Selling Technology

Advertising Index Page

Adams, Judith A.  “Promotion of New Technology Through Fun and Spectacle: Electricity at the World’s Columbian Exposition.”  Journal of American Culture 18:2 (Summer 1995): 45-55.

Altman, Karen E.  “Television as Gendered Technology: Advertising the American Television Set.”  Journal of Popular Film and Television 17:2 (1989): 46-56.

Baughman, James L.  “The Frustrated Persuader: Fairfax M. Cone and the Edsel Advertising Campaign, 1957-59.” In The Other Fifties.  Joel Foreman, ed.  Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

        This essay makes use of agency records and Cone’s personal papers to examine the failed campaign to market the Ford Edsel in the late 1950s.  According to Baughman, several factors explain the lack of response to the new model automobile and Cone’s inability to sell it.  Even in the era of chrome and tail fins, consumers were attracted to more than image.  The Esdel was only unique in its appearance.  As Baughman notes, it was “a Ford or Mercury in costume.”  The ad campaign generated a lot in interest and the ads themselves were well regarded, but people did not buy the cars. Baughman uses this to point out first that the power of advertising to shape consumer behavior is limited; you cannot sell Americans something they ultimately do not want.  He also chides 1950s-era critics of advertising, like Vance Packard and John Kenneth Galbraith, for overestimating the power of advertising for mischief in American society. 

Behling, Laura L.  “The Woman at the Wheel: Marketing Ideal Womanhood, 1915-1934.”  Journal of American Culture 20:3 (1997): 13-30.

Brewer, Patricia J.  “We Have Got a Very Good Cooking Stove: Advertising, Design, and Consumer Response to the Cookstove, 1815-1880.” Winterthur Portfolio 25 (1990): 35-54.

Buerglener, Robert. “Driving Ambitions: Charles Roswell Henry and the Changing Status of the Early Automobile Consumer.” Michigan Historical Review 37 (Fall 2011): 79–98.

Carlat, Louis.  “A Cleanser for the Mind: Marketing Radio Receivers for the American Home, 1922-1932.”  In His and Hers: Gender, Consumption, and Technology, Roger Horowitz and Arwen Mohun, eds.  Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.

    This essay is helpful both to advertising historians and scholars studying the spread of radio into the American home in the inter-war period.  Carlatt discusses what he considers the feminization of radio technology that allowed it to be marketed successfully as an appliance for the home and, eventually, something of an expression of style or design.  Early radio technology tended to be home-made and difficult to use correctly, which made it more likely to be a hobby for males, at leas according to conventional wisdom.  Companies that sold radio equipment realized in the 1920s that ideally women would become consumers of radio and the device would move from the basement or garage to the family room or parlor.  To do this, radio designers had to make the gadgets easier to use and more attractive.  They devised pushbutton tuning, preset knobs, and easy-to-use volume control.  They also packaged the technology inside elaborate wooden cabinets or stylish modern packages.  Radio was also pitched as a sophisticated device that allowed the middle-class housewife access to classical music and the latest news and ideas.  Carlatt argues that RCA in particular was extremely successful in changing radio from an amateur’s box of wires to a central component of the stylish American home.

Clarke, Sally H.  Trust and Power: Consumers, the Modern Corporation, and the Making of the United States Automobile Market.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Corn, Joseph.  “Selling Technology: Advertising Films and the American Corporation, 1900-1920.”  Film and History 11:3 (1981): 49-58.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz.  More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technologies from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz.  “The Consumption Junction: A Proposal for Research Strategies in the Sociology of Technology.”  In The Social Construction of Technological Systems, ed. Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, and Trevor J. Pinch.  Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987.

De la Pena, Carolyn Thomas.  The Body Electric: How Strange Machines Built the Modern American.  New York: NYU Press, 2005.

Einstein, Arthur W.  “Ask the Man Who Owns One”: An Illustrated History of Packard Advertising.  Jefferson: McFarland, 2010.

Gansky, Paul. “Frozen Jet Set: Refrigerators, Media Technology, and Postwar Transportation.” Journal of Popular Culture 48:1 (2015): 73-85.

George, Leigh.  “The Sun’s Only Rival:  General Electric’s Mazda Trademark and the Marketing of Electric Light.”  Design Issues 19 (Winter 2003): 62-71.

Gerl, Ellen J., and Craig L. Davis.  “Selling Detroit on Women: Women’s Day and Auto Advertising, 1964-82.”  Journalism History 38:4 (Winter 2013): 209-220.

Godley, Andrew.  “Selling the Sewing Machine Around the World: Singer’s International Marketing Strategies, 1850-1920.”  Enterprise & Society 7:2 (June 2006): 266-314.

Hadlaw, Jan. “Saving Time and Annihilating Space: Discourses of Speed in AT&T Advertising, 1909-1929.” Space and Culture 14:1 (2011): 85-113.

Hensley, J.  “Selling the Blast: DuPont’s Agricultural Explosives Advertising, 1902-1920.”  Delaware History 22:2 (1986): 99-110.

Laird, Pamela Walker.  “A Car Without a Single Weakness: Early Automobile Advertising.”  Technology and Culture 37:4 (1996): 796-812.

Lieberman, Hallie.  “Selling Sex Toys: Marketing and the Meaning of Vibrators in Early Twentieth-Century America.”  Enterprise & Society 17:2 (June 2016): 393-433.

Nickles, Shelley.  “Preserving Women: Refrigerator Design as Social Progress in the 1930s.” Technology & Culture 43:4 (October 2002): 693-727.

Parkin, Katherine.  “Driving Home Class Status: Women and Car Advertising in the United States.”  Advertising & Society Quarterly 20:2 (2019). 

Penner, Barbara.  “The Cornell Kitchen: Housing and Design Research in Postwar America.”  Technology and Culture 59:1 (January 2018): 48-94.

Prelinger, Megan.  Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race, 1957-1962.  New York: Blast Books, 2010.

Rieger, Bernhard.  “From People’s Car to New Beetle: The Transatlantic Journeys of the Volkswagen Beetle.”  Journal of American History 97:1 (June 2010): 91-115.

Roberts, Peter.  Any Color So Long as Its Black: The First Fifty Years of Automobile Advertising.  New York: Morrow, 1976.

Rose, Mark.  Cities of Light and Heat: Domesticating Gas and Electricity in Urban America.  University Park: Penn State University Press, 1995.

Rowsome Jr., Frank.  Think Small: The Story of Those Volkswagen Ads. Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Greene Press, 1971.

Scharff. Virginia.  Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age.  New York: Free Press, 1991.

Schorman, Rob. “‘This Astounding Car for $1,500’: The Year Automobile Advertising Came of Age.” Enterprise & Society 11 (September 2010): 468–523.

Scott, Peter, and James T. Walker.  “Bringing Radio into America’s Homes: Marketing New Technology in the Great Depression.”  Business History Review 90:2 (June 2016): 251-276.

Snow, Rachael. “Tourism and American Identity: Kodak’s Conspicuous Consumers Abroad.” Journal of American Culture 31:1 (2008): 7-19.

Spaulding, Hannah.  “Reach Out and Watch Someone: Televisuality, Gender, and the Short Life of the Picturephone.” Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 60:5 (2021): 150-173.

Strasser, Susan.  “The Convenience is Out of This World: The Garbage Disposal and American Consumer Culture” in in Getting and Spending: European and American Consumer Societies in the Twentieth Century, Susan Strasser,, eds.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Thompson, Emily.  “Machines, Music, and the Quest for Fidelity: Marketing the Edison Phonograph in America, 1887-1925.” Musical Quarterly 79 (Spring 1995): 131.

Tobey, Ronald C.  Technology as Freedom: The New Deal and the Electrical Modernization of the American Home.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Vesentini, Andrea.  “It’s Cool Inside: Advertising Air Conditioning in Postwar Suburbia.”  American Studies 55/56:4/1 (2017): 91-117.

Volek, Thomas W.  “Examining Radio Receiver Technology Through Magazine Advertising in the 1920s and 1930s.”  Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1991.

Wajcman, Judy.  Feminism Confronts Technology. University Park: Penn State University Press, 1991.  Chapter 4, “Domestic Technology: Labor Saving or Enslaving?”

West, Nancy Martha.  Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia.  Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2000.

Williams, James C.  “Getting Housewives the Electric Message: Gender and Energy Marketing in the Early Twentieth Century” in in His and Hers: Gender, Consumption, and Technology, Roger Horowitz and Arwen Mohun, eds.  Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.

Williams, Jim.  Boulevards Photographic: The Art of Automotive Advertising.  Osceola, Wis.: Motorbooks International, 1997.

Witkowski, Terrence H.  “Visualizing Winchester: A Brand History Through Iconic Western Images.” Journal of Historical Research in Marketing 10:4 (2018): 383-419.

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