Friday, October 8, 2021
Jewish advertisements have a developed and storied history within the Cincinnati Jewish community. As American Jewish communities grew and developed, it became necessary to find more efficient methods of spreading awareness for local services beyond word-of-mouth and bulletins. Newspapers provided an excellent avenue for this prospect. Although advertisements in newspapers were seen as early as the 18th century with the spreading of the printing press, advertising as we know it for individual brands and organizations was developed mainly in the 19th century. The technological developments of the printing press during this time allowed for newspapers to be produced more quickly and made more widely accessible, while funding from advertisers reduced the financial burden for the average citizen, all in combination making the daily cost of purchasing a newspaper much more affordable.
Few newspapers can share the cultural significance of the American Israelite, a Jewish newspaper founded in 1854 by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and Edward Bloch. Originally known as The Israelite, but donning its current name in 1874, the American Israelite is the longest-running Jewish newspaper in the United States of America and the second longest in the world. Because of the relation to Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, and connection to Hebrew Union College, it naturally became a beacon for Reform Judaism in America and connected many smaller Jewish communities and individual families with their Judaism in general. Despite this close connection to the American Jewish movement, the American Israelite also supported world Jewry as a whole.
In the early days of the Israelite, advertisements were often from individual retailers offering local products such as shoes, coats and tailored apparel, coal for household stoves (advertised using the term “coke”), pianos and organs, medicines and remedies, confections and groceries, and books (especially those published by Edward Bloch and Co.!). A product that was advertised especially during spring issues due to the proximity of the Passover holiday was—of course—matzah.
One of the strongest businesses that has maintained a consistent presence within the American Israelite is the Manischewitz company. The first Manischewitz matzah factories were established in Cincinnati in the late 1880s. Then, at the turn of the century, Manischewitz developed inventions using machines, gas stoves, and conveyer belts, that revolutionized the matzah baking process. These machines would improve over the next several decades to be able to produce matzah at incredible rates of over one million per day. Until then, most matzah had been baked in synagogue kitchens, and individual bakeries that relied on their traditional methods carried over from Europe. Their advertisements mention how they took pride in their genuine “Berliner” and “Vienna matzos,” for example.
Photography, as well as general printing methods, developed further into the 20th century, providing the ability for more photographic imagery leading to detailed and visually appealing advertisements. This helped the reader to identify the suggested products quickly and establish a connection beyond what could be conveyed with a textual description. As Manischewitz expanded their product line, these technological advancements helped bring awareness and even excitement to readers about these new products, greatly expanding the company’s reach.
Presently, advertisements are commonplace in newspapers and magazines, on TV and billboards, but also on online websites and streamed videos. Within a capitalist society, the selling of goods and services will continue to have a place with commuting traffic, and consuming entertainment. At times it can be subliminal or suffocating. However, there is something pleasant about learning the humble historic beginnings of brands and products for which we may have nostalgic feelings.
These advertisements and pages of the American Israelite are just one example of the numerous titles found within the Lucille Klau Carothers American Jewish Periodical Center (AJPC) located at the Cincinnati campus’ Klau Library of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The AJPC houses a microform collection of thousands of Northern and Southern American Jewish newspapers, journals, and magazines published in eight languages. The Center also houses the Library’s collection of microform materials with tens of thousands of microfilm reels and microfiche cards. They are available for all your researching and reference needs.
Contributed by Joshua Fischer, Junior Assistant Judaica Librarian in Cincinnati
Ad images taken from:
v. 14, no. 24 December 20, 1867
v. 14, no. 39 April 3, 1868
v. 46, no. 40 April 5, 1900
v. 50, no. 32 February 4, 1904
v. 73, no. 42 April 14, 1927
v. 79, no. 40 April 6, 1933
v. 96, no. 12 September 22, 1949
v. 110, no. 11 September 26, 1963
v. 110, no. 40 April 16, 1964
v. 110, no. 44 May 14, 1964