Only Obeying Orders

Who was Captain Craig? It seems he was directed by a (presumably superior) officer to tell the folk of 1898 about the extreme convenience and portability of a particular make of field glasses. We suppose he must have been more well known to us than the USA’s Chief Signal Officer at the time. Otherwise why would said CSO not volunteer the recommendation himself under his own name?

One might imagine at the time, upon being told that these field glasses were recommended by the authority of the Chief Signal Officer of the United States Army, no less, that we would have remained unimpressed. ‘Who is he?’ we would have said, with a certain disdain. (It was 1898 so of course we would assume it to be a he). But Captain Craig – well, if he likes them then they must be good. We trust him.

On the other hand he was ordered to do it. Hmm.

Mr Aitchison might be pleased to see his device fetching one hundred and twenty quid at an auction – but, taking inflation into account, five guineas back then is suppsedly equivalent to about three hundred pounds today. But I suppose they would be second-hand.

Here are a few more ads of the time, as a bit of context.

We like the first one. Very steampunk.



The label font, the general design, the bottle – they’re all still around 114 years after this ad was published in several issues of The Graphic in 1898. The bottle is no longer glass – it’s plastic of course – but it’s all still the same. The not green fairy of absinthe, but the green elf – perhaps – of Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial.


An early example (1898) of minimalism in advertising (from The Graphic, as usual). That’s a lot of whitespace for brown bread.


Not the Comfy Chair

More furniture – as advertised in The Graphic of 1898 – which might suit the modern eBook reader reader or tableteer. Literary Machines you see.


By John Carter (no relation to either he of ER or of Mars, as far as we know).


An ad from the 15 January 1898 issue of The Graphic temporarily confounds. An unknown woman does not inform us that she smokes Ogden’s Guinea-Gold cigarettes, but that her brother does. As women were known to smoke, we cannot imagine that such removal is designed to deflect us from thinking her a wanton trollop. There is likely to be an alternative explanation for the apparent coyness.


Many adverts today employ some character of small celebrity, minor achievement, or otherwise insignificant contribution to the sum total of human happiness. The advertisers take for granted that the intended audience is familiar with the person dosing the product with their paltry imprimatur. The corporate stooge on screen never says who they are but addresses you as if you know them intimately – with an air of faux-cameraderie that would embarrass a stalker.

So maybe this late nineteenth century ad is one of those. Perhaps we’re just supposed to know who she is, and additionally know that she has a famous brother, and that it’s thus his authority which vouches for the superiority of the cigarette being pushed. So it’s quite a sophisticated early example of that kind of pseudo mates-with-the-cool ad we see today. It should work really well, if you can get yourself back to 1898.

But – and here’s the interesting bit – Ogden did cigarette cards. And they produced a series of cards with famous actresses of the day (more than once in their history). There’s a chap over here with a set from the period. And there’s another set over here from a later generation.

So if you can work out who she is you can infer her brother’s identity and find whose commendation is really being projected by this ad.

Vocal Ease

What can I say? Sarah Bernhardt celebrity-endorsed a bit of bollocks for money. I’m disillusioned and crushed.


It’s one of a series of identical ads placed in certain issues of The Graphic in 1898. She was yet to do her succès d’estime – a retranslated Hamlet – of 1899.

Scary Monkey

The year is 1898. We’re back in the weekly news magazine, The Graphic. Advertisements are getting as picturesque as the news. Full page spread adverts aren’t in every week, but when they are they do rather tend to dominate.

A series of ads for Brooke’s Soap thread their way through the year. Here’s January’s (Jan 1 issue, page 23), The picture is scary enough with the monkey as it is. If you’re at all coulrophobic though, it’s probably best to look away … oops, sorry — too late.


It’s not hand soap though, nor is it laundry soap. They go out of their way to proclaim this fact.

Won’t Wash Clothes
Monkey Brand
For Floors and Kitchen Tables, Linoleum and Oilcloths

For Polishing Metals, Paint, Cutlery, Crockery, Machinery, Baths, Stair Rods.

For Steel, Iron, Brass and Copper Vessels, Fire-Irons, Mantels, Etc. Removes Rust, Dirt, Stains, Tarnish etc.

By the end of April (April 30 issue, page 545) we’re becoming rather inappropriate. They’re still fascinated with the oriental in late nineteenth century Europe, but this is getting ridiculous.