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10 Gorgeous 19th century newspaper posters

Posted by Delia Cabe  March 2, 2012 11:47 AM

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Today's newspaper industry might take its cues from these beautiful late nineteenth century newspaper posters. These artistic advertisements exude class and elegance--though some of the headlines may make you think of modern-day tabloids. Such arty posters could entice readers to pick up a newspaper or two. Um, maybe.

The posters are from the New York Public Library's digital collection. From the description:

The advent of the art poster in America is traceable to the publication of Edward Penfield's poster advertising the March 1893 issue of Harper's. Unlike earlier advertising posters, Penfield's work presented an implied graphic narrative to which text was secondary. In this way, and subsequently, in the hands of major artists such as Penfield, Will Bradley and Ethel Reed, the poster moved from the realm of commercial art to an elevated, artistic position.

As a genre, posters very rapidly became the objective of aggressive collectors. As early as 1895, posters began appearing in catalogs of exhibitions and collections. As collectors increasingly sought contemporary publishing posters as discrete objects, they became more desirable than the publication they were advertising. As a result, a shift developed in the industry toward well-designed, illustrated covers of magazines and dust jackets for books; at the same time, newspaper illustration advanced. By the end of the 1890s, the art poster had helped pave the way to a rapidly developing advertising industry that reverberates on Madison Avenue yet today.

The Boston Sunday herald. Marc... Digital ID: 1541039. New York Public Library

The Boston standard sold here. Digital ID: 1541056. New York Public Library

Cleveland leader. Sunday, Jun ... Digital ID: 1541067. New York Public Library

The evening telegram. Saturday... Digital ID: 1541069. New York Public Library

New York Sunday journal. Febru... Digital ID: 1541096. New York Public Library

New York Sunday journal. Sunda... Digital ID: 1541105. New York Public Library

The New York times. Sunday, Ja... Digital ID: 1541111. New York Public Library

New York Sunday world. June 2. Digital ID: 1541113. New York Public Library

The New York Sunday world. Sun... Digital ID: 1541131. New York Public Library

The New York Sunday world. Sun... Digital ID: 1541122. New York Public Library

(Click on a poster to take you back to the NYPL poster collection and to see larger sizes.)

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About the author

Delia Cabe's work has appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Magazine, Self, Prevention, Scientific American Presents, and other publications. In between posts, you can read Cabe's tweets at http://twitter.com/#!/DeliaCabe, More »

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