Turning the Century: Essays in Media and Cultural Studies

By Carol A. Stabile | Go to book overview

advertising, which in turn causes increased consumption of a specific new product. Is it really so simple to create a market for a commodity, the use of which necessitates a change in such culturally embedded practices as tobacco consumption? None of the business practices mentioned above can be overlooked in examining how it was that sales of Duke cigarettes -- and cigarettes in general -- rose so dramatically in the 1880s. Yet it is advertising methods and messages, not technologies, that expanded markets and spurred consumption.

Whether or not any individual advertisement is effective in convincing consumers to buy a particular product, advertising's more general contribution to culture -- creating associations between commodities and specific values or ideals -- is evident, and in no case is this clearer than in that of cigarettes. This chapter traces the cultural meanings cigarettes carried when they were initially introduced into American culture, and how these meanings, because they were inconsistent with building mass markets for the product, were changed in large part through advertising. In making this argument I have concentrated on the ways in which early cigarette advertisements drew from existing discourses of gender, modernity, and race to create particular associations between cigarettes and ideals of masculinity and femininity. However, it is also important to note that the ads themselves entered into, and became part of, these same discourses. Indeed, in order to comprehend the full impact of advertising in our lives, it is crucial to consider the ways in which cultural categories such as gender, race, and modernity are often refracted, in no small part through the lens of the commodity.


Notes
1
From "The Fragrant Cigarette."
2
Porter and Livesay 1971, 201.
3
Enrico 1999,42.
4
See Knapp ( 1988) and Klein ( 1993).
5
Most histories of cigarette advertising begin around 1911, when R. J. Reynolds intro- duced Camels, along with important innovations in manufacture and marketing, and cig- arettes began to outsell all other tobacco products ( Strasser 1989, 172; see also Schudson 1984, 178-208).
6
Cigarette manufacturers in the United States also created markets in Europe and China, a significant development not addressed in this chapter.
7
Although I am sympathetic to the argument that the link between advertising and sales is not self-evident, I am convinced by Richard Ohmann's contention that at the turn of the century, advertising did help build markets for new commodities by establishing brand names and creating distinctions between similar products. See Ohmann 1996, 91-94.
8
Duke moved his business operations to New York in the early 1880s. As discussed in greater detail later in this chapter, Duke's sales accounted for one-third of the market by 1889. In that year, the Duke firm bought out all of its major competitors and formed a trust, the American Tobacco Company, which was dissolved under the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1911.
9
"Smoking tobacco" referred exclusively to tobacco smoked in pipes.

-117-

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