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Advertisement for United States Lines featuring Harry Truman

Having the president's image in an advertisement--especially that of Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, or Lincoln--helped legitimize a product and separate it from the competition. The presidential name or representation instantly made an item recognizable and in demand. In the 20th century, an unwritten rule discourages the use of an image of the current president to advertise goods.



Advertisement for ABA Travelers Cheques
In the early 20th century, the image of Theodore Roosevelt was popular among advertisers. His vigor, enthusiastic personality, and credibility as both president and war hero lent legitimacy to any product. Here Roosevelt's reputation as an international adventurer is used to sell ABA Travelers Cheques.
Advertisement for Cherry Smash
The image of George Washington has probably been in more advertisements than that of any other president, selling everything from coffee to soap to baking powder to soft drinks.
Advertising cards were created by wholesalers as attractive items that retailers could give customers to remind them what brands to purchase. In use primarily from the years just after the Civil War through the early 20th century, these cards quickly became collectibles.

Companies used presidential images like this of John Adams--here gracing a card about Sweet Home Soap--to encourage the acquisition of their product. This prompted sales, and the advertising cards allowed people to collect a bit of the presidency for themselves.

This advertisement for Lincoln Tea attempted to draw a parallel between Lincoln, "an honest man," and Lincoln Tea, "an honest medicine." The name and image of Lincoln evokes ideals of integrity and goodness--values which the manufacturer hoped to impart on its product.


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National Museum of American History