Early coffee advertising—The first coffee advertisement in 1587 was frank propaganda for the legitimate use of coffee—The first printed advertisement in English—The first newspaper advertisement—Early advertisements in colonial America—Evolution of advertising—Package coffee advertising—Advertising to the trade—Advertising by means of newspapers, magazines, billboards, electric signs, motion pictures, demonstrations, and by samples—Advertising for retailers—Advertising by government propaganda—The Joint Coffee Trade publicity campaign in the United States—Coffee advertising efficiency
In a work of this character the chapter on advertising must of necessity be in story form. It may tell what has been accomplished in advertising coffee, and perhaps point the way to greater achievement. In so far as possible, the story is supplemented by illustrations, which here tell the story even better than words.
Advertising to the trade or the consumer calls for expert advice. There are successful trade journalists who are competent to supply such advertising counsel; and new-comers in the field should consult them first. These men are in the best position to suggest the means for successful accomplishment. They know the men who are best qualified to render assistance for all media, and are glad to recommend those who can be most helpful.
Jarvis A. Wood has said that advertising is causing another to know, to remember, and to do. If we agree with this excellent definition, then the first coffee advertisers were the early physicians and writers who told their fellows something about the berry and the beverage made from it.
Rhazes and Avicenna told the story in Latin, and appear to have recommended a coffee decoction as a stomachic, as far back as the tenth century. Many other early physicians refer to it. Thus it was that coffee was solemnly introduced to the consumer as a medicine. The first step made by the berry from the cabinets of the curious, where it was known as an exotic seed, was into the apothecaries' shops, where it was sold and advertised as a drug. Next, the coffee drink was advertised and sold by lemonade venders; then by the proprietors of the coffee houses and cafés; and finally the coffee merchant sold and advertised the green and roasted bean.
Rauwolf told the Germans about it in 1582; Abd-al-Kâdir wrote his famous Argument in favor of the legitimate use of coffee in Arabic about 1587; Alpini carried the news to Italy in 1592; English travelers wrote about the beverage in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; French Orientalists described it about the same time; and America learned about it long before the green beans were offered for sale in Boston in 1670.
Because of its frank propaganda character, Abd-al-Kâdir's manuscript may rightly be called the earliest advertisement for coffee. The author was a lawyer-theologian, a follower of Mahomet, and as such was eager to convince his contemporaries that coffee drinking was not incompatible with the prophet's law.
Soon the news of the day became the advertising of the morrow. In 1652 appeared the first printed advertisement for coffee in English. It was in the form of a shop-bill, or handbill, issued by Pasqua Rosée from the first London coffee house in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill; and the original is preserved in the British Museum.
It is pictured on page 55, chapter X, and is worthy of close examination. It reads:
The Vertue of the COFFEE Drink
First publiquely made and sold in England, by Pasqua Rosée.
The Grain or Berry called Coffee, groweth upon little Trees, only in the Deserts of Arabia.
It is brought from thence, and drunk generally throughout all the Grand Seigniors Dominions.
It is a simple innocent thing, composed into a Drink, by being dryed in an Oven, and ground to Powder, and boiled up with Spring water, and about half a pint of it to be drunk, fasting an hour before, and not Eating an hour after, and to be taken as hot as possibly can be endured; the which will never fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any Blisters, by reason of that Heat.
The Turks drink at meals and other times, is usually Water, and their Dyet consists much of Fruit, the Crudities whereof are very much corrected by this Drink.
The quality of this Drink is cold and Dry; and though it be a Dryer, yet It neither heats, nor inflames more then hot Posset.
It so closeth the Orifice of the Stomack, and fortifies the heat within, that it's very good to help digestion, and therefore of great use to be taken about 3 or 4 a Clock afternoon, as well as in the morning.
It much quickens the Spirits, and makes the Heart Lightsome. It is good against sore Eys, and the better if you hold your Head over it, and take in the Steem that way.
It suppresseth Fumes exceedingly, and therefore good against the Head-ach, and will very much stop any Defluxion of Rheums, that distil from the Head upon the Stomack, and so prevent and help Consumptions; and the Cough of the Lungs.
It is excellent to prevent and cure the Dropsy, Gout, and Scurvy.
It is known by experience to be better than any other Drying Drink for People in years, or Children that have any running humors upon them, as the Kings Evil,&c.
It is very good to prevent Mis-carryings in Child-bearing Women.
It is a most excellent Remedy against the Spleen, Hypocondriack Winds, or the like.
It will prevent Drowsiness, and make one fit for business, if one have occasion to Watch; and therefore you are not to Drink of it after Supper, unless you intend to be watchful, for it will hinder sleep for 3 or 4 hours.
It is observed that in Turkey, where this is generally drunk, that they are not trobled with the Stone, Gout, Dropsie, or Scurvey, and that their Skins are exceedingly cleer and white.
It is neither Laxative nor Restringent.
Made and sold in St. Michaels Alley in Cornhill, by Pasqua Rosée, at the Signe of his own Head.
The noteworthy thing about this advertisement is, that in comparison with the best copy of today, it has high merit. For this early advertisement seems to have embodied in it superbly well those qualifications which modern advertising experts agree are essential requirements for success—measured in terms of sales to the consumer. We shall return to it later.
The first newspaper advertisement for coffee appeared in the form of a "reader" in the issue of The Publick Adviser, London, for the week of Tuesday, May 19, to Tuesday, May 26, 1657. The Publick Adviser was a weekly pamphlet partaking of the nature of a commercial news-letter. The advertisement was sandwiched between a reader advertising a doctor of physick and one for an "artificer," the latter being a ladies' hair-dresser. It was as follows:
In Bartholomew Lane on the back side of the Old Exchange, the drink called Coffee, (which is a very wholesom and Physical drink, having many excellent vertues, closes the Orifice of the Stomack, fortifies the heat within, helpeth Digestion, quickneth the Spirits, maketh the heart lightsom, is good against Eye-sores, Coughs, or Colds, Rhumes, Consumptions, Head-ach, Dropsie, Gout, Scurvy, Kings Evil, and many others is to be sold both in the morning, and at three of the clock in the afternoon.)
About the time that Pascal opened the first coffee house in Paris in 1672, the Paris shop-keepers began to advertise coffee by broadsides. A good example is the following, the text of which closely resembles the original by Pasqua Rosée:
The most excellent Virtue of the Berry called Coffee.
Coffee is a Berry which only grows in the desert of Arabia, from whence it is transported into all the Dominions of the Grand Seigniour, which being drunk dries up all the cold and moist humours, disperses the wind, fortifies the Liver, eases the dropsie by its purifying quality, 'tis a Sovereign medicine against the itch, and corruptions of the blood, refreshes the heart, and the vital beating thereof, it relieves those that have pains in their Stomach, and cannot eat; It is good also against the indispositions of the brain, cold, moist, and heavy, the steam which rises out of it is good against the Rheums of the eyes, and drumming in the ears: 'Tis excellent also against the shortness of the breath, against Rheums which trouble the Liver, and the pains of the Spleen; It is an extraordinary ease against the Worms: After having eat or drunk too much: Nothing is better for those that eat much Fruit.
The daily use hereof in a little while will manifest the aforesaid effect to those, that being indisposed shall use it from time to time.
The following are typical London trade advertisements of 1662 and 1663. The first is from the Kingdom's Intelligencer of June 5, 1662, and reads as follows:
At the Exchange Ally from Cornhill into Lumber Street neer the Conduit, at the Musick-Room belonging to the Palsgrave's Hall, is sold by retayle the right coffee powder; likewise that termed the Turkey Berry, well cleansed at 30d. per pound ... the East India berry (so called) of the best sorts at 20d. per pound, of which at present in divers places there is very bad, which the ignorant for cheapness do buy, and is the chief cause of the now bad coffee drunk in many plaies (sic).
The Intelligencer for December 21, 1663, contained the following advertisement:
There is a Parcel of Coffee-Berry to be put to publique sale upon Wednesday, the 23, instant, at 6 a clock in the evening at the Globe Coffee-house at the end of St. Bartholomew Lane, over against the North Gate of the Royall Exchange.... And if any desire to be further informed they may repair to Mr. Brigg, Publique Notary at the said Globe Coffee-house.
Dufour's treatise on The Manner of Making Coffee, Tea and Chocolate, published in Lyons, 1684, was generally regarded as propaganda for the beverage; and, indeed, it proved an excellent advertisement, being quickly translated into English and several other languages.
In 1691 we find advertised in the Livre Commode of Paris a portable coffee-making outfit to fit the pocket.
The first coffee periodical, The New and Curious Coffee House, was issued at Leipzig by Theophilo Georgi in 1707, being a kind of house organ for what was, perhaps, the first kaffee-klatsch; the publisher-proprietor, however, admitted that the idea of making his coffee salon a resort for the literati was obtained from Italy.
First Newspaper Advertisement Solely for coffee in the United States
In chapter X we have described a number of broadsides, handbills, and pamphlets having to do with the introduction of the coffee drink into London between 1652 and 1675. The advertising student would do well to refer to them because they serve to show how completely the true merits of the beverage were lost sight of by those who urged its more fantastic claims. It is interesting to note, however, that this early copy was of a high order of typographical excellence; indeed, the display letter used for the word coffee is often like that found in copy in the United States two hundred and fifty years after. Also, it should be noted that "apt 'illustration's' artful aid" was first employed in 1674. Again, note this curious contrast. Two hundred and sixty-nine years ago all the resources of advertising were being laid under contribution to make propaganda for coffee as the great cure for many ailments of which nowadays the enemies of coffee would have us believe coffee is the cause! Those who have possessed themselves of the facts about coffee know that both arguments are equally fantastic.
Coffee was mentioned in shop-keepers' announcements appearing in the Boston News Letter as early as 1714, and in other newspapers of the colonies during the eighteenth century, usually being offered for sale at retail with strange companions. In 1748 "tea, coffee, indigo, nutmegs, sugar, etc.," were advertised for sale at a shop in Dock Square, Boston. The following advertisement from the Columbian Centinel, Boston, April 26, 1794, is typical:
GROCERIES AT NO. 44 CORNHILL
Norton and Holyoke
Respectfully inform their friends and the publick, that they have for sale, at their Shop, No. 44 Cornhill, formerly the Post-Office.
A GENERAL ASSORTMENT OF GROCERIES
among which are the following articles: Teas, Spices, Coffee, Cotton, Indigo, Starch, Chocolate, Raisins, Figs, Almonds, and Olives; West India Rum, best French Brandy, excellent Cherry Wine, pure as imported, etc., etc., all which they will sell as low as any store in Boston.
Any article not liked will be taken again, and the money returned.
It appears that the first advertisement dealing with coffee alone was published in the New York Daily Advertiser for February 9, 1790; and this was primarily an advertisement of a wholesale coffee roasting factory rather than an advertisement of coffee per se.
This advertisement, and a later one published in Loudon's New York Packet for January 1, 1791, also of a coffee manufactory, are reproduced herewith.
Not until package coffee began to come into vogue in the sixties was there any change in the stereotyped business-card form followed by all dealers in coffee. And even then the monotony was varied only by inserting the brand name, such as "Osborn's Celebrated Prepared Java Coffee. Put up only by Lewis A. Osborn"; "Government coffee in tin foil pound papers put out by Taber & Place's Rubia Mills."
Evolution of Coffee Advertising
Real progress in coffee advertising, as in publicity for other lines of trade and industry, began in the United States. Here too, it has been brought to its lowest degradation and to its highest efficiency. The entire process has taken something less than fifty years.
Early Coffee Advertising in United States
The first step forward was the picture handbill. The handbill, or dodger, had been common enough in England and on the Continent, where, for upward of two hundred years it had served as an advertising medium, in company with the more robust broadside, and in competition with the pamphlet and newspaper. It remained for America, however, to glorify the handbill by means of colored pictures; and one of the earliest and best specimens of the picture handbill is the Arbuckle circular here illustrated.
First Handbill In Colors For Package Coffee About 1872
Soon the handbill copy began to appear in the newspapers, but mostly without the illustrations. Later newspaper developments were to introduce more of the picture element, decorative border, and design. The ideas of European artists were freely drawn upon, but put to so utilitarian uses that their originators would scarce have recognized them.
In the Ladies Home Journal for December, 1888, the Great London Tea Company, Boston, an early mail-order house, advertised, "We have made a specialty since 1877 of giving premiums to those who buy tea and coffee in large quantities." In the same issue, there was an advertisement of Seal Brand and Crusade Brand coffee by Chase & Sanborn, Boston. Dilworth Bros., Pittsburgh, were also among the early users of magazine space.
The menace of the cereal coffee-substitute evil had grown to such proportions at the beginning of the twentieth century, that the coffee men began to be concerned about it. Misleading and untruthful "substitute" copy was freely accepted by nearly all media. The package labels were as bad, if not worse. With the advent of the pure food law of 1906, the cereal label abuse was reformed; but not until the "truth in advertising" movement became a power to be reckoned with, nearly ten years later, were the coffee men granted a substantial measure of protection in the magazines and newspapers. Meanwhile, many coffee men, lacking organization and a knowledge of the facts about coffee, unwittingly played into the hands of the substitute-fakers by publishing unfortunate defensive copy which made confusion worse confounded in the consumer's mind.
Reverse Side Of The Arbuckle Handbill
(In Colors) of 1872
At one time there were nearly one hundred coffee-substitute concerns engaged in a bitter, untruthful campaign directed against coffee. The most conspicuous offender employed the principle of auto-suggestion and found a goodly number of pseudo-physicians and bright advertising minds that were quite willing to prostitute their finest talents to aid him in attacking an honorable business.
Advertising-Card Copy, 1873
In one year $1,765,000 was spent in traducing the national beverage. The burden of the cereal-faker's song was that coffee was the cause of all the ills that flesh is heir to, and that by stopping its use for ten days and substituting his panacea, these ills would vanish.
Of course, there were many people (but they were the minority) who knew that the caffein content of coffee was a pure, safe stimulant that did not destroy the nerve cells like such false stimulants as alcohol, morphine, etc.; and that while too much could be ingested from abuse of any beverage containing it, nature always effected a cure when the abuse was stopped.