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When Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, companies wasted no time in seizing the commercial opportunities presented by the conflict. There was no radio or television. The only way in which the British public could get war news was through newspapers and magazines, many of which recorded rising readerships. Advertising became a new science of sales, growing increasingly sophisticated both in visual terms and in its psychological approach.
This collection of pictorial advertisements from the Great War reveals how advertisers were given the opportunity to create new markets for their products and how advertising reflected social change during the course of the conflict. It covers a wide range of products, including trench coats, motor-cycles, gramophones, cigarettes and invalid carriages, all bringing an insight into the preoccupations, aspirations and necessities of life between 1914 and 1918.
Many advertisements were aimed at women, be it for guard-dogs to protect them while their husbands were away, or soap and skin cream for `beauty on duty'. At the same time, men's tailoring evolved to suit new conditions. Aquascutum advertised `Officers' Waterproof Trench Coats' and one officer, writing in the Times in December 1914, advised others to leave their swords behind but to take their Burberry coat.
Sandwiched between the formality of the Victorian era and the hedonism of the 1920s, these charged images provide unexpected sources of historical information, affording an intimate glimpse into the emotional life of the nation during the First World War.
Amanda-Jane Doran worked as Publishing Manager and Curator for Punch magazine for fifteen years. At present, she is cataloguing Victorian illustrated books in the Royal Academy Library and is a freelance writer and lecturer. Andrew McCarthy has written articles for a range of magazines and websites on military and transport history.