War Profiteering….

At the risk of coming across as a bandwagon jumper, let me first state that WWI is not ‘my area’ (it feels strange typing that, but I’ve now been engaged in historical research for a long enough time to have developed ‘an area’).  We are in the midst of the Decade of Centenaries and are currently being bombarded (sorry) by works relating to World War I.  Only in the last couple of weeks I was invited to the launch of a local history project relating to WWI, and have also volunteered myself to write a book review on one of the works which has been released recently to coincide with the centenary.  So much for the disclaimer of it not being ‘my area’.

I have, of course a passing interest in it as a few relatives on both sides of the family fought in WWI, with a great grandfather on my mother’s side being a fatality of the conflict. I suppose I just want to say that I’m not by any stretch of the imagination an expert on it, so what I may be showing here has no doubt been covered by better equipped and better positioned historians in the past (and no doubt the present), nevertheless here is my burnt offering.

On my twitter feed (when I probably should attending to more pressing matters) I try to do a few daily ‘On This Day’ tweets based upon news stories on that day in history.  These stories, for the most part, come from the back catalogue of The Irish Press (1931-1995).  I use this particular paper as my area of research relates more to this paper than of the other Irish dailies of the 1930s.  However, as I am currently reviewing the aforementioned WWI work I decided to take a look at some of the stories contained within the Irish Independent during this period as background to my review.  As is my nature, my mind has begun to wonder away from the task at hand to other subjects which have caught my eye, mainly the advertisement pages.

Anyone who is familiar with the Irish Newspaper Archive site will know that (when it works) the adverts contained within offer a fascinating insight into consumer society, and by default wider society in times gone by.  Lets face it, many of the adverts are blatant lies. Selling products in a time before trading standards existed as we know it today was probably a much easier task.  Nonsensical claims about the properties of many products were peddled within the pages of Irish daily and weekly newspapers, not to mention sexist and racist undertones which today would rightly bring the advertiser, and most likely the paper’s editor on hate speech charges.

Outside of the regular lies peddled to the less media-savvy population of a century-or-so ago, a number of adverts began to take on a war-theme as Britain entered the war in August of 1914.  In this post I have selected a number of war-related adverts from August 1914 as Britain (and Ireland) entered the war, with the intention of adding to this through the months of the war up to 1918.  The selection ranges from adverts for Volunteer uniforms, to books and pamphlets relating to the war, right up to blatant tie-ins to the war to sell a particular product.

As the call to arms came in (see below from 6 August 1914) the advertising men swiftly followed.

Recruitment Poster 6 August 1914.

Recruitment Poster 6 August 1914.

The Big Push

‘The Big Push’ 11 August 1914

Above: Gleeson & Co Tailors and Drapers use the battle-associated caption ‘The Big Push’ to promote a ‘sale of oddments’.  While O’Reilly & Co Outfitters advertised ‘Shirts, Collars, Ties, Braces and Underwear’ under the heading ‘Ireland’s Sons Will Defend Her Shores’ on 21 August 1914.

O'Reilly & Co Outfitters 21 August 1914

O’Reilly & Co Outfitters 21 August 1914

'Irishmen Enlist' 19 August 1914

‘Irishmen Enlist’ 19 August 1914

Above: Mac Sweeny’s Pharmacy Cork sell their foot medicine ‘Tinori’ with a simple drawing of soldiers receiving their product at the front line.  Of course, nowhere does it say this product is exclusively for the use of soldiers. 

The following advert from Hearne & Co was dated 6 August 1914 showing all the equipment an Irish Volunteer would need.  This same advert repeatedly appeared over the month of August.

Volunteer Outfits 6 August 1914

Volunteer Outfits 6 August 1914

Hearne & Co had some competition from Thomas Fallon of Mary Street, Dublin.  Their advert also appeared on several occasions in the pages of The Irish Independent.  The following example is from 15 August 1914.

Advert 15 August 1914

Advert 15 August 1914

The advert pages of The Irish Independent didn’t just cater for those adventurous enough to enlist serve overseas, it also sought to cater for those who had an adventurous spirit from a safe distance.  A number of adverts appeared for books about war, including the current war, as well as maps so those at home could visualise the terrain many of their contemporaries were now shipped off to.

Clery & Co Booksellers were only one of a number of booksellers who whetted the appetite for those eager to read about the war effort with a range of books on past wars.

Wars Past 14 August 1914

Wars Past 14 August 1914

The War Illustrated: 20 August 1914

The War Illustrated: 20 August 1914

The Penny War Weekly 31 August 1914

The Penny War Weekly 31 August 1914

Perhaps the most famous contemporary account of the war came from Herbert Wrigley Wilson (1866 – 12 July 1940), the journalist and naval historian. From 1914 to 1919, Wilson edited the periodical The Great War:The Standard History of the All-Europe Conflict, which ran to 13 volumes.  The advert for the first edition appeared in The Irish Independent on 18 August 1914, and sought to justify Britain’s entry to the war.

First Edition of Wilson's 'The Great War' 18 August 1914

First Edition of Wilson’s ‘The Great War’ 18 August 1914

Not content with advertising the war-related memorabilia and tie-ins of other businesses, The Irish Independent got in on the act themselves, with a War Map for one penny.  This advert was published on 28 August 1914.

Irish Independent War Map 28 August 1914.

Irish Independent War Map 28 August 1914.

As stated above, it is my intention to explore other adverts on a monthly basis throughout the duration of the war, so hopefully this is the first instalment of many.


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