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Parables of Promise: American Advertising Fiction, 1856-2014

March 27 through May 23, 2014

One could say that a piece of fiction is always selling something, such as a political idea, a belief in how the world operates or how people (especially men and women) interact, or the promotion of religious or philosophical ideas. So it is not surprising that fiction—simply put, a non-true or non-realistic story—has also been used to sell material goods, whether plows, windows, patent medicines, cereals, the telephone, bicycles, railroad travel, or insurance, to name a few topics found in this exhibit. American companies and their advertisers have long exploited the medium. The golden age of the genre was roughly 1890-1930, but, as our exhibit shows, examples exist to the present day. We think our show breaks new ground (“Father, have you ever tried any other chilled plows besides the Oliver?”) and we encourage you to be the first to see these long-neglected but culturally important pamphlets from the past.

Examples from the exhibit

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