Skip to main content

Early Advertising

The modern advertising industry really began in the early 1900s. These early advertising images show how companies approached the business of selling products, places, and ideas.
Read full overview|Go to first item

19 exhibition items

View all

About the Images

The modern advertising industry really began in the early 1900s. These early advertising images show how companies approached the business of selling products, places, and ideas in the early 20th century.


The promotion of products, particularly national brands, began to become more prevalent in the early 1900s. Some categories of advertising shown in this group of images are still with us today: cars, cigarettes, and products aimed at homemakers. In California, car dealers and garages used advertising to promote products and services early on. One photograph shows the Lush Garage in Orange promoting Goodrich Tires as the "Best in the Long Run." In 1936, a photographic postcard for the Chevrolet Garage in Pomona offered 12 lube jobs for $6 in time payments. And as another image illustrates, one still-recognizable brand, Schlitz Beer, got on the advertising bandwagon early at an automobile race in 1908.

Photographs of displays from the Westwood Hardware and Furniture Store in 1936 advertise kitchen stoves and camps stoves from Coleman; and Dr. West's toothbrushes, with bristles that "will not get soggy." A 1929 photo shows a baker and two women in costume advertising Piping Pan Cakery Compound in San Diego.

California was linked with oranges for decades, thanks to early promotion by fruit producers. A hand-tinted postcard from 1908 shows two men in an orange orchard. Colorful ads on fruit crates were a popular form of promotion, and California-grown oranges and lemons presented idealistic images of California in their ads. Some examples shown here include the Sonny brand, with an image of a mother reading to her son; Hewes' Transcontinental Brand, with a train roaring across the country; and the Comet Brand, with a shooting star flying over citrus groves and mountains. Cities got into the act as well, and the tourism industry began to employ advertising. The Southern California city of Orange described itself in its 12-page, orange leaf-illustrated brochure as "a charming little city of 9,000 souls" and even had a tag line: "Orange. You’ll like it." In 1936, Gallup, New Mexico, used a postcard to promote its Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial events.

As the United States entered World War II, it sponsored advertising promoting behavior, ideas, and nationalistic sentiments. The billboard "Buy Stamps — Buy Bonds — Bye Bye Japs!" which seems shocking today, encouraged people to buy US savings bonds and help fund US war efforts. In fact, according to a caption by photographer Dorothea Lange, she shot this image on April 29, 1942, the day that 600 Japanese Americans were evacuated to internment camps. Another Lange photograph captured an ad for swimming at the Sutro Baths that also tapped into anti-Japanese sentiment with a derogatory stereotypical image and the tagline "Get in Trim for Fighting Him!"

|Go to first item


"Early Advertising in California" was curated and written by the University of California in 2005.

Using this exhibition:

The text of this exhibition is available under a Creative Commons CC-BY license. You are free to share and adapt it however you like, provided you provide attribution as follows:

Early Advertising in California curated by University of California staff, available under a CC BY 4.0 license. © 2005, Regents of the University of California.