The OAH Magazine of History

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Business History

from the editor

Uneeda Read This, by Carl R. Weinberg

Do you recognize the little boy on the cover? He has not appeared in any commercials lately. But the Uneeda Biscuit boy (or the “slicker boy” as he was also known due to his ever-present raincoat) was one of the most recognized advertising images of the early twentieth century. As Pamela Laird and Catherine Canavan explain in their teaching strategy in this issue, Uneeda was launched by the National Biscuit Company (NBC)–today Nabisco–with the help of a professional ad agency in the late 1890s. By today’s standards, the name seems almost comical. Surely, we think, people knew they were being manipulated. And yet, the campaign was wildly successful. After only a year on the market, NBC was selling ten million Uneeda biscuits a month. There were Uneeda eating contests. A town in West Virginia named itself Uneeda. And other baking companies tried to cash in on NBC’s success, launching rival products with suspiciously similar names like Uwanta and Iwanta. (NBC obtained federal injunctions to stop them.) On one level, the Uneeda Biscuit exuded simplicity, honesty and homespun values. It was a soda cracker, a staple of the American diet made from flour, yeast, and shortening. On a deeper level, though, the history surrounding the rise of Uneeda nicely mirrors the rich complexity of business history that guest editors Pamela Laird and Mark Rose have brought to us in this issue. Read more >


Bringing in Business History Front and Center,
by Pamela Walker Laird
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Classic Issues and Fresh Themes in Business History,
by Philip Scranton
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American Manufacturing, 18501930: A Business History Approach,
by Mansel Blackford
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Business History in the Teaching American History Program,
by Stuart D. Hobbs
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Newspapers, Radio, and the Business of Media in the United States,
by Michael Stamm
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Selling Black Beauty: African American Modeling Agencies and Charm Schools in Postwar America,
by Malia McAndrew
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Robert Noyce, Silicon Valley, and the Teamwork Behind the High-Technology Revolution,
by Leslie Berlin
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teaching resources

Making Meat: Efficiency and Exploitation in Progressive Era Chicago,
by Thomas G. Andrews
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Advertising and the Rise of Big Business,
by Catherine Canavan and Pamela Walker Laird
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Business and Domesticity: Cooking, Lighting, and Heating the American Home,
by Mark Rose
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The Bridal Business,
by Vicki Howard
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on the cover

N. W. Ayer Advertising Agency, Uneeda Biscuit Trade Card (1902). (Courtesy of Corbis, © Jennifer Kennard/Corbis) This painting was based on a photo of five-year-old Gordon Stille, the son of an advertising executive at N. W. Ayer. The National Biscuit Company (later Nabisco) had hired Ayer to promote its new Uneeda Biscuit. In various forms, the boy’s image was the centerpiece of an aggressive, and highly successful, nationwide campaign. The Uneeda boy was one of the most recognized advertising images of the early twentieth century. The OAH thanks the Merck Company Foundation for its generous support for this issue of the OAH Magazine of History.