January 12, 2009

Advertisements on the Front Page: Old News

The Neosho Times, April 27, 1882. (Newseum collection)
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The Neosho Times, April 27, 1882. (Newseum collection)

Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, Sept. 9, 1812. (Newseum collection)
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Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, Sept. 9, 1812. (Newseum collection)

The Independent Chronicle, Dec. 3, 1778. (Newseum collection)
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The Independent Chronicle, Dec. 3, 1778. (Newseum collection)

The trend continues.

In an effort to boost its bottom line, The Boston Globe became the latest major daily newspaper to sell ads on the front page. The New York Times carried its first front-page display ad on Jan. 5, 2009 — an ad for CBS that ran across the bottom of the page.

The Globe and Times join a growing list of dailies, including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, that run ads on the front page. But front-page advertising is nothing new. 

"In the 18th and 19th centuries, newspapers frequently included advertisements on the front page, providing readers with information such as dry goods for sale, public auctions, descriptions of runaway servants or the sailing of commercial and passenger vessels," said Newseum curatorial specialist Kathryn Wilmot.

Some early U.S. newspapers even included "advertiser" as part of their names. Mastheads carried names such as The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser and Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser. Other names were the South-Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser, The New York Packet and American Advertiser, Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser and The Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser.

One of the most infamous front-page ads appeared in the April 27, 1882, edition of Missouri’s Neosho Times, where a banner headline — "Jesse James Assassinated!" — trumpeted the notorious outlaw’s death. Readers expecting details of James’s slaying were greatly disappointed. The headline was merely a teaser. The text beneath the headline was part of a nearly full-page advertisement touting bargains and a "great clearance sale" at McElhany & Bro., a local store.

"In the dress goods department, we have all the newest, latest and most desirable styles out from the finest silk to the cheapest calico," the ad stated. "Our clothing and hat department is immense, and by looking through this department, you will be convinced of the fact that neither man nor boy can fail to be suited in style, make and price. … In conclusion, we will say, that it is no longer necessary to send abroad for anything you may need in our line for we assure you we have everything you may need." 

James’s death was covered on an inside page. 

The original issue of The Neosho Times is currently on display in the News Corporation News History Gallery.

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