Trail End

 Rosa-Maye & Manville Kendrick (AHC Kendrick Collection, TESHS)

 John Kendrick II (Kendrick Collection, TESHS)


A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site

March 2008 - December 2008

The Littlest Consumers

IN THE 1880s, brand name products began to be advertised to American consumers on advertising cards and in newspapers. Some of the earliest were soaps. Soap was difficult and unpleasant for the housewife to make herself, so the manufacturers of Ivory, Pears and Packer's soap found a ready market across the country. A few years later, national food brands began to appear - Quaker Oats, Royal Baking Powder, and Hires Root Beer among them - and advertisers purchased space in national magazines in order to boost sales.

In 1900, print advertising was such a fixture that marketers spent $100 million on it - twice the amount they'd spent in the 1880s. That money put advertisements in nearly every one of the 3,500 magazines that were distributed to over 65 million men and women across the country ... and their children.


Most early ads aimed at children were for books toys and candy. By 1928, it is estimated that magazine advertisers were reaching an estimated 20 million children between the ages of 10 and 20, and it was during this time that manufacturers really began targeting children - especially in the areas of food and clothing. As child psychologist E. Evalyn Grumbine noted in Reaching Juvenile Markets, "Merchants realized that treating children as individuals with identifiable desires and concerns of their own could increase business. Once the child's perspective was acknowledged, it was but a small step toward ... creating products ... to appeal to it."

While early advertisements were geared toward parents ("Your kids will love this; buy it for them!"), marketers soon learned to aim ads at the children themselves ("You'll love this; have your parents buy it for you!"). Grumbine observed that children were "natural and enthusiastic buyers." Therefore, "an understanding of children, of their physical and mental development, their likes and dislikes, and their reactions to the rapidly changing conditions of living today, will help manufacturers to plan better advertising campaigns."

In their endless quest for consumers, advertisers traditionally used safety, style, prestige and convenience as reasons for why their products were better than others. The Kendricks were fairly typical consumers, especially when it came to their children, so Manville and Rosa-Maye - and their children as well - had the latest in buggies, high chairs, toys and more. Manville and Diana purchased many items for their first child, including a Trimble Kiddie-Koop. The latest in cribs, the Kiddie-Koop not only combined a crib with a bassinet and playpen, but had screened sides and top (to keep out insects), rubber-tire wheels, and could fold down to only eight inches deep!


For as long as there have been products to advertise, there have been images of juveniles hawking those products. Many of the supermarket standbys we know today – from food and candy to wearing apparel and cleaning products – used illustrations of children as selling tools as early as the mid-1800s. The real heyday of the child pitchman came in the 1920s when labels began picturing healthy children doing healthful things: eating fruit, playing outside, sleeping soundly.

One of the most famous child advertising icons from the 20th Century was the “Gerber Baby,” who began his/her career selling baby food in 1931. Others included:

  • The Campbell Soup Kids 
  • The Uneeda Biscuit Boy
  • The Jell-O Girl 
  • Buster Brown (shoes)
  • The Cracker Jack Kid
  • The Dutch Boy (paint) 
  • The Dutch Girl (cleanser)
  • The Gold Dust Twins (cleanser)

Youngsters to be Proud Of

The Changing Nature of Childhood

 State Historic Site