18th Century Advertisements: Then vs. Now

In this activity, students will be using the “Chronicling America” online tool from the Library of Congress to search 18th century newspapers for pages with advertisements. These are easy to locate if the students are told to search “advertisements” within an 18th century date range, and the results are quite substantial for students to choose from. The purpose of this activity would be for students to understand how trade, markets, occupations, and advertisements have changed between the 18th century and now. Instead of have students locate modern advertisements, which could be an entirely different and interesting activity, students will use only the Chronicling America newspapers to discover four different types of advertisements.

First, the students will find a worker or business that would still be relevant today. The screenshot used in this post shows an example of an advertisement from a business/worker that would still be relevant today: a Goldsmith/Jeweler. The students would be asked to screenshot the advertisement on their iPad, insert that screenshot into a pages document, and below write at least 1 sentence about the ad and 1-2 sentences on why that ad would still be relevant. After this has been completed, the students will find their second advertisement that would be a business/worker that would not still be relevant today. Students will do the same process — copy their screenshot into the document and write about 2-3 sentences similar to the last ad.

Next, the students will be doing a very similar process to the two ads for workers/businesses, but this time they will be searching for specific products being advertised. For these two advertisements, students will screenshot the ad and put it in a document as the have done before, then write a few sentences that explain what the product is. One of these product advertisements should be for a product that would still be relevant today, and the other should be for a product that is no longer relevant today.

Finally, the students will finish their document with a recap of what they interpreted from the relevant/irrelevant advertisements. This recap should summarize the student’s inference as to why the relevant businesses/products are still important or relevant today, as well as why the irrelevant businesses/products would not have a purpose today. As the last step, students will try to make a connection between the changes in advertising/products/businesses over the last 200+ years and what that might say about how American society has changed along with it. There wouldn’t necessarily be a right or wrong answer to this question, rather it would be an exercise for students to practice their critical thinking and inference skills.

Hopefully this activity would be enjoyable to the students based on how big of a role advertising has in most modern student’s lives, plus critical thinking and inference are very important abilities that students should be able to practice as often as possible.

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