Direct Mail Circa 1900 Captures History

Here’s a story of yesterday’s “new” communication methods meeting today’s. In my attic I recently discovered a direct-mail catalog from the late 1800s or early 1900s. Beyond its vintage appeal, the thing I find most fascinating is that the bulk of the copy is dedicated to explaining what the catalog is and why it was sent to the reader. Obviously, people were not accustomed to receiving junk mail way back then. [The full mailer is featured below for your enjoyment.]

Since this piece seemed like it must have been innovative (and expensive) for its time, I looked up George E. Hoar & Son via Google, and in about 15 seconds found an article from The Boston History Company from 1899:

Born in Rhode Island 1826, Mr. Boar traveled all the way to California in the mid 1850s to learn the paper-hanging trade. He was with the first group to cross the pre-canal Isthmus of Panama via railroad in 1856 – and while en route, every man in his party of 50, except for three, were attacked, robbed and killed. After remaining in San Francisco for less than a year, he returned to New England and started his paint and wallpaper business in 1858. As of 1899 he was still alive and kicking and running the company with his son, George W.   

Once you get past the formal language, this artifact from the dawn of direct mail is actually quite a beautiful piece. The cover is a heavy gray-flannel paper, the interior pages a high-quality, glossy paper that hasn’t yellowed much over the years (it looks more discolored in the scan than it does in person). And it was fascinating to see that it still had some information to share over 100 years after it was published. 

It seems direct marketing has stood the test of time…

~ Adam Schnitzler, @aschnitz1 & CCO, The S3 Agency

Adam Schnitzler
Adam schnitzler

Chief Creative Officer & Founding Partner @ The S3 Agency

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