American Magazine Advertising 1904 – These Companies Are Still Around 117 Years Later

Part I – Advertising From The Century Magazine October 1904

Companies That Have Survived

Whitman's chocolate ad 1904

Whitman’s chocolate as it was advertised in 1904. The company was started in Philadelphia in 1842 by Stephen Whitman. In 1877 he began to box chocolates. Russell Stover Candies is the current owner.

While browsing through The Century Magazine issue for October 1904 I couldn’t help but notice the advertisements.

While a great many of the firms are out of business, a surprising number are still around today. For part one we will look at the ads of the companies that are still here in 2021. They’ve survived different owners, mergers and changing public tastes. It’s interesting to see how these enduring products once portrayed themselves with strong images or many words or a combination of the two.

Let’s have a look.

We may not have servants drawing baths for us now, but you can still buy a bar of Pears’ Soap and give yourself a bath. Founded in 1807, the worldwide company is now run by Unilever.

Swifdt's Bacon and Ham ad 1904Swift has been around since 1855. The company still makes bacon and ham and is now owned by JBS USA. They are the number two global pork producer.

Rookwood Pottery began creating artistic pottery in 1880 and the company ceased production in 1967. They  started operations again in 2004 retaining the molds and glazes from their heyday before the Great Depression. Their pottery is still avidly collected.

Though you may not recognize Peter’s Swiss Milk Chocolate, they have been in business since 1867. Anyone who loves milk chocolate should give thanks to Daniel Peter. of Vevey Switzerland the founder of Peter’s and  inventor of the process.  Peter’s is now owned by the huge food conglomerate Cargill, Incorporated.

Libby's ad 1904“If it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s on the label, label, label you will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table.” Anyone watching television in the 1970s remembers the memorable jingle featured in Libby’s ads. Libby’s (founded 1869) thankfully no longer makes potted tongue, Melrose pate or veal loaf, they still do make juices, canned meats and other consumable products. They are owned by a Swiss holding group.

Royal baking Powder ad 1904Royal Baking Powder’s ad is simple and direct. Since most Americans prepared their own food at home a century ago, baking powder was a household necessity. Two brothers Joseph Christoffel Hoagland and Cornelius Nevius Hoagland started Royal in 1866. After many mergers, the company is currently owned by Nabisco, a subsidiary of Mondelez International.

SC Johnson wax ad 1904S.C. Johnson is a rarity among our featured ads. They are owned and run by the family that started the company in 1886. As their website notes, “Five generations of the Johnson family have led SC Johnson. Our current Chairman and CEO, Fisk Johnson, is the great-great-grandson of the founder. Fisk joined the company in 1987 and has been Chairman since 2000.”

And  of course they still make floor wax.

Horlick's maled milk adHorlick’s Malted Milk began business in 1873 in Chicago. Two years later they moved to Racine, WI., where S.C. Johnson would later form their company.  Wisconsin’s farms offered an abundant milk supply for producing Horlick’s malted milk as a nutritional supplement in a variety of forms. The Racine based Horlick’s was closed by its parent company GlaxoSmithKline in 1975. The product is still produced by Unilever and can be found in many parts the world including the U.K..

Steinway ad 1904Since 1853 Steinway has produced handcrafted, expensive pianos. Lots of words in this Steinway ad. How else can you sell a Steinway without seeing the superior workmanship or hearing the clear tones of the piano? Sell the reputation. This spinet could be purchased for $500. In 1904, that was about a half year’s salary for a city worker. Today, Steinway is owned by a hedge fund, Paulson & Co..

King Gillette made millions from his safety razor, specifically the insertable disposable blades that made his invention so unique in 1901. The ad offers “free shaves for 30 days” trying to convince readers to switch from using a straight razor, another brand  or still going to the barber for a shave.

domino sugar ad 1904Domino Sugar has its roots firmly plated in New York City. In 1802 William and Frederick Havemeyer founded the company that would one day manufacture the Domino Sugar brand beginning in 1901. Domino is still the largest sugar company in the United States.

Hart, Schaffner & Marx has been manufacturing fine men’s clothing since 1884. They are now owned by Authentic Brands Group.

If you can believe it Union Carbide is trying to convince people to use acetylene gas to illuminate their residences, stores, churches,halls, clubs, villages and towns. Apparently many Americans lived far away enough from a city gas or electric plant to make this a viable alternate lighting source. Union Carbide founded in 1898 has been owned by Dow Chemical Company since 2001. It’s interesting that Cadillac in many of their early advertising campaigns chooses to not show their cars. In this ad the transmission that powers an 8¼ horsepower motor is pictured. The fact that it took only five hours and thirty eight minutes to travel 144 miles of hilly, rough roads is something to be proud of. No wonder there were scoffers yelling at auto owners, “Get a horse!”

Ostermoo mattress ad 1904Mattresses have evolved over the last 117 years. I would hope that no one now sleeps on a mattress “stuffed with the hair of dead horses and cattle.” as some of Ostermoor & Co.’s competitors seem to utilize in their mattresses. Ostermoor & Co is a brand still in business that I had  never heard of and have been making luxury mattresses since 1853.

Grape Nuts ad 1904The Grape-Nuts ad says something we know to be true: “Troubles.” Eat crap you will feel like crap and not be able to crap. In ten days you’ll feel a lot better eating a daily serving of Grape-Nuts and you won’t be so constipated.

Grape-Nuts was first made by C.W. Post in 1897. With more people concerned about eating  healthy these days, the brand does not have “push” the product as it once did.

Prudential Life Insurance Godl Saving Bonds Ad 1904Prudential Insurance, “The Rock” has been providing life insurance and investment advice since 1875. They don’t offer “Gold Bonds” for $10,000 anymore. They are currently the largest insurance company in the United States.

Munsing Underwear was founded in 1887 by George Munsing. Even talking about underwear was hush-hush back then. Imagine 17 years later they’d be showing pictures of it in magazines! These models are revealing quite a bit of themselves. Nobody today would understand the hubbub ads like this created. Underwear is still sold the same way except the photos are a lot more…risque? Munsingwear is currently owned by Perry Ellis.

Van CAmp's Pork & BeansHans and Lena, the Van Camp kids are featured in this pork and beans ad. Van Camp’s was founded in 1882 by Gilbert Van Camp who had success selling canned food during the Civil War. His son Frank Van Camp came up with recipe for their famous Van Camp’s Pork and Beans  in 1894. ConAgra currently owns Van Camp’s.

Ivory soap ad 1904Apparently Ivory soap was selling so well in 1904 the company had to point out other uses for the product. Here they tell readers that Ivory can be used to clean oil paintings safely. Ivory was first sold by Proctor & Gamble in 1879 and is still manufactured by them today.

Next, is Part II are more advertisements from the October 1904 Century Magazine featuring products that have vanished from store shelves.

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