Section: Features

Collegian advertisements provide a peek into local history

Collegian advertisements provide a peek into local history


Fans of Mad Men know: “Advertising is happiness.” In the 166-year history of the Collegian, there have been ads for everything from restaurants to department stores to job opportunities, each hoping to pique the interest of the Kenyon consumer. A look into the Collegian archives reveals the many places where Kenyon students could spend their money in the days before K-Card readers. 

Despite Kenyon’s rural setting, there have been copious amounts of publicity for local stores. An April 1887 edition of the Collegian devoted half a page to C.F. and W.F. Baldwin, “Proprietors of ‘The Bookstore,’ Jobbers and Publishers.” Located on South Main Street in Mount Vernon, the ad expressed that “school and college textbooks,” including “all books used in Kenyon College” were available for purchase and were “supplied to faculty and students at the usual discounts.” This bookstore provided an off-campus alternative to the Kenyon College Bookstore, which was founded in 1829. 

Aside from places to buy textbooks and course materials, many Collegian advertisements also featured places to purchase clothing. In a Collegian issue from January 1900, a thin strip of newsprint offered “a cordial invitation” to Kenyon students to visit a store called Lazarus “if [they] are in need of anything in clothing, underwear, hats, shoes, gent’s furnishings, etc.” A mere half-century later in April 1952, another ad stated that Rudin’s Department Store in Mount Vernon was “definitely for you” if you were a Kenyon student seeking interwoven socks, botany and wembley ties or Arrow and Essley shirts. For miscellaneous items, students were encouraged in February 1928 to visit Jenkins’ General Store — “the big store in the little town.” The ad for the store included a simple request: “Kenyon men, we want your patronage.”

If a shop itself didn’t offer the right product, Collegian readers also had ample advertisements for individual items. A May 1906 ad for “Cream Crisp” asks readers “has it occurred to you why so many wheat flaked foods have come and gone? Lack of quality of course.” Its final word of advice to potential buyers is to “ask your grocer [about Cream Crisp] and accept no substitutes.” 

While a majority of items advertised in the Collegian were more or less innocent, a surprising number of ads for cigarette brands have graced the pages of the paper, particularly in the mid-20th century. Another iconic scene from Mad Men shows a fictionalized version of the development of Lucky Strike’s iconic slogan — “It’s toasted.” In a May 1934 edition of the Collegian, the slogan appears in an ad for the cigarette brand that takes up nearly a full page and claims that “Luckies are all-ways kind to your throat.” The trend of advertising cigarettes continued in April 1952, with an ad for Chesterfield claiming that the brand is the “largest selling cigarette in America’s colleges.”

Numerous advertisements for local services available to students have also appeared in past issues of the Collegian. E.C. Beggs, “The Dentist,” placed an ad in a January 1900 issue expressing that “crown and bridge work [were] a specialty.” In October 1917, an ad appeared for Harcourt Place, “a church school for girls” that offered “domestic science and art, a preparation for home life” to local young women. A February 1928 advertisement for round trip boat passage to Europe promises students that “[they’ll] find comfort — cleanliness — careful cuisine — the best college orchestras — and all [their] friends.” Sixty-three years later in January 1991, a small ad located at the bottom of a page in the sports section appealed to a different kind of traveler. It began with the phrase “Attention parents,” urging them to “visit part of Gambier’s history” by staying at the Woodside Bed and Breakfast. The landscape of advertising in the Collegian has vastly changed over time, but combing through the sometimes amusing, sometimes surprising annals of the paper provides today’s Kenyon students with a snapshot of the past, allowing them to see what it may have been like on campus in bygone eras and relate to alumni of long ago. Today, Collegian readers encounter far fewer advertisements, but the ones they do see provide our very own time capsule for the future.


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