December 19, 2012

Marketing a Merry Christmas

By Patrick McCue
Patrick is working temporarily on the Montana Digital Newspaper Project.
WHILE most people assume that the commercialization of Christmas is a modern phenomenon, I examined the digitized Montana newspapers available at Chronicling America to see if this is true. On December 9, 1865, one Virginia City merchant acknowledged the holiday but without much fanfare. This Frank’s Bakery ad showcases holiday confections, but the adjacent advertisers have not caught on to the season's commercial potential.

Ad in the Montana Post, December 9, 1865
Montana Post, December 9, 1865, p. 3 
A year later, the paper’s editor took it upon himself to direct readers toward an ad for Christmas goods. 

Montana Post, December 22, 1866, p. 8

The editor also offers a distinctly non-commercial message on December 29, 1866:

“Anthems of praise in honor of the sojourn of the Redeemer upon the Earth are this day resounding throughout the world… It is the grand anniversary, compared with which those of nations dwindle into nothingness.”

No references to gifts or reindeer, and no mention of eager children awaiting St. Nick. By the 1880s, things have shifted. Christmas sales are now front-page news, and retailers unabashedly cash in on the holiday spirit. All wares, from garments and toys to jewelry and cigars, are proudly promoted, using creative designs and seasonal slogans. The following ads appeared in the Daily Yellowstone Journal on December 3, 1889.

During the 1890s, Christmas ads begin to appear in November and in greater numbers. This ad sports some clever wordplay: 
Anaconda Standard, November 11, 1897, p. 1

By the new millennium, holiday ads are larger and more sophisticated, as evidenced by these full-page ads from the Fergus County Argus in 1902 and 1904.


Hundreds of ads like these can be found on the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America, where over 54,000 pages of historical Montana newspapers are available for searching and viewing.

December 7, 2012

Acquiring our Collections - The Mulvaney Postcard Collection

Although the Montana Historical Society relies primarily upon donations to build our collections, we occasionally take on the challenge of raising money to purchase large collections that we feel would be significant to the study of Montana history. 
A sample postcard from the Tom Mulvaney Collection.
Recently, we have been presented with and accepted such a challenge. Tom Mulvaney, an East Helena postcard collector, acquired a collection of real-photo and printed postcards over thirty years.  This collection of nearly 32,000 postcards includes cards from 1898 to the 1970s, with the bulk of the collection from pre-1930.  The cards cover a wide variety of topics in Montana history—including mining, agriculture, commerce, western life, and American Indians.  The postcards document the historical landscape of many towns—rural and urban—that still exist and that are no longer part of the Montana landscape.  There are also images of many railroads, both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, main streets and promotional advertising, and Montana artists. 

The Mulvaney Collection provides substantial visual documentation of Montana’s history in the early 20th century.  With many thousands of views illustrating towns and their development; historic events, including strikes and disasters; and appearances by notable personalities, this collection documents many different aspects of Montana history.
Many of the views included in this collection are rare and one-of-a-kind.  The contents of the collection, from both a topical and a format point of view, are very significant to the study and documentation of Montana history.

We look to you, our friends and supporters, for help in acquiring this important collection.  If you are interested in assisting us with this acquisition, visit our webpage for more information.