Exercise 4: Gender, Class, and Advertising

Boston Oyster House advertisement, Colonial Theater Playbill, 1908, folder 9, box 6, Playbill and Broadside Collection (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.).

Chicago’s downtown restaurants often placed advertisements in theater playbills to attract hungry after-theater crowds. Many of these establishments served alcoholic beverages and became the objects of Frederick Hopkins’s reform efforts. Examine five advertisements for restaurants where Hopkins claimed to have observed women drinking, and answer the following questions.

Questions

  • Who were the audiences for these playbill advertisements? Consider class, gender, race, age, and other categories of difference.
  • How did the restaurants communicate that they were respectable places that welcomed ladies?
  • Were each of the restaurants attempting to appeal to the same class of patrons? How did they craft their appeals?
  • Do you think the advertisements were intended to appeal mainly to men, women, or both sexes? What might women or men have found enticing about these establishments?

At all of the restaurants shown in these advertisements Hopkins reported that women tipplers outnumbered those who were not imbibing alcohol. He tallied 27 out of 33 women drinking at the Pompeian Room (82 percent); 55 out of 68 at the College Inn (81 percent); 12 out of 21 at the Breevort (57 percent); 8 out of 15 at the Hofbrau (53 percent); and 16 out of 23 at Vogelsang’s (70 percent). In only one restaurant visited by Hopkins did the number of nondrinkers heavily outweigh those drinking–the Boston Oyster House. There, Hopkins observed only 1 woman out of 18 imbibing (6 percent). Examine a series of advertisements for the Boston Oyster House published between 1906 and 1908, and consider the following questions.

Questions

  • Compare the Boston Oyster House’s advertising strategy with those of the other restaurants Hopkins visited. What similarities or differences do you observe?
  • Did the Boston Oyster House’s advertising strategy change at all over time? If so, what might have promoted these changes? What aspects of the restaurant’s advertising remained consistent, and why?
  • To whom in particular was the Boston Oyster House attempting to appeal in its 1907 advertisement invoking Hopkins? Was this the same audience the restaurant was targeting in 1906? In 1908?

Sources

  1. Brevoort advertisement, Garrick Theater Playbill, 1906, folder 6, box 10, Playbill and Broadside Collection (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.).
  2. College Inn advertisement, Auditorium Theater Playbill, 1908, folder 1, box 2, Playbill and Broadside Collection (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.).
  3. Kaiserhof advertisement, Auditorium Theater Playbill, 1912, folder 2, box 2, Playbill and Broadside Collection (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.).
  4. Pompeian Room advertisement, Garrick Theater Playbill, 1911, folder 9, box 10, Playbill and Broadside Collection (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.).
  5. Vogelsang’s advertisement, Majestic Theater Playbill, 1906, folder 1, box 19, Playbill and Broadside Collection (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill).
  6. Boston Oyster House advertisement, Majestic Theater Playbill, 1906, folder 1, box 19, Playbill and Broadside Collection (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.).
  7. Boston Oyster House advertisement, Garrick Theater Playbill, 1907, folder 7, box 10, Playbill and Broadside Collection (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.).
  8. Boston Oyster House advertisement, Colonial Theater Playbill, 1908, folder 9, box 6, Playbill and Broadside Collection (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.).