Tuesday, June 5, 2018

How to promote your hotel with a disturbing illustration of a dog

I'm not sure what folks were thinking 137 years ago, in 1881, when they dreamed up this three-inch-wide Victorian advertising trade card for a hotel in Reading, Pennsylvania. Who said, "This frightening image of a dog with an alarmingly oversized head will help spread the word and bring in more customers."?

Or perhaps it was just a case of truth in advertising, and this was how a hotel of horrors marketed itself. Perhaps this hotel had a Room 237 and a Room 1408, if you know what I mean. Or perhaps it was a trial run for Herman Webster Mudgett before he moved to Chicago a few years later. (I'm joking, but H.H. did spend some time in Pennsylvania and had a short stint at Norristown State Hospital.)

Silliness aside, here's what we know of the southcentral Pennsylvania hotel from the text on the front of the card:
Compliments of the Season
John E. Steinel,
9th Avenue Hotel,
9th and Walnut Streets,
Reading, Pa.

Fine Foreign and Domestic
Wines for the Holidays
John E. Steinel (1854-1907), according to his Find A Grave page, "was 17 when his father died and with his mother continued the father's hotel and brush business." (That was, you will not be surprised to learn, the only Google result for the phrase "hotel and brush business" before this blog post.)

He had a son, also named John E. Steinel, who lived from 1893 to 1943.

Finally, here's an excerpt from History of Reading, Pennsylvania, and the anniversary proceedings of the sesqui-centennial, June 5-12, 1898:
"Steinel Factory — Peter Steinel emigrated from Germany in 1847, and located at Reading. He began manufacturing brushes of all kinds in 1848 on Franklin street near Front. He removed to 945 Penn street in 1853, and carried on the business there until his decease in 1870. He established a large trade, employing from 25 to 30 hands, and distributed his production in this and the surrounding counties by a number of teams. His son John E. Steinel then succeeded him, removing the factory to 837 Walnut street, and he has carried on the same until the present time. He employs from 6 to 15 hands, and ships brushes to different parts of this and the surrounding counties."

1 comment:

  1. This is an example of a Victorian trade card, the predecessor of the modern business card, printed and sold by chromolithographers, and customized by businesses of all varieties.

    Trade cards often depicted animals in comic scenes. This card in particular was designed by George M. Hayes of Philadelphia, active from 1878 to the 1890's. Source: http://www.artoftheprint.com/artistpages/trade_card_i_h_dewey_furniture_emporium_bucked.htm

    However, this primary source announced his retirement, or perhaps a continuation in a new venture, in 1884: https://books.google.com/books?id=zzpYAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA830&lpg=PA830&dq=%22george+m.+hayes%22+printer&source=bl&ots=Ee-TBLcKtZ&sig=P9FSvrFCwtnJtz0uNyrqVAXjRlY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjty9KpgMLbAhWDCDQIHaC6DQYQ6AEINzAD#v=onepage&q=%22george%20m.%20hayes%22%20printer&f=false

    Other businesses which customized the same bulldog design include the following:

    Hartman's Bookstore, Ashland, Pennsylvania: https://www.ebay.com/itm/0317O-VTG-TRADE-CARD-HARTMANS-BOOKSTORE-ASHLAND-PA-ODD-BULL-DOG-BAG-TIED-TO-TAIL-/153028651474?oid=142762780473

    French Confectionary: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/219057969352038956

    A blank bulldog card: https://www.flickr.com/photos/57711005@N07/7237236706/in/pool-1033828@N21%7C57711005@N07

    Other similar cards designed and/or printed by George M. Hayes include:

    Collection of four trade cards (including the bulldog design): https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1881-victorian-m-hayes-comic-dog-cat-131786707

    Examples from the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas: http://collection.spencerart.ku.edu/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=artist&objectId=26757&viewType=detailView

    Various feline designs: https://thepethistorian.com/2017/05/18/comic-cats-on-victorian-trade-cards

    -- M.F.