Racism in Advertising, Material Culture

This advertisement appeared in the June 17, 1922 edition of The Saturday Evening Post. It was place directly behind the cover page. The Kuppenheimer: Good Clothes add features a Pullman Porter carrying two pieces of luggage. His back is turned toward the reader while at the same time looking at the reader. One piece of luggage is in his hand while one is under his arm. A pair of white women’s shoes attached to a string is dangling from the porter’s hand. This African American porter is wearing a dark colored uniform with a red hat and is smiling. Standing directly in front of him are a white couple also faced away from the reader. The female is wearing a dark colored dress with a red hat and red tie around her waist and is staring adoringly at her partner. Her arm is resting on the male’s arm as she is being escorted by him. The male is wearing a grayish suit, white hat with a black band, and is holding a newspaper with the title of “Atlantic”. The background of the add is black and the bottom of the add is signed in red by J.C. Leyendecker. At the bottom of the add is a placard with the words “An Investment in Good Appearance”.

The Saturday Evening Post is a magazine with “roots to Benjamin Harrison” that “mirrors cherished American ideals and values” (The Saturday Evening Post). This magazine was very popular with the white American community. The add depicts an African American in a subservient position in relation to the white couple and insinuates with his smile that he is happy to be there. This reflects American culture and attitudes of  the time. The white male is shown as intellectual, he is reading current events, even as he travels. He has the wealth to travel in style, he has “good clothes”, and in the woman he has someone dependent on him. The white female is shown as the perfect addition to the male’s arm. She is wearing the right clothes, has the right shoes, and is affording the male the appropriate amount of attention even as he is disregarding her. All of this points to the importance of the white male and the unimportance of the African American male and the white female.

 

“Advertisement from the Saturday Evening Post,” National Museum of African        American History and Culture, accessed February 16, 2018, https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2012.46.75.19?destination=explore/collection/search%3Fedan_q%3Dadvertisements%26edan_local%3D1%26op%3DSearch.

“About Us,” The Saturday Evening Post, accessed February 16, 2018, http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/about.

 

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