American Jewess History

Historical Introduction to the American Jewess Project
The advertising pages of any publication are rich historical sources that provide a window into the culture of an era. It is through these documents that researchers and interested parties can learn about the vast array of products that have been presented to various groups over time. From an anthropological perspective, advertisements reveal the tools employed by a society, and the manner in which people have been lured to purchase them. They exhibit the values of diverse niches, and show the ways in which advertisements helped shape culture.
Despite the significance of advertisements as cultural indicators and historical sources, there are few digital collections that offer researchers a comprehensive grouping of advertising pages from a specific publication. As one inquires further into the past, the number of collections dwindles further. It is as a necessary first step in the direction of creating digital collections of advertisements that I propose the American Jewess Advertisements digital collection. In the forty five issues of the American Jewess, 264 advertisements are featured. Twenty out of the 264 ads are self promotions for The American Jewess, some of which appeal to potential subscribers and other to advertisers. All of these advertisements will be included on this site. This collection will also include advertisements from the Ladies’ Home Journal that were placed by advertisers who also appeared in the American Jewess. These advertisements demonstrate the contrast between marketing designed for a mainstream American women’s magazine, and those intended for a Jewish women’s periodical.
The American Jewess magazine was a monthly publication that was published between 1895 and 1899, by a well known St. Louis club woman named Rosa Sonneschein. The magazine was directed at an acculturating Jewish female readership, which was mostly of German descent. These women were largely second or third generation Americans, whose families had achieved middle class status. These women read in English, and could obviously afford to spare ten cents to purchase each issue of the magazine.
The advertisements in the American Jewess are especially significant for several reasons. In 1895, the conception of The American Jewess magazine offered advertisers a unique opportunity to reach Jewish women, through the pages of an English language periodical. Sonneschein published The American Jewess at a time in which the American economy was transforming in ways which gave the practice of advertising increased significance. “The last decades of the nineteenth century saw the emergence of the ‘modern corporation,’ which sought to attract and retain consumers through new forms of packaging, marketing and advertising.” Additionally, in the 1870’s new industries such as cosmetics, women’s ready made clothing, and resorts, emerged and targeted women specifically. Concurrent with these developments was the rise of major American department stores. With the increase in competition, and the rise of national brands, came a heightened desire on the part of manufacturers and corporations to inform women about their products.
Yet, into the late 19th century, many women’s magazine editors felt that advertising revenue was a disreputable method of financing a publication.
Unlike editors of certain popular American mainstream ladies magazines such as Godey’s Lady’s Book, Rosa Sonneschein accepted advertisements as her primary source of finance. In 1896, she hired Lucien Bonheur, a woman who was well connected in Jewish philanthropic and business circles in New York, as her business manager. Bonheur increased the magazine’s earnings by seeking out new advertisers. Readers of The American Jewess were presented with a wide variety of advertisements for household items, children’s clothing, shoes, books, home maintenance, food, beauty, fashion, medicine, beverages, insurance, vacations, literature, and language schools. Despite the fact that The American Jewess was a self proclaimed religious periodical, the advertisers appealed to Sonneschein’s readership as women, offering them the possibility of purchasing acculturation into the American middle class ideal. However, with the rise of popular mainstream women’s magazines by the end of the 19th century, such as the Ladies’ Home Journal, the American Jewess lost a great deal of advertising revenue as advertisers turned to other women’s publications, who had begun accepting advertisements.
Quaker Oats Company, for instance, advertised in The American Jewess, yet by 1900, this brand had begun a campaign that was designed to target broader audiences. These new endorsements appeared in the Ladies’ Home Journal, as well as other publications like The Saturday Evening Post. The Quaker Oats advertisement featured in The American Jewess portrayed the Quaker Oats emblem and displayed text that read “Quaker Oats.” When Quaker Oats appeared in the Ladies’ Home Journal the advertisement read, “Rugged Children of a hundred nations are now fed on Quaker Oats. Every mother, of almost every race, knows the value of Oatmeal.” Though the faces in the ad depicted only one race, the slogan, as well as the many ethnicities that were presented, demonstrate the brand’s attempt to increase demand by speaking to a variety of women. The change in advertising strategy demonstrated by the shift from small, niche specific magazines like the American Jewess to mainstream American magazines was concurrent with the rise of formal advertising agencies in America. Evidently, the advertising pages of American publications tell a significant story, even without the articles that surrounded them, and thus it is vital that those who wish to view them can do so easily and efficiently.
The search page will offer two separate journal options. Users may select either the American Jewess or the Ladies’ Home Journal, and can search within. The searchable subjects will correspond to the tagged items. There will be a search tool where users can search by category of items such as household items, children’s clothing, shoes, books, home maintenance, food, beauty, fashion, medicine, beverages, insurance, vacations, literature, and language schools. Users can also search by advertiser. There will also be a browse option, in which users can browse by volume/ issue.

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