Lucky Strike Advertisement, 1931 (Private Collection)

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

Legitimizing Alcohol & Tobacco Use

 State Historic Site

Trail End

AS WAS THE case with food, advertising vices such as alcohol and tobacco could be fraught with hazards. Companies had to make sure that they were advertising their products in the proper magazines - usually men's magazines, farm and ranch publications, or those focusing on male college students. Not until the 1930s did advertisers get bold enough to advertise cigarettes in women's magazines.


Although women rarely drank beer or any other form of alcohol, the female of the species was often used to market alcohol. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, lovely young women posed for Budweiser, Schlitz and other American brews.

Between 1920 and 1933, it was illegal for Americans to make, sell or possess alcoholic beverages. This era, known as Prohibition, was enforced by the Eighteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution as well as a variety of state laws. Breweries had to change both their manufacturing techniques and their marketing styles. Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser, figured out how to “de-alcoholize” their product, making it “in conformity with present regulations” – meaning less than one-half of one percent alcohol per bottle. That information needed to be in the forefront of any advertising campaign.


In the 1910s and 1920s, tobacco advertising was aimed towards the hip and modern. As one pipe tobacco ad said, all you needed to be happy was “a snappy roadster, a wonderful girl, and a pipeful of good old Prince Albert!” In the 1920s and 1930s, ads started to appear in which physicians touted one brand over another as being more healthful; some even said cigarettes were a healthful alternative to candy.

As was the case with alcohol, women were used to advertise tobacco - even though it was still shockingly scandalous to see a woman smoke in public. Usually it would be the man in the background who was doing the smoking. Many of the marketing slogans in this era were catchy, but would never – could never – be used in publications today:

  • Maintain Your Efficiency By Smoking Tuxedo
  • Prince Albert: The National Joy Smoke
  • Tuxedo: The Perfect Tobacco of Grand Opera Singers
  • Old Gold: Not a Cough in a Carload
  • Lucky: When Tempted, Reach for a Lucky Instead

Flavored tobacco products were all the rage in the 1920s. While Piper-Heidsieck used the “juice of vine-ripened grapes” in their chewing tobacco, Milo offered violet-scented cigarettes, and Tuxedo added chocolate to its pipe tobacco – because “everybody likes chocolate!”