The Dutch Belted Cow: A Research Mystery

Have you ever heard of an Oreo cow? They’re really handsome looking black cows that have a big white stripe in their middles, just like the cookie. I’ve seen a few out in Missouri near my wife’s family’s farm. They aren’t very common, but if you  happen by one they’re hard to miss. These cool looking cows have a really interesting back story that I was able to uncover that involved museums, circuses, a long search on the internet, and even the famous P.T. Barnum! If you’ve got a few minutes then take a seat and I’ll take you through the whole thing.

Recently, we were in an antique store, and my wife and I were looking at an old children’s book on farm animals. I wish I could remember what the book was called but I just can’t. But what I do remember was there was one page with a big picture of an Oreo cow! But what most caught our attention was the accompanying text that called it a “Dutch Belted Cow.” We had never actually known what Oreo cows were actually called, so this was a cool surprise. I texted my father-in-law and he confirmed that the so-called Dutch Belted was the same as an Oreo cow, but of course that wasn’t enough. I wanted to know more!

Continue reading “The Dutch Belted Cow: A Research Mystery”

Advertising Battlefield: Cigarettes v. Candy

There are a ton of good stories about the advertising industry and their never-ending quest to sell things to consumers. Here’s one of my favorites.

When George Washington Hill became the president of the American Tobacco Company in 1927, the company was floundering a little bit. Long past its glory days in the 1900’s when it had a monopoly in the American cigarette trade, the company was losing sales to rivals like the R.J. Reynolds Company (makers of Camels) and Liggett & Meyers (Chesterfields). American Tobacco had its own brand too, Lucky Strike cigarettes, which it had been selling since 1917. But when Hill became president, he wasn’t satisfied with their sales numbers. Lucky Strike would be number one or bust!

fannie wardHill personally oversaw a lot of the advertising that was created for Lucky Strike (even though he had top advertising men like Albert Lasker in his employ). One of their early and more successful advertising strategies was to target women. Hill first tried hiring famous opera singers and actresses to endorse Lucky Strike saying that the cigarette was “light on their throat” or didn’t cause any coughing to try to make the brand seem more mild/enjoyable than others. That worked pretty well, but Hill still wasn’t satisfied. Women were a “gold mine” and he knew that more ads could convince more of them to start smoking Luckies. Continue reading “Advertising Battlefield: Cigarettes v. Candy”

War of the Worlds (Who Scared Who?)

My first experience with War of the Worlds was pretty frightening, to say the least. It was in second grade, and I was sick with pink eye on Halloween day. I was home with Dad, and for reasons I can’t remember why anymore, we decided to watch the 1953 classic War of the Worlds. Though I thought I was brave enough for an ‘old people’ movie, I never made it to the end. Too scary for me. And to this day, I haven’t ever gone back and finished the film. Maybe I never will, who knows?

war of the worlds ship.jpg

 

A lot of accounts of the famous 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds sound like my own experience with the terrifying tale of alien invasion. There are a lot of newspaper headlines from the next day that read “Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama on as Fact,” or something similar, painting a picture of masses of listeners confused, scared, or some mix of emotions that resulted in general panic and outrage. As a result, fire was added to ongoing debates about radio and its influence on society, and Orson Welles earned a reputation as a dramatic actor that would help him have a long and storied career.

Orson Welles
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Now, there seem to be two schools of thought about the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast and its reception: 1- it scared tons of people, or 2- it didn’t scare anyone at all. Its easy to search the internet for sensational headlines about the War of the Worlds panic, and there are still a lot of accounts of millions of Americans who believed that invasion was upon them. In 1940 Hadley Cantril, a big name at the time in radio research, co-authored a book with Herta Herzog and Hazel Gaudet called The Invasion from Mars. Using data from the American Institute of Public Opinion, the book claimed that over one million people believed that the broadcast was a report of a real-life invasion and was not made-up at all. Continue reading “War of the Worlds (Who Scared Who?)”