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(Top, right) Fatima cigarettes, April 5, 1913: “This [illustrates] how the [magazine] really focused on men. What’s really interesting about the thesis ad is that a lot of cigarette companies saw cigarettes as a way to help your thinking and to get rid of stress. Also, the whole motif of Fatima cigarettes [including the depiction of a veiled woman on the package] was male-oriented, and it fits into the whole history of Orientalism in American society—the stereotypical idea of seduction and life’s secret pleasures coming from the Near East.”

(Above) Chesterfields, June 1, 1937: “In the 1930s it was
more acceptable for a woman to be smoking. This is a more traditional kind of ad for cigarettes. You’re in a clear country atmosphere, which is ironic. And there’s this association of cigarettes with relaxation and fun and open air.”

 

 

Turning the brittle pages of the alumni magazine’s oldest issues, one notices many things: perhaps first, the headache-inducing fumes of the old binding glue, then maybe a curious photograph of men in white gymnasium suits performing a dance drill for physical-education class, and then, surely, at least one of the ads for burlap flour bags, photo-plays, or flat clasp garters.

From the florid copy of the Walnut Street Theatre in 1905, promising “great, flaming, glaring pictures” of the Chicago Board of Trade in its upcoming matinee, The Pit, to pronouncements during the Roaring Twenties that Penn’s athletes drink Gold Medal Milk while training, the old advertisements in their sum recall a different era for the world, the University, and the Gazette’s alumni readership.

Dr. Joseph Turow, professor of communications at the Annenberg School for Communication and an expert on advertising, agreed to peruse a sampling of ads from the Gazette’s earliest days to more contemporary times, and provide some impromptu comments.

“One overarching kind of phenomenon I saw is a movement of Penn from being a kind of upscale, local university to a nationally important place with far-flung, upscale alumni. Also,” he says, “it seems the Gazette was very much a male-oriented magazine, with women basically being [looked upon as] ornamentation or the responsibility of the man to take care of. Despite the fact that women were at Penn” during the early 20th century, “one would read the Gazette as not having anything to do with them, at least from the ads.

In the magazine’s earlier days, he adds, “I believe many of the ads were put there to show support for the university and its alumni magazine rather than to sell products and services. I think you have less of that now. It’s a much more targeted medium for advertisers that’s designed to sell things. A sense of local community has been lost” with Penn’s entrance to the Ivy League Network, “and the assumption is that this is a much more cosmopolitan group of people”—both men and women—“whom major advertisers are interested in reaching.”

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By Susan Frith
 

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Copyright 2002 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 11/04/02