AD from 1949
(William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History)

Historic advertisements are an important window into our understanding of the past.

My last few columns have addressed rather serious, but important, aspects of Jewish Detroit history. I thought I might continue this trend, and write about another very serious subject: historic advertisements in the Jewish Chronicle and JN.

OK, OK — advertisements may not be as serious as world politics, religion or poverty. Nevertheless, I argue that historic advertisements are an important window into our understanding of the past. Aside from that, they are just plain fun to read, and one of my favorite parts of cruising through the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History. Some of them speak to strikingly different times; some represent companies still in business decades later.

William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

For example, 100 years ago, in the Feb. 13, 1920, issue of the Chronicle, there were ads for two automobiles that no longer exist: Case and Stutz. What is more interesting is the case for “Case” vehicles — sold at Weisman Motor Sales, by the way. The Case was advertised as a car for “year-round service.” It featured glass roll-up windows and an enclosed steel body. Case had a really good idea here. Riding around in an open car in a Michigan winter might be a bit chilly.

William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

Speaking of innovations, in the Dec. 31, 1949, issue of the JN, Rosenfeld Radio on Dexter Avenue in Detroit was selling a modern marvel, the “hottest thing in TV Today;” a GE “Daylight Television.” It was a table model with a big 10” screen (installation extra), and one did not have to wait for sundown in order to watch TV!

William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

My favorite ads are those for food. Have you ever munched some Krun-Chee potato chips? At one time, Detroit had more than a dozen makers of potato chips, such as Krun-Chee, Vita-Boy and Superior. In the 1970s, the famous Chef Boy-Ar-Dee catered to Jewish homes. The Chef suggested that if you “like kreplach, you’ll like the Chef’s cheese ravioli,” or “Put the Chef on your shopping list and you’ve got the geshmakste sauce.”

William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

Some food ads do seem to be a bit dangerous. For example, see the one for Heinz Vegetarian Soup in the Dec. 12, 1940, JN. Two children are pictured saying “Just like Mamma’s Own Soup.” I don’t think telling your mom that a canned soup was just like her homemade soup will win you any favors!

William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

There are ads for long-lost beers. I never heard of Detroit Beer: “There’s only one Detroit and there’s only one Detroit Premium Pale Beer.” An ad in the April 4, 1941, JN for Koppitz Silver Star Beer touted that it was “brewed by electricity.” Interesting selling point. Perhaps this was in response to Stroh’s fire-brewed beer? The Koppitz mascot was a police officer with “Kopp” on his hat and a huge star on his tunic. 

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the most important advertisements, those for the Detroit Jewish News. I like the one from 1957. It began with a simple statement: “Your News.” Followed by another succinct statement: “Guardian of Your Freedoms.” The graphics are definitely 1950s artwork. But, six decades later, I think the message remains the same. The JN is “Your News.”  

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at
www.djnfoundation.org.