Automobile Ads from 100 Years Ago

In 1923, full-page advertisements for more than a dozen brands of cars filled the pages of The Saturday Evening Post.

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One hundred years ago, the automobile was in its infancy. This was the Roaring Twenties, and everyone wanted a new car. American companies were producing more than three million vehicles a year, which could be had for around $450. Henry Ford’s Model T was still the most popular, but there were so many choices. Hundreds of entrepreneurs got into the car-making business, including little-remembered names like Jordan, Kissel, and Lycoming Motors.

Henry Ford was shaking things up, however; his moving assembly line had been in operation for ten years, and Ford’s innovations and economies of scale were starting to drive many small car manufacturers out of business. The Great Depression, which was a handful of years away, would soon put the nail in the coffin of many others.

But in 1923, numerous manufacturers were vying for customers in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post. The Feb 3, 1923 issue of the Post featured full-page ads for more than a dozen different vehicles, including the Auburn, Packard, and Pierce Arrow. You can browse all of the car ads that appeared in that issue, below. If you want to look through every page of the issue, subscribers can view it here.

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  1. Currently doing research on the preparation of the first Chrysler Six to be shown in New York City during the first week of January, 1924. It is my understanding that an Ad featuring Chrysler Genius appeared in the Post in December…first with just CHRYSLER GENIUS and then a week late with content featuring the car before the showing in New York City.

  2. Great ads. I would like to see you do another gallery of sorts covering more trucks and autos from the years 1948-1960.

  3. The ad copy for each of these cars is as interesting as the pictures themselves. I really love the Chevrolet utility coupe. I’m not sure if it was an earlier version of the business or salesman’s coupe with just the front seats, and the huge trunk for their products. Ford had those from the later ’30s to about 1950, then they were discontinued.

    The Hupmobile was similar to the Chevrolet. The ad department for the Jordan sounds like they listened to complaints made by women about cars in general, and addressed them. Although not mentioned in the ad copy, the illustration clearly shows women enjoy and wanted performance in their cars.

    The Pierce Arrow’s ad copy is kind of far-fetched, per the two comments prior to mine. The differences in prices is pretty amazing, on those that showed them. I wonder if Leno has any of these? Probably does. He best be more careful though with his run of bad luck lately, if he wants to continue enjoying his wonderful car collection.

  4. A Pierce Arrow selling for 7000 dollars and driven by a chauffer for a prominent family in CHICAGO would have no problem in accumulating 120000 miles in five years. Just 66 miles a day would do it, but a chauffer
    would have to drive farther than that daily to earn a living. Chicago roads
    were probably better 100 years ago than many are today.
    Traveling salesmen drove thousands of Model T Fords more than 66 miles a day for decades in the western and Midwestern states over corduroy dirt roads.

  5. My mother learned to drive in a Pierce Arrow. She always claimed that having learned in right-side steering wheeled car made her better at judging things off that side.

  6. I noted several differences over 100 years. Then it was more about reliability, general comfort & price. Now it’s about horsepower, mileage & minimal maintenance. Also there are more options these days & price difference now between base & luxury cars is about double vs 10 x back in 23’.

  7. I found the advertisement for the Pierce Arrow a little far fetched. Considering the roads of the early 20th century I sincerely doubt that a car could or would be driven 25,000 miles per year. In the year 2000, the average norm was 15,000 miles per year. And that was driving over modern roads of concrete and asphalt. So, to claim that a car could accumulate 125,000 miles in 5 years back in 1925 is a vivid stretch of the imagination. What has changed in 100 years of car advertising? Absolutely nothing! Bogus claims were made then, and bogus claims are made now.


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