How Advertising Helped Write History, Part 2

Uncle Sam

Don’t miss Part 1 of this fascinating series! And now, on to Part 2…

Winning wars

During the World Wars in the twentieth century, often a simple poster with a powerful message was enough to persuade people to do their patriotic and moral duty. Here are a few key advertisements that made history and could have tipped the scales towards victory.

Uncle Sam

While data can’t tell us what Uncle Sam’s impact might have been, the U.S. printed more than four million Uncle Sam posters between 1917 and 1918.[1]  A print job of that size indicated something must have been working. Uncle Sam’s piercing gaze and pointing finger inspired many young men to take up the mantle of war.

Lord Kitchener

If you thought Uncle Sam was history’s most important pointing finger, you might want to skip to the next section. British war minister Lord Kitchener’s pointing finger galvanized enlistments across Great Britain during the First World War. British authorities rolled a whopping 5.7 million Lord Kitchener posters off the presses.[2] Like Uncle Sam, Lord Kitchener must have made a powerful impact.

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the RiveterWe’re all familiar with the flexed bicep of the uncharacteristically strong woman that inspired women to step up when the boys were at war. During the Second World War, Rosie the Riveter posters sent women streaming to factories to fill men’s shoes. Did the campaign work? The percentage of females in the workforce spiked from 27% to 37% from 1940-1945. Industries that would have otherwise shut down were able to flourish, confirming that Rosie the Riveter played a major part in the war.[3]

These posters made very personal appeals to very broad audiences, inspiring actions that enabled victories.

Choosing leadership

PrintWinning political campaigns by wielding the power of planned persuasion has older roots than you might expect. While possibly uncalculated, Andrew Jackson’s supporters solidified his “old hickory” brand by toting hickory branches to his speeches to parade their loyalty. William Henry Harrison’s campaign benefitted from the catchy slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” before slogans were commonplace. His followers connected him with the pioneer spirit by painting log cabins on campaign signs and badges.[4]

Still, it wasn’t until new technologies emerged, especially radio and television, that we started to analyze how much advertising could sway an election. When these technologies first entered the political scene, they empowered communications tactics with the ability to make or break elections, as evidenced by these ad-empowered presidential campaigns.

Eisenhower vs. Stevenson

The 1952 presidential race between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson solidified how important television advertising and promotions had become for politics. While both campaigners used the new medium, Eisenhower’s campaign embraced television more, where Stevenson’s placed emphasis on traditional speeches.9 Slogans also came into play, with Eisenhower’s catchy “I like Ike” dominating over Stevenson’s hefty “America needs Stevenson for President.” Eisenhower took the election, toppling Stevenson by about 11 percentage points.[5]

*Click here to view Eisenhower’s campaign ad. Notice how long it plays as compared to today’s 20 seconds or less ads.

Nixon vs. Kennedy

The 1960 presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon proved that simply using TV was no longer as important as using it well. John F. Kennedy captivated throngs of TV watching supporters with his casual charm while Nixon appeared awkward and uncomfortable. Kennedy’s campaign also tread new ground on innovative targeting tactics, with specific television spots targeted towards an African American audience.

*Click here to see one of the Kennedy-Nixon debates. Observe how telegenic Kennedy was (even before that word had meaning) and how famously Nixon perspired having refused any make-up powder on the set prior to the debate.

Johnson vs. Goldwater

The 1964 presidential race between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater was one of the first campaigns to use fear tactics as an effective mode of persuasion, setting a precedent for presidential campaigns for years to come. In one spot, known as “Daisy,” a little girl’s petal counting transforms into a countdown towards devastating nuclear war. The ad moved many audiences who had never been exposed to similar tactics before. However, an immediate outcry by political opponents and others outraged by the ad’s perceived fearmongering resulted in it only being shown once. Nevertheless, Johnson led Goldwater in the final count by about 22 percentage points.[6]

*Click here to view the “Daisy” commercial.

Eating breakfast

baconAmericans owe their love for a bacon and egg breakfast to a public relations mastermind. In the 1920s, Beech-Nut Packing Company enlisted Edward Bernays, PR expert, to create a whole new strategy around selling bacon to American consumers. At the time, Americans preferred a lighter breakfast of grains, orange juice, and coffee, but Bernays set out to change that. He recognized the value of creating a psychological need and decided to go for a health angle. He sought out a doctor who confirmed the possible benefits of a bigger breakfast in the morning as the body needed energy to run throughout the day. That doctor wrote to thousands of other doctors who reiterated the possible health benefits of a bigger breakfast. The final campaign featured this medical consensus as a research point. The idea made headlines across the country and people jumped at the chance to eat bacon for breakfast, adding eggs to the mix to balance out the plate. The delectable idea spread quickly and easily, but the idea itself originated from advertising.[7]

A part of our story

Today, many people stand in Times Square and feel nothing. The messages bead up on our hardened shells like water on a well-waxed car. The proliferation of messages has robbed each one of its meaning. Despite this, the past shows that advertising had prolific power to sway opinions on even the most important matters. Only time will tell how much more of the story advertising will influence, but we can be sure it’s here to stay. The website eMarketer predicts ad spending will reach a whopping $220.55 annually by 2018.[8] Just like the ancient people who etched immortal messages to sell wheels, persuading people will always be a task worth some thought and elbow grease.

AshleyBellAuthor: Ashley Bell is a full time nonprofit outreach and program manager and part time history detective. She likes to look to the past to explain where we are today.

[1] “The Most Famous Poster,” American Treasures of the Library of Congress, Library of Congress. Retrieved from:

[2] “Kitchener: The most famous pointing finger,” BBC News, 2014. Retrieved from:

[3] “Rosie the Riveter,”, 2010. Retrieved from

[4] Jamieson, K. and Waldman, P. “Political advertising,” Encyclopedia of international media and communications, Elsevier Science & Technology, 2003. Retrieved from

[5] “Election of 1952,” The American Presidency Project, 2015. Retrieved from

[6] “Election of 1964,” The American Presidency Project, 2015. Retrieved from

[7] Colleary, Eric, “How “bacon and eggs” became the American breakfast,” The American Table, 2012. Retrieved from

[8] “Total US Ad Spending to See Largest Increase Since 2004,” eMarketer, 2014. Retrieved from

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Dulcia Domestica, Ancient Date Candies

800px-JudeanDatePalmMethuselahWe’ve talked about the date before. It was such an important food in ancient times, it’s hard not to be impressed by its ubiquity and its longevity. In fact, the history of the date was featured in one of our most popular posts, Ancient Mesopotamian Palace Cakes from Ur! Today we thought we’d revisit the date with another fabulous, sticky sweet indulgence, the Roman treat called Dulcia Domestica.

First, let’s refresh our memory of the history of this tiny treat, courtesy of our previous post.[1]

The date was central to the diet in ancient Mesopotamia. The fruits of the date palm were extremely important because they supplied much needed nutrients including fruit sugars and iron.[2] The dates were easy to store and traveled well in the hot and arid climate. Ancient Mesopotamians were said to have eaten up to six pounds of dates per day.[3] Every part of the date palm was used. The leaves could be woven into baskets, hats, carpets and even roofs for desert huts while the timber from the trunk was used in the construction of homes and furniture.[4] Eventually, traders spread the tasty fruit around the world and today it is enjoyed by many different cultures.

The date wasn’t just beloved by the Mesopotamians. It became a staple in many cultures including the ancient Egyptians, Romans and other groups across the Middle East.

Even now in the 21st century, the little date is still going strong and in fact is in the news with a remarkable saga. Back in the 1960s seeds from a Judean date palm tree were discovered during excavations in Masada, Israel.[5] The seeds were estimated to be around 2,000 years old. Ten years ago one of the seeds was planted in the hopes that it would thrive and grow into a strong and prosperous plant. Today that date palm seed is all grown up into a mature tree, dubbed Methuselah for obvious reasons, and is even reproducing.[6] According to Elaine Solowey, PhD., director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel, “He is over three meters [ten feet] tall, he’s got a few offshoots, he has flowers, and his pollen is good. We pollinated a female with his pollen, a wild [modern] female, and yeah, he can make dates.”[7] Way to go, Methuselah!

Since Methuselah’s seed was planted, Soloway has successfully grown a number of other date palms from ancient seeds found around the Dead Sea. Her next goal is to grow an ancient date palm grove. To do that she’ll need to find a female mate for Methuselah of around the same age. If she is able to plant a grove, the information gained from it will be incredible. She says, “We would know what kind of dates they ate in those days and what they were like.”[8]

By the way, Methuselah’s fertility and subsequent “offspring” aren’t the only pieces of exciting date-related news. A new study suggests that date syrup may have more effective antibacterial compounds than another of our favorite ancient superfoods, honey. (Check out our honey post and candy recipe here.) In tests of the effects of date syrup on colonies of bacteria in a petri dish, the date syrup kicked the bacteria’s proverbial rear-end.

When the syrup was mixed with a range of disease-causing bacteria – including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Enterococcus spp. and Pseudomonas aeruginosa – it inhibited their growth in about six hours, which researchers say is faster than manuka honey, which is known for its antibacterial and wound healing properties.[9]

While we certainly don’t advocate giving up your time-tested, deliciously nutritious honey, you might want to consider adding date syrup to your diet. The testing is still in the early stages, but it’s very promising. Just make sure it’s actual date syrup, not some manufactured version made from sugary substitutes. It’s the phenolic compounds in the real deal that matter.

Finally, on to the eating! Make a batch of these little gems from this original Roman recipe and do yourself a favor nutritionally at the same time. You’ll be pleasing your palate, communing with the ancients and fighting off that nasty cold that’s been going around.

Dulcia Domestica

dates in honeyRecipe taken from the Roman cookbook “De Re Coquinaria” credited to Apicius (Editor’s note: Apicius is a Roman book of recipes compiled in the late 4th to early 5th centuries CE.)

*Serves approx. 4


  • 7 ounces of fresh dates
  • 2 ounces of course ground nuts (nuts of your choice) or pine kernels (you can also use whole blanched almonds, you’ll need approx. 2 per date)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (you can also use cayenne, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice depending on your preference)
  • ½ cup of red wine
  • 2 tablespoons of honey


  1. Mix the ground nuts/kernels or whole blanched almonds with the spice of your choice.
  2. Stone the dates and fill them with either the ground nuts/kernels or whole blanched almonds.
  3. Place the nuts in a shallow sauce pan with the red wine and honey and allow to simmer for approx. five to 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with a bit of the wine sauce drizzled on top.


[2] Kaufman, C. K. (2006). Cooking in ancient civilizations. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.


[4] Ibid.


[6] Roach, J. (n.d.). “Methuselah” Palm Grown From 2,000-Year-Old Seed Is a Father. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Gough, M. (n.d.). Date syrup has antibacterial compounds that are more effective than honey. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from

How Advertising Helped Write History, Part 1

Times SquareImagine standing in the dead center of Times Square. Aggressive flashing lights, pulses, and neon words play tug-o-war for your attention. Inviting music oozes from the glare of what seems like a thousand restaurants as errant street vendors grapple to be heard above the din. Everywhere you turn, someone or something begs you to do this, eat that or buy a product.

While standing in the midst of this electronic mayhem, it might be hard to imagine this sensory explosion has anything in common with the ancient past. Now press the pause button. Halt the pulsating lights, mute the blaring horns and music. In the stillness that was once quivering for your attention, take a moment to contemplate the purpose of it all: to make people do things.

Advertisers use Times Square’s high-traffic venue to seduce your most straightforward senses: the eyes and ears. Ancient people did the same thing. Journey back many moons to the ruined city of Pompeii and you’ll find the Times Square concept at work, backed by less technology. Among other treasures, explorers pulled remnants of graffiti-covered walls from Pompeii’s ashes.[1] The graffiti included notices of goods and services for sale and even campaign slogans for hopeful politicians, leading some to conclude Pompeian walls blazed trails for our modern posters and billboards.

In Pompei, graffiti on the walls often depict popular gladiators, such as these two thraeces, M. Attilius and L. Raecius Felix.

In Pompei, graffiti on the walls often depict popular gladiators, such as these two thraeces, M. Attilius and L. Raecius Felix.

Pompeii hints at an ancient human instinct to get important messages in front of as many eyeballs as possible, in short, to advertise. And it wasn’t just the Romans, ancient graffiti around the world was used to communicate the world’s first ads. The Australian Aborigines used hand stencils to advertise their presence in a certain area, the Vikings proclaimed the existence of buried treasure and the Native Americans used rock art to reveal game trails. Check out our posts on ancient graffiti to learn more about this ancient urge to get the message out.

While the flashy messages of Times Square might bounce off of us now, there was a time when even a simple persuasive message had the power to sway hearts and change actions. Before we became jaded by the proliferation of advertising messages, an organized campaign toting a simple message had the power to change the course of history. Here are just some of the ways advertising played a leading role in human history.

Building a New World  

CommonsenseLong before stars-and-stripes and bald eagles, America was nothing more than a vague concept to the population of Europeans who would one day settle its wild bounty. For most people, the decision to make the grueling voyage across the Atlantic to the New World didn’t spring from chance or accident, but months of planning and precalculation. That planning often started with an early version of an advertising campaign. Historian Richard Hofstadter, believed that America sprung from one of the “first concerted and sustained advertising campaigns in the history of the modern world.”[2]

In eighteenth century Britain, you couldn’t walk down the street without being bombarded with signs and handbills professing the wonder and opportunity of the New World. Strong printed endorsements from the writers of the day further propelled the wonders of America to mythological proportions.  A modern campaign for the New World would certainly have included the quote from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense referring to America as “the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.”[3]

In other strategies, shipping companies on the way to America hired bands of savvy “New World brand ambassadors” to travel through German states in brightly colored wagons roaring a fanfare of trumpets and drums. Crowds drawn by the commotion were regaled with stories of New World marvels designed to sell them transatlantic tickets on the spot. These first “brand ambassadors” certainly recruited some of the 360,000 German immigrants present in America by 1790.[4]

Now that we’ve piqued your interest, don’t miss Part 2 coming soon…

AshleyBellAuthor: Ashley Bell is a full time nonprofit outreach and program manager and part time history detective. She likes to look to the past to explain where we are today.

[1] Ross, Ashley, “The Evolution of Advertising from Papyrus to YouTube,” ETEC540 Community Weblog, 2010. Retrieved from

[2] Gupta, Oma, “Advertising in India: Trends and Impact,” Gyan Publishing House, 2005. Retrieved from:

[3] “Common Sense,” Digital History 2014. Retrieved from

[4] Ed. Lawrence W. Baker, et al, “German Immigration, ” U.S. Immigration and Migration Reference, 2004. Retrieved from:

It’s Almost That Time Again:  May Is AntiquityNOW Month!

AN News Grey

During May we celebrate all things ancient, with a modern twist. From 2,000 year old nanotechnology to today’s supercomputers, from earliest chanted rituals to electronic bloviations, the arc of human history has been, shall we say, complicated. As sentient beings, we have constructed marvels in word and deed. We have also destroyed and obliterated that which we don’t understand and those we choose not to recognize. We strut, preen, cogitate, ruminate—we make an altogether spectacular tragicomedy as we shuffle along this mortal coil. Humans are a confounding lot who often are doomed to repeat the very histories we disregard. Here lies the fascination with looking to the past as it reflects our very modern sense of self. (See below quotes for variations on the themes above.) Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Cherry Clafoutis for Cherry Blossom Season!

cherry blossomIt’s the season for one of nature’s most beautiful blooms, the cherry blossom. In Washington D.C. from March 20th-April 12th, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing, and in Japan in March and April, festivals take place throughout the country. So this week we’ve decided to feature a delicious recipe for Cherry Clafoutis along with the cherry’s long and juicy history. Here are some of the highlights: Continue reading

Get Ready for Easter with AntiquityNOW

Bell-shaped_flowers_-_Easter_LilyWhether you’re celebrating a religious holiday or vying to win the egg hunt, it’s important to know where our holidays come from and how ancient are the roots that bind us all together. Below you’ll find our previous posts about the history of Easter, its origins and its traditions.

Also, we’ve included two delicious recipes for Passover, which begins tomorrow and ends next Saturday, April 11th.

And, for a bit of fun, check out this beautiful slideshow of Easter eggs around the world, courtesy of the The Huffington Post. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

History of Easter

Passover Recipes:

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Ful Mudammas for Passover

5607910397_2b7201b372_bPassover begins this Friday evening, April 3rd, and if you haven’t finished planning your Seder, do not fear. We have a delicious recipe that is vegan, kosher and ancient. Ful Mudammas has a fascinating history.  It also boasts a wealth of nutrients that have sustained the ancient Israelites for thousands of years.

For a brief explanation of Passover and another savory Seder dish, see our blog post from last year, Bon Appetit Wednesday! Green Borscht With Matzah for a Multi-Cultural Passover. Continue reading

Yakety-Yak, How We Do Talk Back: The Hydraulic Telegraph of Aeneas – Long-distance Communication of Antiquity

communicationThrough the ages humans have sought to communicate with each other. On a primal level, language developed out of necessity:  “Sabre-toothed tiger…run!” or “Fire…ow!” served obvious purposes and were intended to preserve the species. Memorializing their lives was a common force driving early cultures, and communication took many forms. Lacking any type of writing, people relied on memory, oral histories, art, monuments and other elements to document who they were.  The ability to communicate and record contemporary times became more important as societies evolved and grew. The passing centuries brought the realization that in communicating with others, there were limitations to perfecting a memory, drawing pictures and shouting to the next village (hoarseness being a little known driver of human innovation). As a result, the 3rd – 4th centuries BCE found the Phoenicians creating an alphabet and the Sumerians devising cuneiform writing (pictographs on clay tablets). The Egyptians were also hard at work recording their life and times through hieroglyphics. Here’s a look at some other advances we take for granted today that are courtesy of our ever-chattering ancestors[1]: Continue reading

Strata: Portraits of Humanity, Episode 5, “Archaeology in 12 Minutes” and “Photographing the Invisible”

StrataImage-webEpisode 5 of the new documentary series Strata:  Portraits of Humanity, produced by AntiquityNOW’s partner, Archaeological Legacy Institute, is a two-part episode 1) illustrating the history of archaeology and 2) demonstrating one of the technologies used today to recover the amazing artistry of our ancestors. Continue reading

From Ancient Graffiti to Modern Street Art: Our Need for Self Expression Through Time

Maeshowe chambered cairn.

Maeshowe chambered cairn.

Update! This post was originally published on December 12, 2012. The post below explores humanity’s fascinating obsession with leaving our mark. Graffiti has been with us since before recorded history. It provides an incredible wealth of information about who we are as historical beings and where we’ve been. These ancient markings also cause us to reflect on the sweep of human endeavor and wonder what will remain of the 21st century that may intrigue, appall or inspire, much as ancient graffiti does today. Continue reading