The LINOTYPE is to the printing business of the present day what the inventions of Guttenberg and Caxton were to the primitive writing systems of the fifteenth century. It raises the unit of type-setting from a letter to a line. Hence its name (line-o’-type). Six years ago it was declared to be ‘one of the most remarkable machines ever invented,’ and the Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone said: ‘It is a machine for which I cannot but anticipate effects equally extensive and beneficial to mankind.’
– Brighton Society, Dec 1896
1886 was not only an important year for bicycle design (the first practical safety bicycle). It also saw the introduction of the Linotype printing machine. By the 1890s, magazines could be produced efficiently and cheaply.
1888-1898: The combination of money generated from the new cycle industry during its ‘boom’ years plus cheap printing gave birth to the advertising industry.
In 1895, the American Cosmopolitan magazine threw down the gauntlet to its competitors and slashed its price to a dime. Other magazines had no choice but to follow suit. Circulation boomed as a result, and this kick-started the advertising industry as we know it today. These three industries, bicycle manufacturing, magazine production and advertising, came of age together, this ‘industrial revolution’ of the 1890s creating the consumer society we know today.
MUNSEY MAGAZINE: THE BICYCLE NUMBER
A favourite subject for 1890s magazines was the new craze of cycling. In the early days, it was an expensive pastime; so, just as magazines today focus on the rich and famous, reports on the hobby revealed to ordinary folk what the upper classes were getting up to. As cycling became more affordable, there was an increase in practical articles, with much debate about female riding outfits.
The May 1896 issue of Munsey Magazine – ‘The Bicycle Number’ – is the most comprehensive report of the period, providing an informative view of cycling in the mid-1890s, as well as a potted history of cycling, elegant photos and illustrations, and quaint suggestions for the improvement of cycling, such as (my favourite) a ‘rapid transit’ elevated cycle path, above.
LORD & THOMAS ADVERTISING AGENCY
Lord and Thomas was founded in Chicago in 1873. Later to become FCB, it was the world’s third oldest advertising agency. Albert Lasker, a founding figure of modern advertising, went to work for the firm as a clerk in 1898, working his way up until he purchased it in 1912. Chicago and New York were the centres of the advertising industry. As head of the Lord and Thomas agency, Lasker – known as ‘the father of modern advertising’ – devised a copywriting technique that appealed directly to the psychology of the consumer. Women seldom smoked cigarettes; he told them if they smoked Lucky Strikes they could stay slender. Lasker’s use of radio, particularly with his campaigns for Palmolive soap, Pepsodent toothpaste, Kotex products, and Lucky Strike cigarettes, not only revolutionized the advertising industry but also significantly changed popular culture.
THE SAFETY SKIRT HOLDER
You might have noticed that the edges of some pages of this Munsey magazine are blurred. Unfortunately there is a choice when reproducing old magazines: break them apart for perfect photocopying and scanning; or keep them intact and have alternate blurred page edges. I prefer to preserve antique items, and my 115-year-old Munsey magazine is already somewhat delicate. So I couldn’t bring myself to destroy it. Obviously you can download this magazine article from this page for free. But if you want a perfect reproduction, the magazines do come up on American ebay every now and then: I’ve seen someone charging £15 for a copy of this same article, as well as similar sums asked for single illustrations.