Surely “cater to your customers” must be the most fundamental principle of marketing. When Williston Seminary’s campus newspaper, The Willistonian, made its first appearance in March of 1881 (making it, 118 years later, the oldest continuously published secondary school paper in the United States), its student editors sought to finance their enterprise by selling advertising. With a couple hundred teenage boys occupying the campus, local merchants sought to appeal to their wallets. Logically then, we can open a window into an 1880s adolescent’s mind by examining how, away from home and parental supervision, he wanted to spend his (or his father’s) money — or how local merchants wanted him to spend it.
Early issues of The Willistonian came in an advertising wrapper. The “front page” was actually inside. Because the paper was also sold by local merchants, a portion of the advertising was aimed at the general public. And industries like Glendale Elastic Fabrics — one of the late Samuel Williston’s enterprises — may have purchased space out of a sense of obligation to Samuel’s widow Emily, if not to the school.
The advertisements below are selected from the first three years of The Willistonian, 1881-1884.
“Opposite Williston Seminary” meant Shop Row, on Main Street. C. S. Rust appealed to young men’s fashion sensibilities.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the United States and Europe were swept by a craze for postcards. Useful not only for mail, the cards were snapped up by scrapbookers and collectors. Cities and towns, large and small, published “views.” They were a source of civic pride. Easthampton was no exception. In fact, largely through the enthusiasm of a local shopkeeper and photography buff named Charles J. Keene,1 Easthampton was featured in more postcard images than any other U.S. location except New York. The Williston Northampton Archives hold nearly 300 postcards of the school and the town.
Many of the older and more attractive cards were published by Raphael Tuck & Co., ca. 1890-1915, although the photographs used for the cards sometimes dated from the 1880’s or even earlier. Tuck developed a process of tinting black and white photographs to produce color images via lithographic printing. When images were colorized, they were often altered to include vehicles and people not present in the original photographs.
1Keene’s other claim to Williston Northampton fame is that he lived in what is now French House.
(“Wish You Were Here” will be a regular feature of “From the Archives,” probably until we run out of postcards.)
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