(Kendrick Collection, TESHS)

Detail, Life Magazine, 1919 (Trail End Collection)

The Ad Made Me Buy It

The Power of Advertising in the Early 20th Century

A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
​April 2012 - December 2012

Fashions change on a disturbingly regular basis. Those who care demand to know what is in fashion and what trends have been kicked to the curb. For the early Twentieth Century clothes horse, magazine articles and advertisements were crucial in letting them know whether to wear pointed collars, rounded collars, or to forget about collars altogether!


Eula Wulfjen Kendrick enjoyed wearing fashionable clothes. At her 1891 wedding, for example, she “wore a costly and beautiful traveling costume.” Even when she lived at the isolated family ranches, she kept up with fashion by subscribing to Munsey's, McClure's and other popular women's magazines. There, she saw advertisements for the latest fashions - many of which she purchased on her periodic trips to Denver, Chicago and Omaha. No shopping in the clothing section of the Sears catalog for Eula!

As she aged, Eula's love of fashion did not decrease. In 1931, author Frances Parkinson Keyes described her in the following glowing terms: "[She is] a slender, sprightly little lady, whose trim erect figure sets off to perfection frocks which are always the last word in smartness and elegance, for which every accessory and adornment is always perfect."

Unfortunately, Eula’s quest for fashion perfection sometimes opened her up to criticism. In 1916, a writer for The Saratoga Sun soundly criticized what appeared to him to be an extravagant expenditure: "When [Kendrick] was elected governor [in 1914, his wife] was too good to wear a dress that she could procure in the West, not even Cheyenne or Denver, but traveled to New York City and paid something like $10,000 for the gown!"

This wasn’t quite true. Although the inaugural gown was indeed purchased in New York, it came from a wholesale house and at a wholesale price nowhere approaching $10,000. Eula may have liked good clothes, but she was careful with her budget.


John Kendrick wasn't much of a slave to fashion. His suits, while custom-made, were hardly cutting-edge, and his hats were almost always purchased from Stetson. His son, on the other hand, was a bit more trendy.

After his father was elected Governor of Wyoming in 1914, Manville attended Cheyenne High School for a brief time before heading to Phillips-Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. From there he went to Harvard, from which he graduated in 1922. During his time in Massachusetts, Manville subscribed to The Harvard Lampoon, a campus-based magazine with lots of national advertising. After graduating, he received The Golden Book Magazine for many years. Manville kept almost all copies of both magazines, and they reveal quite a lot about their mostly-male audience.

The vast majority of ads in both magazines were for men’s products: clothes, cars, cigarettes and fancy new razors. These ads tended to play to the assumed sophistication of the reader (if he was reading Harvard Lampoon and Golden Book, after all, he must be sophisticated):

The man with an instinctive taste for fine quality in his personal equipment will feel that five dollars is a small lifetime price to pay for this aristocrat among razors – distinguished not only by its handsome appearance and solid masculine dignity, but also because of the supreme luxury and smoothness of its shave.

The slickest ads were for Arrow brand shirts and collars (it wasn’t until the 1920s that shirts were manufactured with the collars attached). The handsome, aristocratic Arrow Shirt men were as famous in 1920 as Victoria’s Secret models are today. Women swooned over their good looks, while men – like Manville – wanted to look just like them.

Influencing Fashion

 State Historic Site

Trail End