Retailing History: Texts and Images
29 April 2009
12.30 - 13.30 Board Room. Welcome and Lunch
13.30 - 14.00 Jon Stobart, University of Northampton, ‘Exotic or everyday? Advertising groceries in Georgian England’
14.00-14.30 Maggie Walsh, University of Nottingham, ‘Marketing Cars: Women, Advertising and Automobiles in Post war America’
14.30-15.00 David Clampin and Ron Noon, Liverpool John Moores University, ‘Pooh! That’s only advertising’. Mr Cube and the case of political rhetoric at the grocer’s
15.30-16.00 Peter Roberts, Cardiff University, ‘News of the Maker’ in Thomas Nashe
16.00-16.30 Hiroki Shin and Matt Thompson, University of York and National Railway Museum, ‘Commercial Landscape? The Use of Landscape in Railway Publicity, 1900s - 1930s’
16.30-17.00 Maggie Andrews, Staffordshire University, ‘Larkrise to Candleford: nostalgic images of female power in retailing’
The workshop will be held at:
the University of Wolverhampton, UK
Board Room, MA Building, City Campus
For maps, please click here Please make your way to the Main Reception, MA Building, where you will be directed to the Board Room.
Fee: £ 14. To register for the workshop, please complete the registration form available here
For further information, please contact Dr Laura Ugolini, HAGRI / HLSS, Room MC233, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, WV1 1SB, UK.
This paper will discuss the representation of late nineteenth century retailing articulated in the TV drama Larkrise to Candlesford (BBC 2008-9). Although the publicity material for this successful BBC series suggests it chronicles the daily lives of farm workers, craftsmen and gentry in the market town of Candleford and the neighbouring hamlet of Lark Rise, their narratives are filtered, interpreted and judged in the Candleford’s retailing spaces and centrally the post –office which functions as the heart of the community.
Change, and reticence about change, is a reoccurring theme in the Larkrise to Candleford which is invites a range of readings. The significance, indeed poignancy of portraying the central role of a community local post-office at historical juncture when community post-offices are threatened with closure is just one facet of the complexity of representation in this costume drama which offers a nostalgic rejection and implied criticism of the ‘now’ alongside the pleasurable consumption of the past for the programme’s 7 million viewers.
Furthermore it will be suggested that retail spaces are portrayed within the text as both playing with and blurring boundaries between : rural and the urban, the nineteenth and the twentieth century’s and importantly domestic and commercial worlds. Arguably it is this which facilitates a representation of the retailing space as a place of power for women, not as consumers, but as retailers and thus as : employers, property owners, gossips and opinion makers. Consequently it will be argued that the images of retailing in costume drama offer alternative pasts at odd s with those portrayed in histories of the rise of urban consumerism and worthy of study as possibly indicative of neglected strands in contemporary attitudes to consumerism.
The case of Mr Cube, Tate & Lyle’s affable cartoon spokesman, marks an interesting point of departure in the history of British marketing and retailing. In the face of the post-war Labour government’s declared intention to nationalise sugar refining, Tate & Lyle, the country’s largest sugar refiner, designed a cartoon character to take an overtly political message from shop shelves into the private household. Now, as the ‘average’ family sat at their breakfast table, making efforts to sweeten their otherwise drab lifestyle in austerity Britain, their consumption practices were mediated through the clarion call of this avuncular character imploring ‘Tate not State’ and ‘Dear, Dear, Dearer’.
This paper explores this interesting, if not shocking, incident in British marketing practices and questions whether the retail environment was ever the right or legitimate place for political rhetoric. Drawing on the company records of Tate & Lyle, the private polemic of the Advertising Association, debate within the trade press, and the wider public discourse played out in the popular press and within political circles, this paper assesses this challenge to the legitimate role of marketing in post-war Britain.
At the start of his novel The Unfortunate Traveller (1594), Thomas Nashe announces that he has ‘news of the maker’ to purvey. Although this and similar phrases appear in other sixteenth-century texts, none of Nashe’s editors have so far explained them. I hope to demonstrate that Nashe is playing on a tradesman’s street-cry of the kind that he invokes elsewhere in his works. Between 1592 and 1596, Nashe was involved in a printed war of words with the scholar-satirist Gabriel Harvey. Nashe and Harvey’s differing uses of these slogans acts as an index to their differing satirical strategies. Nashe’s displays his willing self-advertisement as a ‘maker’ or artificer, happy to present his art in terms of retail and commerce. I hope also to touch on the wider context of the social status of itinerant street-vendors, and the implications of Nashe’s claiming such a role. In addition, I hope to explore representations of ‘hawkers’ and their slogans in the texts and visual art of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including Marcellus Laroon’s series of prints Cryes of the City of London (1687).
This paper attempts to place the use of landscape in railway companies' commercial culture and their publicity policy. From the 1890s a huge number of railway publicity materials featuring landscapes were produced and widely distributed. However, these publicity campaigns have occupied an uneasy place between the history of transport and the history of tourism since, on the one hand, the actual effect that these materials had on the promotion of particular places was difficult to measure in objective terms (Ward 1998, 31-2). On the other hand, the publicity’s contribution to the volume of passenger traffic is also not yet clear (Simmons 1991, 258). Thus, these promotional efforts by the railway companies have been treated mostly in the context of commercial art, or used to illustrate the proliferation of popular tourism (Cole and Durack 1992).
Recent developments in the cultural interpretation of business history give us a new way to analyse and evaluate railway publicity (Watts 2004; Harrington 2004; Bennett 2000). This paper emphasises the importance of the commercial culture of railway companies, for it provides the basic assumptions about their treatment of landscape. The commercial culture itself was created, intentionally or unintentionally, through the situation in which the railways were placed - in the case of the early twentieth century it was calibrated to enhance discretionary passenger travel under severe competition (Divall and Revill 2005). As such, the treatment and the presentation of landscape and locations could have a significant strategic meaning.
Although there was a common general direction, the commercial culture was expressed in different ways from company to company. Sometimes, conflicting views were generated within a company. How was the relationship between the commercial and aesthetic imperative negotiated? Some preliminary answers will be made through examination of the publicity materials of major railway companies in the early twentieth century - chiefly the Great Western Railway (GWR) and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS).
Bennett, Alan David. 2000. ‘The Great Western Railway and the Celebration of Englishness’. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of York.
Cole, Beverley, and Richard Durack. 1992. Railway Posters, 1923-1947: From the Collection of the National Railway Museum, York, England. New York.
Divall, Colin, and George Revill. 2005. ‘Cultures of transport: Representation, practice and technology’. Journal of Transport History 26.1: 99-111.
Harrington, Ralph. 2004. ‘Beyond the bathing belle: images of women in inter-war railway publicity’. Journal of Transport History 25.1: 22-45.
Simmons, Jack. 1991. The Victorian Railway. London.
Ward, Stephen V. 1998. Selling Places: The Marketing and Promotion of Towns and Cities, 1850-2000. London.
Watts, D.C.H. 2004. ‘Evaluating British railway poster advertising: the London & North Eastern Railway between the wars’. Journal of Transport History 25.2: 23-56.
Advertising became an increasingly important aspect of retailing through the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century, not least as the range of printed media steadily expanded. Three modes of advertising stand out: notices placed in the growing number of local newspapers; trade cards and bill heads (often illustrated); and, from the early nineteenth century, advertisements placed within trade directories (Berg and Clifford, 2007). Drawing on examples of these different media from a range of towns across the country, this paper starts by assessing the extent to which grocers were engaged in such promotional activities. I argue that, alongside others selling fashionable and novel goods, they were amongst the most avid advertisers, particularly by the late eighteenth century. Building on this, I then offer a detailed analysis of the form, content, language and imagery used in grocers’ advertisements, focusing especially on the ways in which the goods are linked to notions and practicalities of empire and international trade. It is possible to draw a distinction between the intensely visual imagery of trade cards and directory advertisements, and the more prosaic lists of goods that characterise notices in newspapers. The former tended to play much more on the exotic nature of the products being sold. Colonial and neo-colonial references were prominent, often in the form of Chinese motifs. The latter, meanwhile, were often framed around more practical issues of supply, quality and price. That said, the picture was more complex than this simple dichotomy would allow, with the exotic and the everyday placed alongside one another in all forms of advertising. The consumer was thus simultaneously situated in the world economy and their own consumption milieu.
This paper examines a neglected aspect of the history of the automobile in the United States by focusing on the marketing of motor vehicles to women in the years after 1945. There is a remarkable dearth of published research on women’s access to and use of automobiles. In part this results from the paucity of written historical records about individual patterns of mobility. The rapid increase in cars on American roads, particularly after the Second World War created an abundance of drivers and passengers who have not documented their personal mobility because it was ‘taken for granted’. Even those who have left memoirs, diaries or advice manuals may not be typical or representative drivers and passengers.
There is, however, a wealth of iconography in journals and some archival material about advertising automobiles. These images and their accompanying texts offer insights into how manufacturers and marketers viewed the female audience, and when they came to recognise women as important purchasers of cars as well as consumers of automobility. They can also suggest how women were influenced by the messages embedded in the advertisements. This social and cultural approach to gendered car sales in the United States is intertwined with an understanding how and why the motor vehicle was regarded as a masculine technology. Car advertisements and their appeal to women is an essential part re-visioning the history of American automobility.
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Page author: Laura Ugolini
Last updated: March 2009