“A fascinating show for John Citizen and his wife” : advertising exhibitions in early twentieth-century London

Taylor, James (2018) “A fascinating show for John Citizen and his wife” : advertising exhibitions in early twentieth-century London. Journal of Social History, 51 (4). pp. 899-927. ISSN 0022-4529

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Though receiving little attention from historians, the trade exhibition was a significant new form of commercialized leisure from the late nineteenth century. Appealing to mass urban audiences, and offering an attractive mix of entertainment and education with a commercial edge, these were collective, interactive, and often spectacular events which gave businesses a valuable new means of communicating with their customers. The advertising industry was prominent in the development of this genre, organizing a series of increasingly ambitious events from 1899 designed to improve advertising’s public reputation. But exhibition organizers faced a problem: not producing commodities themselves, just two-dimensional representations of them, what would they fill their exhibitions with? This article explores how advertisers rose to the challenge of translating advertising into three dimensions, pioneering new methods of representing consumer culture, and advertising’s role within it. Though exhibitions offered effective new ways of engaging the public, they also posed dangers. The very principle of turning advertising into a spectacle and making consumers aware of how advertisements were made began to seem foolhardy, eventually leading to the demise of the advertising exhibition. The history of this “exhibitory moment” therefore offers both an invaluable insight into the changing ways in which advertisers understood the publics they purported to serve, and an instructive case study of the complex power relationships involved in the exhibition encounter.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Social History
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This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Social History following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version James Taylor; “A Fascinating Show for John Citizen and his Wife”: Advertising Exhibitions in Early Twentieth-Century London, Journal of Social History, Volume 51, Issue 4, 1 June 2018, Pages 899–927, https://doi.org/10.1093/jsh/shx047 is available online at: https://academic.oup.com/jsh/article/51/4/899/4056214
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?? historysociology and political science ??
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Deposited On:
06 Mar 2017 16:12
Last Modified:
26 Mar 2024 00:41