At the heart of modern American capitalism lies the consumer. But it wasn't always this way; middle-class American shoppers, primarily women, had to first be educated on the benefits and uses of products. Advertisers and editors at the end of the 19th century worked together to seduce magazine readers with then-new promises of a lifestyle of consumption. Author Garvey examines the sophisticated dynamics of the advertiser-consumer relationship during this pivotal period. She focuses primarily on how admen abandoned traditional boastful copy in favor of a more emotional, feminine appeal and thereby insinuated advertisements into Victorian hearts and homes. These ads blurred the lines between advertising, fiction and fine art, utilizing tactics that would raise eyebrows today. For instance, editors frequently published "puffers," advertisements masquerading as short stories, and justified it as part of the natural union between information and commerce. Also included is an exceptional piece on how advertising reversed longstanding taboos against bicycling for women?in order to sell more bicycles. But the exchange worked both ways; women often took what they wanted from advertising and jettisoned the rest. Garvey clearly knows her subject matter; however, her prose is occasionally dry, and the chapters often read as though they were different articles strung together by a few qualifiers. Nevertheless, The Adman in the Parlor is a fascinating investigation of an often overlooked period in American history when the consumer, and not the thrifty-minded, was first celebrated.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Generously supplied with illustrations, this carefully documented book gives fresh insights into turn-of-the-century America."--Choice
"Combining immense learning and theoretical sophistication, this remarkable book greatly enriches our understanding of early twentieth-century American culture. As Ellen Garvey explores the multiform connections between fiction and advertising, she illuminates a whole catalogue of provocative subjects, including the creation of desire, the consequences of technology for domestic life, the legal and cultural meanings of ownership, and the complex relationships between public and private spheres. Energetic and stylishly-written, The Adman in the Parlor is an important, even an indispensable book."--Peter Conn, University of Pennsylvania
"No scholar has so closely and so fruitfully considered the nexus of advertising, fiction, and reading in the first mass circulation magazines as Ellen Garvey. The Adman in the Parlor helps fill out the idea of 'consumer culture' by tracing the steps by which people learned the meanings of brand named goods and the techniques and language of advertising. This is a satisfyingly rich study, written with honesty and grace."--Richard Ohmann, Wesleyan University
"A rich and innovative study that will be of interest to anyone concerned with late nineteenth and early twentieth century American culture....Garvey offers a fresh and illuminating reading of American magazines at the turn of the century and uses this reading to examine a number of related literary and cultural concerns."--Susan Williams, Ohio State University
"A lively and original look at the ways advertising reshaped everyday life in the United States at the turn of the century, The Adman in the Parlor is full of fascinating details and shrewd observations. It enriches our understanding of a crucial transformation in American `cultural history.'"--Jackson Lears, Rutgers University
"Garvey clearly knows her subject matter....The Adman in the Parlor is a fascinating investigation of an often overlooked period in American history..."--Publishers Weekly
"The Adman in the Parlor makes substantial contributions to both gender and popular culture studies....The Adman in the Parlor is a creative look at the engendering of US consumerism, and it advances needed, novel approaches to the analysis of the mass marketplace. Ellen Garvey opens up new angles on the making and marketing of a gender politics that promised American women the world, but gave them only the store."--Women's Review of Books
"Garvey's many and rich sources suggest material for collections that academic libraries might be building, preserving, and cataloging....The Adman in the Parlor may be read for fun and profit by any librarian who makes purchases, reads magazines, or thinks about American culture."--College and Research Libraries
"In many ways this is an impressive work. The author draws on an extraordinarily wide variety of sources as she examines how advertising came to appear natural and ordinary to readers of magazines-particularly women-in the period 1880-1910."--Victorian Periodicals Review
"This is a well-organized and well-written book. Garvey avoids jargon almost entirely yet clearly understands current gender and literary theory and methodology. This is a considerable achievement, given current academic practice....a valuable resource for museum professionals who organize exhibitions and programs about advertising, magazines, the history of women, and the Victorian era in the United States."--Winterthur Portfolio