I’ve been spending time this morning going through the collection of old newspapers that are available online at the Library of Congress' Chronicling America website. My intent is to find items of interest related to the memory of the Founding Fathers. During my search I found this curious advertisement from the February 22, 1912 issue of The Richmond Times Dispatch. The product is Washington Crisps cereal. The advertisement is a brilliant blend of patriotism and propaganda:
To the Mothers of American Boys and Girls:
The life of this great American is the best example
of wholesome, noble, truthful living in the history of
our country, and our children should be taught the value
of truthfulness, patriotism and devotion to principle.
Impressions made upon the minds of children are
lasting, and always influence their future lives.
How important then it is that we furnish them only
the best mental as well as physical food, that their
minds and bodies may be sound and wholesome.
REMEMBER: The boys and girls of to-day are the men and
women of tomorrow.
When I look at this ad, I can’t help but recognize the similarity between this consumer-driven portrayal of George Washington and the modern-day athletes on Wheaties boxes. I have no qualms with the reverence for GW (although this is overkill). If any historic figure is truly worthy of our highest admiration, it’s probably him. That said, the fact that he is exploited here to pimp kid’s cereal is quite amusing. The customer is pitched the notion that by eating Washington Crisps, they are in some way akin to the Father of our Country. It must have worked because folks back then bought a helluva lot of this cereal.
It still works today. The difference is where George Washington used to occupy this place of reverence in the public’s eye, sports stars now prevail. I wonder if you were to replace A-Rod's image on a cereal box with any president would anyone buy it?