In the first installment of Parts of a Newspaper, we’ll dive into an area most people just skim over – advertisements!
Ads can tell us a lot about what is happening in a community during a particular time. Think about the ads you see in papers today – there are advertisements for goods, businesses, and services offered to name a few. So what can these tell us?
One way to track the development of a town is to follow the types of goods and services being offered.
- Shops – Quantity and variety
- Clothing & housing goods – practical vs. luxury
- Resources offered & prices – e.g. timber and coal
- Groceries – variety of stock & prices
- Entertainment – theaters, bars & billiards
- Banks & Hospitals
- Steamships – tourism, transportation, and mail delivery
There are essentials that a town on the Alaskan frontier needed to survive and then there are those that made it thrive. Comparing businesses, resources, and the price of goods and services across time indicates of how quickly a town is growing. As industry and business thrived, more people relocated to the towns bringing in more money, this in turn allowed businesses to start offering higher quality goods and luxury items as well as entertainment – something that there previously had not been a market or population to support.
Another type of advertisement to consider is the classified ad. Job advertisements can tell us what type of work was common/available year-round and seasonally in a community. By tracking types of and demand for employment over time you can detect shifts in industry and economy.
To conclude, advertisements in historical newspapers can offer a wealth of information on class, industry, economy, culture, and retail if you know what to look. So next time you’re flipping through the paper take a second to study the ads and think about what they say about the marketing, industry, and economy of where you live!
!! Check out our Instagram post on advertisements to learn more about the featured image and what the editor of the Seward Gateway had to say about advertisements and growth of Seward, Alaska in 1904 !!