Selling a Brand

The concept of branding changed advertising. Branded products expanded from patent medicines to everything else with the invention of pre-packaging. Before 1860, you brought your own bin for the grocer to fill up with flour or coffee or whatever. By 1920, grocers stocked their shelves with pre-packed boxes advertising competing brands.

Now the seller’s game was to convince you to switch to their particular version of a product. Advertising became more about attracting attention than providing information.

Advertising calendar

Chromolithograph advertising calendar; 10 inches tall x 20 inches wide (laid flat). 1904. MCHS document. This gorgeous freestanding calendar advertises the Heydt Bakery Co. in St. Louis. Note that butterfly-children have nothing to do with baked goods. Heydt provided these advertising calendars to local distributors. This one is stamped “Albert E. Hosto, Dealer in General Merchandise, Alhambra, Ill.”

Catching the eye became a “bigger is better” proposition in some cases:

By 1900, many sellers no longer wrote their own ad copy. Instead they hired professional advertising agencies to write ads for them. Advertising psychology favored short, snappy, imperative slogans.

Massey milk bottle

Massey Dairy Inc. milk bottle; 7-1/2 inches tall. 1914. MCHS object 2013-058-0004. Massey Dairy tells the consumer what to do (“Try Massey homogenized milk”) and follows it up with the snappy slogan “Taste Tells.”

Advertising scorecard

Massey Bros. Dairy advertising scorecard; 5 inches tall. Circa 1950s. MCHS document. This bottle-shaped scorecard advertising Massey Bros. Dairy dates several decades after the milk bottle above. The dairy has tightened its message to “Drink More Milk.” The ditty on the back (“You Can Whip Our Cream But You Can’t Beat Massey Milk”) was used by countless dairies across the United States for decades.


Stolze Lumber Co. wood-mounted thermometer; 12 inches tall. Circa 1920s. MCHS object. “We Want Your Business”: can’t argue with that.