Needlecraft Magazine, 1927 (Georgen 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

WHEN THE KENDRICKS moved into Trail End in July 1913, they found a house full of new furnishings. Except for a few family heirlooms, nearly every stick of furniture was purchased new and shipped to Sheridan on railroad cars – almost all from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Most dishes and rugs were new, as were the household linens.


In the first quarter of the 20th Century, dozens of furniture companies were in business in Grand Rapids; sixty-eight in 1926 alone. With ample supplies of wood, power and transportation, this western Michigan city was touted as “The Furniture Capital of America.” As historian Wilbur Nesbit noted in 1912, “Today, when you think of furniture, you think of Grand Rapids, and when you think of Grand Rapids, you think of furniture.”

The Retting Furniture Company of Grand Rapids manufactured Trail End’s six-foot round mahogany dining room table (expandable to a whopping sixteen feet) and eighteen matching Jacobean-style chairs. Much of the rest of the home’s furniture was ordered from the Berkey & Gay Company. Known for its high quality products, B & G advertised over 150 distinct suite designs in its national ad campaigns. They were also the originators of the “catalog showroom,” a book filled with photographs of their wares placed in realistic arrangements showing how each piece related to the others.


The pride of many an early 20th Century homemaker was her collection of china and silver. The most precious pieces were usually those inherited from a mother or grandmother. Kept in the china cupboard, these pieces were only brought out for special occasions. 

Women usually received their first set of dishes and silverware when they got married (Eula and her daughters were no different). This probably explains why most advertisements for china and flatware featured brides. Tiffany, Haviland and Rogers advertised their wares in many women's magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Sunset and Delineator. In May 1926, Rogers (makers of silverplate for the middle classes), sponsored "Hints-to-the-Wedding-Guest-Week" in which 25,000 national dealers "dazzled" customers "with brilliant gift inspirations, moderately priced":

As First Aid to the friends of the happy couple, there will be especially featured the new Pieces of 8 Set - containing the ideal service in flatware for new home-makers. Eight of each, instead of the usual six in all the flatware essentials .. in a gorgeous Spanish Chest.

When it came time to set up housekeeping at Trail End, Eula Kendrick wanted new dishes and flatware – and lots of it. (With a table that could seat up to 24 people, she needed a truly BIG set of dishes!) Through the offices of Harry Whitmore, “Importer of Fine Arts” in Omaha, Nebraska, Eula contacted the British firm of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons regarding new china. The design was called Pearl Paris and featured cobalt and platinum bands and monogram on a pale gray base. Whitmore described it as “a lovely set … the finest that is made.” Though he had offices in Berlin and Paris, Whitmore had difficulties getting both the dishes and other decorative items delivered in the fall of 1914. Shipments were held up “on account of war conditions.” Eula eventually settled on the Minton Rose pattern; definitely pretty, but radically different from Pearl Paris.


In today's casual world, it’s easy for us to simply grab a mug for some coffee or any old bowl for some soup. But when you were setting a formal table at Trail End, knowing which cup or bowl went with which liquid was a little more challenging. The Kendricks’ Minton Rose set had a demitasse cup (for espresso-type drinks), three styles of tea and/or coffee cups, plus two types of cream soup/bouillon bowls (all with different saucers). There were also rimmed soup bowls and rimless ones – which were not to be confused with cereal bowls (deeper) or berry bowls (smaller) or nut dishes (flat-bottomed) or finger bowls (don't get us started!).

Traditionally, smooth soups – either clear or creamy – were served in round-bottomed, double-handled bouillon cups. Chunky soups or those with noodles came to the table in open, flat-bottomed vessels known as soup plates. The idea was that the diner could drink the smooth soups (holding the bowl by one handle or the other but never both), while the solid components of the chunky soup could be picked up with a spoon.

If they weren't "to the manor born," advertisements from Campbell's Soup were essential for letting lower and/or middle class consumers know which bowl went with which soup. 

Selling Home Decor

 State Historic Site

Trail End