15 memories worth advertising

By Mark sweetwood



As colorful as the news stories in The Vindicator could be, over the years the advertisements were often as interesting. Plus, advertising sales revenue was the lifeblood of the newspaper.

Here’s a look back at 15 advertising memories from the past 150 years.

June 1, 1893: The relationship between health and alcohol was much different in the 19th century. Under the heading “Health is Wealth” came this promise from the D. Gribbon’s establishment at 30 N. Phelps St.: “You can preserve your health by the moderate use of pure alcoholic beverage,” adding, “You can always get the genuine Old Rye and Bourbon Whiskies, and all kinds of imported and domestic wines and liquors for medical purposes.”

April 22, 1897: In an era before pictures were commonplace in our pages, a front-page ad for the Globe, 119 E. Federal St., touted its fine wallpapers, noting, “There is little use in mentioning the price, 10 cents and 15 cents, because printer’s ink does not convey an idea of the handsome goods we show for those who desire artistic house interiors.”

Dec. 23, 1899: If you were looking for a pocket watch for a Christmas gift as the century ended, look no further than the front-page ad from Siefried Jeweler, 7 E. Federal St. “We never had such a complete line as we have now. 20-year 14k filled Elgin and Waltham” watches were $15.50. That is the equivalent of roughly $470 today.

Oct. 2, 1903: In this era, front-page ads fell by the wayside and full-page ads became more commonplace. C.W. Deibel Taylor, 15 W. Federal St., displayed pictures of every corner of the store (and many employees) in a big ad that featured the pressing room, workshop and cutting room. The ad also promised “The best form in gentlemen’s dress for all occasions.” The inventory was broken down into four subcategories: Full dress (“For all events after 6 o’clock”), informal dress (“For stag dinners and parties”), day dress (“For all events before 6 o’clock”) and business dress (“For general wear during business hours”).

Feb. 25, 1910: In a full-page ad, McKelvey’s billed itself as “A quality store for quality folks.” The department store also noted: “Our serviceable grocery department lends itself as a source of saving by offering values that are genuine.” Check out these prices: maple and cane syrup, fancy 10-cent bottles, two for 13 cents; creamery butter, fresh churned, 1 pound, 36 cents; coffee, bulk roast, 3 pounds, 18 cents; and baked beans in tomato sauce, three cans, 23 cents. To serve all of this, you could have purchased a 100-piece Homer Laughlin china set for $11.49. That would be $303 in today’s money.

May 4, 1926: The Strouss-Hirshberg Co. was busy selling those must-have Mother’s Day items in a big advertisement in the society section. “It is suggested that you show your remembrance of her on this occasion by presenting her with something that shows your careful thought and selection,” the ad suggested. That sentiment was topped by a print of the famous Whistler’s Mother by James McNeill Whistler. Handkerchiefs – of “outstanding grades” – ran from $1.95 to $2.95.

July 31, 1939: In the pre-World War II era of The Vindicator, pictures were now more commonly used and advertisers tried to out-best each other with multiple full-page ads. In this edition, McKelvey’s and Strouss-Hirshberg each had five full pages. But smaller ads also captured much attention, especially the movie ads. At the air-conditioned Warner Theater, Mickey Rooney starred in “Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever.” Over at the Foster Theater – still a legitimate theater in those days – Claudette Colbert and James Stewart starred in “It’s a Wonderful World” (not to be confused with the Stewart/Donna Reed film of 1946, “It’s a Wonderful Life). Meanwhile, over at the Palace: “Blondie Takes a Vacation.”

Dec. 8, 1941: While the news was focused on the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, the ads were touting the wonders of the dawning entertainment age – radio-phonographs. Reichart’s, 241 W. Federal St., had a 1942 Philco with automatic record changer and push-button radio tuner for $167.50 (you pay just $1.80 weekly). A similar Zenith model was $139.95, or $1.50 weekly. You could score an RCA Victrola for $109.95, and “a small deposit will hold your radio for Christmas delivery.”

May 1, 1947: By now, full-page grocery ads had taken over many pages of the newspaper. One of the biggest advertisers was Century Foods, with stores on Market Street, Glenwood Avenue, Federal Street and Belmont Avenue. Back then, two cans of peas were 29 cents, a bunch of radishes were 5 cents, a celery bunch was 25 cents and 3 pounds of oranges was 54 cents. Looking at those same items in a recent Rulli Bros. ad – the final remaining full-page grocer in The Vindicator – two cans of peas were $1.54, a radish bunch was 50 cents, a celery bunch was 79 cents and 3 pounds of oranges are $3.49. Interestingly, while $1.13 (for all of those items) in 1947 would be about $13.20 in today’s currency, all of those items at Rulli Bros. would cost only $6.32 today.

Aug. 1, 1956: The U.S. economy was robust in the post-war mid-1950s, and the pages of The Vindicator were filled with ads. A wrinkle in the economy was that alongside the McKelvey’s and Strouss-Hirshberg local advertisements, readers could now find national brands such as Penney’s, Woolworth’s and Sears. And August is one of the months famous for the “white” sales featuring towels, clothing, bedding, etc. At Penney’s, “sanitized” fitted sheets were $1.77, though similar sheets were $1.67 at McKelvey’s and $1.58 at Strouss. And in light of the emergence of Elvis Presley on the national music scene, an ad for “Beautiful Idora Park” touted “The First Big Teen-Age Record Hop” featuring DJ Dick Biondi. Admission was 50 cents.

Aug. 1, 1969: By this era, McKelvey’s was a Higbees as the world focused on everything from moon walks to the Vietnam War. Haber’s ads were mixed with Penney’s and Strouss. Livingston’s advertised “Fashion ‘Funnery’ for Fall Calls for Stripes” in an ad featuring “mod” dresses for $24. The Monkees were advertised as coming to the Trumbull County Fair (probably sans Peter Tork who had left the group by then). But the classified ads ran in many pages. In the parlance of the day, under “Female Help Wanted,” was an ad for “Reliable, attractive bar maid for cocktail lounge. ... Good pay, full time or part time. Will train” at the Fairway Lounge in West Middlesex, Pa.

Aug. 31, 1977: Just weeks before the Youngstown Sheet & Tube would announce its closure and be the first major domino to fall, spelling the end of most steel in the Mahoning Valley, newspaper advertisements were robust. A new wrinkle: Readers found manufacturer coupons for name-brand products published in Vindicator pages, including Dial soap (10 cents), Wish Bone Italian Dressing (15 cents), Shasta cola (10 cents), Crest (10 cents), Kool-Aid (60 cents), Mountain Dew (25 cents) and Smuckers Pickles (10 cents), to name a few. With about 11 pages of grocery ads, there was no limit to where you could choose to spend them. There was even a full-page advertisement for Busch beer, reminding readers to “Get Plenty for Labor Day.”

April 5, 1982: In the aftermath of the fall of steel in the Valley, downtown was a shell of itself and the ads started to reflect the movement of retailers to the suburbs – and many closings. “Very Little Time Left,” shouted an ad for the Furniture Mart of Youngstown, announcing the “Complete Inventory Sell Off [is] Drawing to a Close.” In the Kroger ad was a note that read, “Dear Customer, we are sorry but circumstances are forcing us to permanently close our doors on April 10 in the Youngstown area.” The stores were located on Market Street, Raccoon Road in Austintown and Boardman-Canfield Road in Boardman. Murphy’s Mart in Boardman had four full pages of advertising featuring “last-minute Easter discounts.” A “Polaroid Time-Zero One-Step” instant camera was $18.88. A package of 51 foam coffee cups was 38 cents. A 40-ounce bottle of Scope was $3.14.

Oct. 26, 1990: With downtown gutted, and more and more traditional newspaper advertisers lured by TV and mail, auto-dealer ads became a dominant force in the pages of The Vindicator. In this edition, there were more than 13 pages of auto advertising. Fred Martin Ford offered a 1990 Festiva for $5,388, while Jim Pace Pontiac in Niles had a 1991 Grand Am Coupe for $10,299. At Greenwood Chevrolet’s The Chevy Store, a “vacation-ready conversion van” was $16,497. Or, for about the same amount, Stadium Lincoln-Mercury could set you up in a 1991 Grand Marquis for $16,995. If you were more economy-minded, Clyde Cole Cadillac could put you behind the wheel of a 1983, light blue, Cadillac Seville convertible for $6,995. Not to be outdone, Bob Eddy’s Five Star Dodge had a slightly used (12,000 miles) 1990 Dodge Dynasty LE with the balance of the new car warranty plus a seven-year/70,000-mile warranty for only $12,999.

June 29, 2001: Perhaps a glimpse into the economic realities ahead, this edition had just one full-page advertisement: Dillards, located in both the Eastwood and Southern Park malls. The ad featuring “Pre 4th of July Savings” touted 25 to 50 percent off the entire stock and “No Coupon Needed.” Kaufmann’s, on the other hand, had a half-page of coupons allowing consumers to take 20 percent off of almost everything. Meanwhile, as the mobile communication age dawned, an ad for the grand opening of the SprintPCS store in Howland offered “$100 service credit” with a $34.99-per-month, two-year-plan. The lion’s share of the ads focused on weekend entertainment options. “Tomb Raider,” Shrek” and Dr. “Doolittle 2” were in the theaters. At The Fireplace, the band was Rangel. Ash Blanket was playing at The Cellar, while Smack Daddy’s was playing at Irish Bob’s Pub on South Avenue.