Sign in or register
for additional privileges

Setting the Stage of Modernity

Freiman's Department Store and the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress World Fair

Anna Stevenson, Author

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

Advertising and Popular Culture

The Century of Progress appealed to the masses through popular culture to gain the maximum
number of attendees and Freiman’s thus followed the same ideology. Celebrity
figures, performances, and fashion shows were just some of the ways Freiman’s
tapped into the popular culture of the 1930’s. Unlike other department stores
in Ottawa Freiman’s was appealing to the masses through association with
popular culture, advertising was one of the main ways they achieved this. Lawrence
Freiman said how, “during those difficult days, just to get people inside the
store, it was necessary to try every kind, or any kind, of promotion –
including Sally Rand” (Freiman 1978, 71). Sally Rand was one of the major acts
of the Century of Progress Fair where she performed her nude “fan dance” which
attracted over two million visitors to the Streets of Paris (Findling 1994,
125). When Lawrence Freiman heard she was coming to Ottawa he convinced her to
do a fashion show at Freiman’s with her line of girls performing as models and
the show brought such success that police had to be called to calm the crowds
(Freiman 1978, 71). Freiman’s continued the tradition of fashion shows and in
1949 held their first import promotion of international couturiers held at the
Chateau Laurier with the theme “Freiman’s Brings the World to Your Door
(Freiman 1978, 86). Their fashion shows epitomized their connection to
international trends and further proved their ability to live up to their
motto, “the store that sets the pace!”. Fashion shows were another prop to help
Freiman’s set the stage of modernity and foster an element of desire through
education on the latest trends for Ottawans.

                Freiman’s shift in newspaper advertising after the start of the 1933 Century of Progress Fair also portrayed
a new modern sensibility predicated on the graphics of the fair and popular
culture.  Parallel to the main ideology of the Century of Progress, advertising in the 1930’s shifted from factory
viewpoint and the objective to concern for the mental processes of the consumer
and the subjective (Marchand 1986, 11). Advertising provided an opportunity for
consumers to school themselves in a new language that promised to assimilate
them into a culture of high technology, complex economic and social
relationships, and urbane sophistication (Marchand 1986, 335). Depression style
ads were also louder and more direct (Marchand 1986, 300). In comparing the
graphics of Freiman’s newspaper advertising between 1931 and 1933 the impact of
the fair’s graphic design and the shift to subjective qualities are apparent in
their styles. The 1933 ad breaks away from the strict linear composition of
1931 and employs diagonal text and asymmetrical placement of product ads that
no longer fall into vertically defined columns. The font is larger and bolder
and the amounts of pictures are fewer yet larger ones capture the reader’s attention.
The typeface of the upper left “33rd” in the ad is also same font
used on the promotional posters for the fair and the middle section of the ad
is devoted to introducing the architectural model of the Century of Progress
World Fair. A comparison of Eaton’s Ottawa CDS store advertisements during 1931 and 1933

shows no change in their style. CDS continues to use the same
symmetrical blocked composition with no variety or boldness. Freiman’s is also
the only department store to use the visual motifs of the Century of Progress
and it is also the only advertisement for the fair in the entire Ottawa Citizen
for the year of 1933. Modern advertisements were concerned with creating desire
and using fantasy as a way to manipulate the consumer’s conscious thought towards
consumption as the key to completion. In Freiman’s Saturday evening
advertisement on November 4, 1933, they positioned their advertisement in the
“Latest Film Productions” section – something they had never done before nor
anyone else (Ottawa Citizen November 4 1933, 11). The advertisement speaks
directly to popular culture and references Hollywood affiliations to create
“promises” of enhanced experience. The advertisement states that Freiman’s will
be selling autographed dresses by Hollywood’s biggest stars such as Loretta
Young, Fay Wray, and Joan Young. They claim that every model of the dress “carries
with it the particular star’s own mark of authenticity” (Ottawa Citizen
November 4 1933, 11). Thus by buying the star’s dress one can experience a
heightened authenticity of the celebrity, transcendence from reality. Freiman’s
also had a “Four Star Sale Event” on November 1, 1933 whose advertisement follows
the same modern bold, dynamic styling but also implements obvious associations
to Hollywood and cinema through the use of star motifs (Ottawa Citizen November
1 1933, 10). Unlike Freiman’s, Eaton’s continues to forego any association with
international trends or popular culture. The figures in their advertisements
remain anonymous and they look for nationalistic heritage roots which are
evident in their advertisement in the Montreal Gazette on November 1, 1933 for
“English Underwear”.

Comment on this page

Discussion of "Advertising and Popular Culture"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path Introduction, page 5 of 7 Next page on path