Cover image for Stronger than dirt : a cultural history of advertising personal hygiene in America, 1875-1940
Stronger than dirt : a cultural history of advertising personal hygiene in America, 1875-1940
Sivulka, Juliann.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst, N.Y. : Humanity Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
369 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HF6161.S62 S58 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Author Notes

Juliann Sivulka is assistant professor at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This new book by Sivulka (journalism and mass communications, Univ. of South Carolina) makes a good case that advertising was a major factor in Americans' heightened awareness of personal hygiene, which began in the middle of the 19th century. Sivulka concentrates on how soap, towel, and plumbing manufacturers used advertising in ever more sophisticated ways to convince Americans, especially women, that buying their products would improve their lives. He examines various advertising campaigns in some detail and considers the use of new forms of mass communication such as magazines and radio. He also looks at racial prejudices concerning cleanliness and how African Americans were influenced by hygiene advertising. This is not a history of hygiene little medical information is offered but instead a study of the role advertising played in shaping public opinion on commercial personal hygiene products. Scholarly, well documented, and clearly written, this book is definitely recommended for all libraries with advertising collections, but other libraries can perhaps pass on it. Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Advertising has long been acknowledged as a key ingredient in the development of the modern consumer culture. Often seen as an educational tool in its infancy in the late 19th century, it became a way to convince buyers to purchase goods that they did not know they needed or wanted before they read the ad. Sivulka (journalism, Univ. of South Carolina) surveys the advertising industry's role from 1875 to 1940 in selling soaps and other personal hygiene products to a mass audience. Relying heavily on the archives of leading advertising agencies, the author shows how the writers and executives shaped their campaigns to sell social status as well as cleanliness. Advertisers used the new psychology in the 1920s, targeting women who were responsible for most household purchases. Procter and Gamble sold detergents between scenes in radio melodramas. In a chapter on African Americans, Sivulka discusses the tension between black pride in beauty business entrepreneurs and concern about their products such as hair straighteners and face bleaches. This study is a competent overview of the subject, told largely from the advertisers' point of view. Most academic collections. J. Sochen Northeastern Illinois University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. 11
1. A Culture of Cleanlinessp. 13
Soap as an Artifact of Culturep. 16
Definitions: Myths, Icons, Stereotypes, Heroes, Rituals, and Formulap. 19
2. Cleanliness, Not Always a Virtuep. 25
One Thousand Years without a Bathp. 28
New Gentility in the New Worldp. 32
Nineteenth-Century Americap. 36
The Commercial Soap Tradep. 45
3. Rise of the Mass Market, 1875 to 1900p. 59
The New Culture of Consumptionp. 60
From Domestic to Municipal Housekeeperp. 64
From Outhouse to In-Housep. 66
Soap Trade and the Era of the National Marketp. 71
Advertising and Mass Productionp. 75
The First National Advertisersp. 84
Brightening the "Dark Corners of the Earth"p. 98
4. Soap, Sex, and Science, 1900 to 1920p. 107
The Great Unwashedp. 109
The Modern Bathroomp. 115
The Soap Trade and Mass Sellingp. 120
Advertising and the New Science of Psychologyp. 134
Three Campaigns in the Makingp. 138
Soap Goes to Warp. 157
5. Shrines of Cleanliness, 1920 to 1940p. 161
The Liberation of the Bathroomp. 164
The Importance of Knowing the Customerp. 173
Three Formulas in the Making, 1920sp. 183
Advertising Gets Entertaining, 1930sp. 201
6. Soap, Sex, and Society, 1920 to 1940p. 213
Women Compose the Selling Prosep. 214
Beauty Typesp. 220
The Cleanliness Institute, 1927 to 1932p. 229
Soap Operas and Soapp. 247
7. White Soap and Black Consumer Culturep. 251
African Americans and Personal Care Enterprisep. 253
The Politics of Appearancep. 255
Beauty Types, Stereotypes, and Countertypesp. 271
The White Trade in Black Beautyp. 284
Sexualizing the Sellp. 288
Afterwordp. 291
Advertising and the Consumer Culturep. 292
New Shrines of Cleanlinessp. 299
A Word about Sourcesp. 305
Notesp. 309
Bibliographyp. 343
Indexp. 357