Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Salesrooms in Every City

For the World Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Singer Manufacturing Company produced a set of souvenir cards featuring photographs that were "taken on the spot in various countries and provinces and colored there to correctly represent the native costumes."  The cards were billed as "national costume studies, reliable and perfect in every detail."  On the reverse of each card was a snapshot description of the country (or region) sketching the geography, religion, and history of the area.  The omnipresent sewing machine in each image and the phrase "Salesrooms in Every City in the World," were a not-so subtle sales pitch to prospective buyers.

The 1893 World's Fair was ostensibly held in commemoration of Columbus' arrival in the new world and Singer's cards were a clever marketing tie-in to that theme.  Though European countries far outnumber their non-western counterparts (Spain is featured on no less than seven of the thirty-five cards), Singer did include cards for China, Japan, Tunis, India, Algeria, Ceylon, Burmah, Manilla and Zululand.  As one would expect, these regions were closely associated with European colonial power and the descriptions of these regions emphasize the "civilizing influence" of the western world and extolls Singer's part in that endeavor.  In India, Singer was already "helping the people of India toward a better civilization for nearly twenty years."

Ask for Rare Book GT 595 .C68 1892 to see all of the cards.

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