Marketing the Blue and Gray
Newspaper Advertising and the American Civil War
256 Pages / 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.00 in
- Hardcover /
- 9780807170823 /
- Published: June 2019
- eBook /
- 9780807171578 /
- Published: June 2019
Lawrence A. Kreiser, Jr.’s Marketing the Blue and Gray analyzes newspaper advertising during the American Civil War. Newspapers circulated widely between 1861 and 1865, and merchants took full advantage of this readership. They marketed everything from war bonds to biographies of military and political leaders; from patent medicines that promised to cure almost any battlefield wound to “secession cloaks” and “Fort Sumter” cockades. Union and Confederate advertisers pitched shopping as its own form of patriotism, one of the more enduring legacies of the nation’s largest and bloodiest war. However, unlike important-sounding headlines and editorials, advertisements have received only passing notice from historians. As the first full-length analysis of Union and Confederate newspaper advertising, Kreiser’s study sheds light on this often overlooked aspect of Civil War media.
Kreiser argues that the marketing strategies of the time show how commercialization and patriotism became increasingly intertwined as Union and Confederate war aims evolved. Yankees and Rebels believed that buying decisions were an important expression of their civic pride, from “Union forever” groceries to “States Rights” sewing machines. He suggests that the notices helped to expand American democracy by allowing their diverse readership to participate in almost every aspect of the Civil War. As potential customers, free blacks and white women perused announcements for war-themed biographies, images, and other material wares that helped to define the meaning of the fighting.
Advertisements also helped readers to become more savvy consumers and, ultimately, citizens, by offering them choices. White men and, in the Union after 1863, black men might volunteer for military service after reading a recruitment notice; or they might instead respond to the kind of notice for “draft insurance” that flooded newspapers after the Union and Confederate governments resorted to conscription to help fill the ranks. Marketing the Blue and Gray demonstrates how, through their sometimes-messy choices, advertising pages offered readers the opportunity to participate—or not—in the war effort.
In Marketing the Blue and Gray, Kreiser shows that advertisers went to war with a mixture of patriotic fervor and commercial opportunism. Effectively integrating early forms of consumerism into the larger history and historiography of the political and military events of the war, Kreiser deftly shows how advertisements reflected wartime American values, politics, and popular culture. His vast research reveals that wartime ads not only moved product, but also helped Americans engage the war and understand their places in it. ~James Marten, Professor and Chair, History Department
Newspapers figured prominently in how people in the United States and the Confederacy gained information about, and reacted to, the ebb and flow of the Civil War. This welcome book provides the first examination of advertisements that both sold products and promoted support for the respective causes. Kreiser’s analysis yields welcome insights into the commingling of popular and material culture, commerce, politics, and ideology in the midst of a great national trauma. ~Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Union War
In Marketing the Blue and Gray, Lawrence A. Kreiser takes a novel and fascinating approach: showing how the Civil War influenced and was influenced by newspaper advertising. In his comprehensive analysis of the words and images in ads in 550 Union and Confederate newspapers, Kreiser documents the sheer diversity of American life and commerce, the creativity of merchants, and the belief that shopping signaled patriotism. Well researched, crisply written, and concise, Marketing the Blue and Gray uncovers the stunning ways in which advertising sold the war and the war sold products—from war bonds to patent medicines to fake limbs. Through this remarkable book, one sees the war from a different perspective and Abraham Lincoln not just as president, but as pitchman. ~Kathy Merlock Jackson, coeditor of The Journal of American Culture