Vintage Advertising: Quaker Oats

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There is nothing particularly Quaker about Quaker Oats. The name was chosen by a mill owner after he read an encyclopedia article about Quakers. The article said members of this sect were known for their integrity, honesty, and purity — qualities the mill owner wanted associated with his oats. So in 1877, Quaker Oats became the first cereal with its own trademarked mascot — the Quaker Man.

In his earliest versions, the Quaker gentleman was modeled on a portrait of William Penn. In these ads, he is shown holding a scroll on which appears the word pure. Purity was a strong selling point for consumers in those years. Americans were increasingly concerned about adulterants and contaminants in their food, a concern that would eventually lead to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Until then, consumers could only rely on manufacturers’ assurances that their food was exactly as advertised.

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  1. This ad is very clever with its use of a mirror for health reflection, and the ad copy is straight forward and frankly kind of bold. How foolish you are to keep eating meat when Quaker Oats is more nourishing, agreeable, wholesome and appetizing! Why then? (Why then would you want to eat meat now that you don’t need to anymore?)

    Very well written. It looks like Quaker Oats was being marketed as a healthy meal for any time of day, not just for breakfast the way we’ve always thought of it. The whole made up ‘Quaker’ concept 142 years ago was/is brilliant. The only thing I wonder (since I haven’t checked) is how pure is it in this age of chemicals and artificial ingredients?


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