cloneybecan House in county Laois, Ireland, from a well-to-do family and a college graduate.  He started from the bottom in Chicago, however, first selling coffee beans from a wheelbarrow and then from a wagon. He eventually owned several mansions on Rush Street and the family had several estates in Lake Forest. 

The Bad - Florence Evelyn Nesbit.  While the Clevelands likely looked askance at the use of Frances’ face to sell tobacco, toothpaste and corsets, Ms. Nesbit reveled in the ad role.  She was a celebrity, later to be known as “the girl in the red velvet swing,” for her role in sex parties staged by famed architect Standford White.  Her millionaire husband, Harry K. Thaw, subsequently gunned White down in a rooftop restaurant at Madison Square Garden, insuring her notoriety.

At the outset of the 20th Century Nesbit’s figure and face were everywhere, appearing in mass circulation newspaper and magazine advertisements, and on souvenir items and calendars, often in suggestive modes.  The image left, with bare skin and lily was typical of the pose Florence or Evelyn — she answered to either — adopted for doting photographers and artists.

Rainier Beer, by contrast, chose to present Nesbit on a serving platter looking like a “Phi Beta Kappa” graduate of an exclusive girls seminary.  Note her modest garments and her hands folded if in prayer.  The original brewery dates all the way back to 1854 when A.B. Rabbeson opened Washington Brewery, which was Seattle’s first commercial brewing company.  In 1872, Rabbeson renamed his brewery Seattle Brewery.  They launched Rainier beer in 1878. 
It has been said of this damsel:  “By the time of her sixteenth birthday in 1900, Evelyn Nesbit was known to millions as the most photographed woman of her era, an iconic figure who set the standard for female beauty, and whose innocent sexuality was used to sell everything from chocolates to perfume.”  Make that “supposedly innocent.”   As shown here, she could even be used to sell newspapers.   The ad references her role in a 1902 Broadway musical comedy called The Wild Rose.”  It ran 136 performances.

The Shootist — Annie Oakley.   Our final female celebrity had thousands of performances.  Born Phoebe Ann Mosey, Oakley adopted the stage name after being discovered at 15 years old when she won a shooting match with Frank Butler, a nationally known marksman who later became her husband.  After becoming a famous international star, performing before royalty and heads of state, Oakley became a prime ingredient for the advertising mill.

A prime attraction for the Buffalo Bill Wild West show, she was often showcased in the color flyers and broadsides for the extravaganza.  Note that in the upper right of the sheet above, Oakley is shooting while riding a bicycle.  The Sterling Bicycle Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was not long in picking up on that ability and featuring Annie in their ads.  In 1898 Sterling won a silver medal for its “chainless bicycle” at the Trans-Mississippi International Exposition.   Two years later company went bankrupt.

Du Pont, the chemical company of Wilmington, Delaware, also was quick to pick up on the fame of Annie Oakley.  An advertising paperweight showed a gent with five playing cards, each of which had been plugged in an appropriate place by the female sharpshooter.  Her bullets, it suggested, had been with “Lesmok,” ammunition loaded with a substance that was “accurate and clean” with “no corrosive effect.”

A singular difference between Oakley and Nesbit or Folsom is that Annie has continued to be featured in ads.  In the 1950s, for example, she was used to sell Canada Dry ginger ale.   A recent ad, shown here, is from Red Ants Pants, a clothing manufacturer located in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, a town of less than 1,000.  Oakley is presented as a woman who forged the way for those who followed.

Presented here have been three women and three paths to celebrity.   Regardless how they got there — being good, or bad, or a shootist — made no difference to the ad gurus.  Fame was, and still is, the name of the ad game.