Hundred-Year-Old Food Advertisements Poem

Source: American Cookery (October, 1917)

When I saw this poem in a hundred-year-old issue of American Cookery Magazine, I had an immediate negative reaction. Did the magazine’s editors really think that they could convince consumers that everything in food advertisements was true? Didn’t cooks back then realize that the purpose of advertisements was to sell food, not to provide the most accurate information?

Then I thought –

Even though I’m cynical about advertising, I read food ads.  They must have value to me. Soon I was pondering,  “Why do I read food ads?”

Here’s the reasons, I came up with:

  • Food advertisements are fun to read.
  • I like to laugh at how over the top some ads are.
  • I read them to learn about new products.
  • I read them to find “good deals.”

Hmm . . . maybe the old magazine was  right, “food ads help me out so much.”

26 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Food Advertisements Poem

  1. Don’t forget that sources of information weren’t nearly so prevalent a century ago. When I was growing up, my mother waited for her magazines with great anticipation. New recipes were in those magazines, and information about new products. I was seven years old before we got a television, and when my mother was growing up, there was no television, period. Radio was around, but newspapers and magazines were the only ways for her and her friends to get information. The recipes that were swapped didn’t come from a web site. They were hand-written, on index cards or a scrap of paper. Even the fund-raising cookbooks created by church groups and such were only just beginning to be produced.

    When I was taking Home Ec, in the late 50’s, many of our projects were magazine-based: including one that included research on which homemaking magazines were most popular, which were considered to have the best recipes, and so on. And people treasured them. The thought of clipping a recipe out of a magazine was a horror!

    1. Your comment bring back wonderful memories of family gatherings where someone would be sitting at the kitchen table copying a favorite recipe onto an index card.

  2. I chuckled at the Pollyanna attitude of the poem, so your analysis of it took me by surprise. I would’t have thought about it at all. Thanks for letting me see it through your eyes.

  3. I was thinking just what Quilt32 was. Sponsored, of course, by the magazine. Sheryl, I don’t think I ever knew: Do you get this info online or from the library? Do you have access to the actual physical magazine? microfilm? (It that even still exists 🙂 Just curious.

  4. “The trademark is a guard;”

    I especially like the above line from the poem. It quietly tells you, little lady, to hush up and get on with buying our products. I can understand why you like reading the old food ads. Dare I say? They’re food for thought. 😉

  5. Other than snake oil salesmen, I feel like the food then must’ve had less extra stuff in it. Whether or not the copy was up to today’s standards is another thing entirely. The other point is the sort of value it provides. There is something to be said for entertainment value.

    1. And, entertainment value was probably an even more important reason for reading ads in the days before radio, television, the internet, facebook, etc.

  6. I don’t read food ads, but I do follow some of those recipe hints to the actual recipe and lately I’ve even been trying some and they’ve turned out well. Gives my in a rut meal planning a change.

    1. Like you, I enjoy trying new things (or in my case, it’s generally actually old things). It’s always wonderful to get out of the meal planning rut.

  7. If anything food ads tend to catch my attention, but they are ‘dangerous’ to watch late at night on TV … I tend to get hungry and soon approach the fridge 🙂

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