Feast Your Eyes: Sold on Chocolate!

The following is a  guest post for the Feast Your Eyes series by Mary Mundy, Cataloging Specialist, and Kristen Sosinski, Processing Technician, both of the Prints and Photographs Division.

Sweet exhibiter [i.e. exhibitor] Photo, copyrighted 1886. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b21150

Sweet exhibiter [i.e. exhibitor] Photo, copyrighted 1886. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b21150

Two advertisements caught our eyes while searching for images of our favorite sweet treat.

This photograph advertising H. McCobb’s Cocoa & Chocolate is interesting for its complexity. The packed product displays and the detached demeanor of the woman who almost blends into the setting make for an intriguing image.

The object is small, a 5 x 4 inch photograph on a slightly larger card mount, copyrighted  in 1886 by Henry McCobb, the owner of H. McCobb’s Cocoa & Chocolate.  He produced many other photographic advertising cards, providing them as free premiums with the purchase of his confections. Described by McCobb as “Scenes in a Chocolate Factory,” these hand-held amusements for consumers to collect and trade were a perfect advertising tool. Perhaps the details depicted in this scene were meant to elicit close scrutiny of the variety of goods available. The display seems more important than the woman at the center of it.

In contrast, this art nouveau poster, dated 1899, by Belgian artist, Privat Livemont (1861-1936), is nearly 5 feet in length. In it, a woman delicately spoons hot cocoa into a child’s mouth. The cup serves as a focal point because it is placed in the middle of the poster but the steam from the cup swirls up and brings our eye up to the top of the poster to read “Helm Cocoa.” This is no coincidence; while this poster can certainly be admired for its artistry, its primary purpose was to advertise the product.

Helm Cocoa. Poster by Privat Livemont, circa 1899. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.10088

Helm Cocoa. Poster by Privat Livemont, circa 1899. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.10088

While the woman in the McCobb’s photo seems to melt into her surroundings, the woman here is prominent, as this ad clearly targets mothers, encouraging them to buy the warm, soothing treat of hot cocoa for their little ones. Notice that the brand name Helm stands out in part because the sturdy block lettering contrasts with the curvilinear illustration.

These ads were made more than a hundred years ago, but they still grab our attention. We’re sold on chocolate!

Learn More:

3 Comments

  1. Sharon M.
    March 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Very very nice!

  2. John Roe
    March 13, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    This was really enjoyable to read, more ways than. HMMMM!!!!!!!

  3. Jane Van Nimmen
    March 14, 2014 at 3:05 am

    What a treat to see one of LoC’s Privat-Livemont posters in such a large size! The National Museum of Catalonian Art in Barcelona has made available in its Collections Online some fourteen of this wonderful Belgian artist’s posters (purchased in 1903 from the collector Plandiura):

    http://art.mnac.cat/search.html;jsessionid=d5f4d829febcdf132b5ca0e58e2da3b2dbaf9ea175832b985481ffd6a442f7fc?keyword=&authorName=&title=&objectId=&description=privat-livemont&authorId=&mode=mosaic&page=

    Thank you for the lovely post.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.