Advertising in the Early American West


It is truly amazing to see how advertising and marketing have evolved over the past 150 years. Early advertising in the American West began as a result of migration, technology and war. The Civil War especially bolstered the need for mass produced clothing and canned foods. When men went to war, women went to work in various factories and had less time to produce goods for their families such as soap and breads. This need for mass production and advancements in publishing created much of the west’s early advertising.

The west was opened further for settlers with the 1841 Homestead Act. Later in the 1800’s this was increased by the California Gold Rush and the transcontinental railroad. In the Pacific Northwest many rallied around the popularity of the Alaskan Gold Rush. Goods were marketed and sold on a large scale to speculators looking to strike it rich. The railroad made it much easier to transport goods to be sold in stores and other local businesses.

With all of the westward movement, businesses utilized magazines and newspapers to advertise their products. During this time companies began packaging and branding their products. This differentiation was aided with the creation of product or company characters and catchy slogans. Surprisingly, before radio and television advertising came about many brands had already gained nationwide recognition.

The advertising in the early west gives keen insight into what social conditions were like during the time. Prime information obtained from these ads includes cost and standard of living in the Pacific Northwest. The majority of advertisements were about personal or household goods, fashion, transportation, liquor, machinery, food and local tourism.

We have seen advertising and marketing change by leaps and bounds during the last century. Regulation has made the days of selling snake oil a thing of legend. Whereas early advertising focused on selling necessities, today advertising feeds off of the materialistic consumer mentality.


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