Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865-1920

By James D. Norris | Go to book overview
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You induce people to use more things than they naturally desire--the more useless and undesirable the article, the greater the advertising effort needed to dispose of it. . . . It follows, of course, that advertising men thrive most richly in the service of utterly useless commodities like tobacco or under-arm pastes, or in a field where there is a hopeless plethora of goods, such as soap or whiskey.

-- Michael Wilde's oration in Herman Wouk Aurora Dawn; Or The True Story of Andrew Reale, 111

If national advertising proved less successful than might have been expected in winning brand loyalty and significantly increasing the total demand for beer, the advertising agencies could take great delight in the success of tobacco advertising campaigns. Throughout the period from 1870 to 1921, tobacco consumption displayed a long-term secular increase. Per capita consumption more than doubled from 2.9 pounds in 1870 to 7.18 pounds in 1920. However, the patterns of usage shifted. For example, in 1870 the United States produced about 30 cigars for every inhabitant. By the turn of the century, this had increased to approximately 73 per person--a figure that would increase only slightly during the next two decades. On the other hand, only one cigarette for every six persons was produced in 1870, and it was not until 1910 that the United States produced and consumed more cigarettes than cigars (see Figure 6.1). Most important, cigarette smoking increased, but cigar smoking did not decrease. Indeed, cigar consumption peaked in 1917 before it began a slow, but steady, decline. On the other hand, cigarette smoking experienced a consistent and remarkable growth from almost nothing in 1870 to nearly 500 per capita in 1919.1 Most important, the increase in cigarette smoking came not from converted cigar smokers but from new users, and no small portion of this growth in the


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