Race and Mass Consumption in Consumer Culture: National Trademark Advertising Campaigns in the United States and Germany, 1890-1930
Thornton Dill, Bonnie
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This dissertation examines how and why visual imagery in selected advertising material in the United States and Germany between 1890 and 1930 influenced the materialization of mass consumption as an important part of national culture. What emerges out of this study is a comparison of two different national environments that despite cultural differences relied on discourses on racialized identities to attract consumers and sell brand name products. This dissertation proposes that in both countries, trade card series in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century helped establish visual elements as important communicators to mass consumers, especially by drawing on easily recognizable motifs of patriotic and racialized mythologization. By the turn of the nineteenth century, as newspaper and magazine advertising continued to grow, the visual compositions of advertisements continued to become more sophisticated in both narrative as well as stylistic composition. This work relies equally on scholarship from the traditional disciplines of history and art history, as well as from the growing interdisciplinary work produced in American Studies, especially its subdivision of visual and material culture. The multidisciplinary methods of African American Studies and other related fields such as Black Diaspora Studies have shaped this dissertation's theoretical foundation of the complex processes of racialization. This dissertation examines three brand name products that started using black trade characters as their trademarks: Aunt Jemima pancakes and Cream of Wheat in the United States, and Sarotti Chocolate in Germany. All three product campaigns emerge at a time of complex social and economic changes as both Germany and the United States evolved as powerful nation-states with colonial and imperialist politics.