Though it's difficult to fathom today, advertising existed a long time before the first television or radio commercial was aired. In the very early days, advertisements were nothing more than verbal exchanges from one person to the next. However, the decades have spawned new forms of advertising media such as television, radio, magazines, newspapers, the Internet, and promotional items.
The earliest advertisements were public announcements made by vendors with goods or services to sell. As time went on, people began to add illustrations and large type to their signs in order to grab people’s attention and bring more business. However, these were not used solely for business; sometimes they were used to convince people to capture escaped slaves. There was very little regulation of ads during this period and people could easily write anything—whether it was true or not.
In the nineteenth-century, a popular type of advertisement was the broadside. These were single sheets printed for use on walls, buildings, or fences. They were written in large print and printed on white paper to make the black ink especially eye-catching. Most broadsides relied heavily on font size rather than illustrations to attract attention. Broadsides were used to advertise everything from farm land to insurance to appliances.
Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Political Cartoons
Political cartoons in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century were incredibly influential. At one point, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast was able to get a politician named William Tweed fired from his job and thrown in jail! Most people relied on newspapers to provide them with facts, so they typically believed whatever was printed; this gave cartoonists extra liberties because there was very little regulation involved in publishing them. Typical political cartoons of this time period displayed blatant racism and ridiculed politicians and public figures.
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