Antique and Vintage Advertising Mirrors

There was a time when it was not enough for a salesman to leave a business card in order to remind a would-be customer to purchase the caller’s wares. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, it was also customary for salesmen to leave a giveaway, too.

One especially charming giveaway item from this period was the pocket-size advertising mirror, whose celluloid faces advertised everything from cigars to trucks tires. “We Want To Do Business With The Man On The Other Side,” proclaimed one advertising mirror. Other mirrors may have been slipped to an important buyer’s secretary, a surreptitious beauty aid that was presumably offered to help make sure the salesman’s call would be put through.

In their heyday, from roughly 1900 until the Great Depression, oval, round, and square advertising mirrors shared a number of similar features. To begin, the celluloid faces of these promotional items curled to the back until they came in contact with the object’s collet, which was the metal ring than held the mirror firmly in place. The manufacturer of the mirror was often credited on the edge of the curl—prominent names to look for include Whitehead and Hoag, Bastian Brothers, Parisian Novelty, and The American Art Works, which was based on Coshocton, Ohio.

The size of these objects ranged from button-sized ovals and circles to larger, paperweight-type mirrors, which were designed to be a constant reminder of a product or service when sitting prominently atop a stack of papers on a customer’s desk.

The types of firms that used advertising mirrors varied widely. Telephone companies promoted their long-distance services, while chocolatiers, which did not need to sell the idea of eating sweets quite as hard, often placed a portrait of a pretty girl on the faces of their mirrors. There were mirrors with illustrations of Buster Brown and Tige, of ruby-cheeked children holding cylindrical cartons of Egg Baking Powder. “Good for” mirrors could be traded for a dime’s worth of goods or services at hotels from Middletown, Connecticut to Falls City, Nebraska, while mirrors depicting scantily clad women often asked “Where are my Keystone overalls?”

Naturally these pint-size promotions lent themselves to numerous genres. Salesmen in the music business handed out mirrors shaped like records, poultry companies painted images of chicks cracking through their shells (the oval shapes were perfect for this), while sporting-goods companies used circles and ovals to depict basketballs and footballs. Faces ringed with a border of months and birthstones were another popular pictorial device—jewelers used these, of course, but so did furriers, drug stores, and even political candidates.

Later, in the 1930s and ’40s, full-size hanging advertising mirrors were produced for bars and similar venues. Unlike pocket-size celluloid-face mirrors, these had brand names and sales pitches screened or applied via a decal right on the mirror’s surface—there was no front and back...

Beer brands such as Budweiser and Atlas Prager put their logos on mirrors in taverns, where point-of-purchase advertising would do them the most good. Repair shops had a different problem to solve, which is why they commissioned mirrors featuring risque imagery, no doubt to occupy the imaginations of the predominantly male customers confined to their waiting rooms.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Plan 59

Plan 59

From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Stunning! Grand Rapids Wisconsin Celluloid Advertising Mirror Arndt Smoke Shop+Rare Seagrams 7 Pete Rose Beer Mirror Baseball Advertising Sign Cincinnati Reds"state Bank Of Commerce"/"wallace, Idaho"-advertising Pocket MirrorVintage Nike Floor Mirror Tennis Shoe DisplayStunning Cohn-goodman Celluloid Advertising Mirror Stylecraft Girl Cleveland Oh1900 Wm Mckinley Us Presidential Campaign Pocket Mirror W Photo ImageRare Antique/vintage Fishing Comic Celluloid Mirror "oh Fudge" Woman Hooks SkirtAntique Huber Steam Tractor Celluloid Advertising Mirror Marion Ohio Look!Antique Cunningham Piano Philadelphia Pa Celluloid Advertising Mirror 1900s Celluloid Advertising Pocket Mirror / Hobo Remedy Medicine / No Reserve!Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum Porthole Mirror Sign W/ Nautical Cleaves RareAntique Mississippi Riverboat Celluloid Alton Advertising Mirror St Louis Mo Laphroaig Single Malt Whisky Jim Beam Mirror Bar Sign New 2006 Only 1 On EbayDelaval Cream Separator Early 1900s Dairy Farm Celluloid Advertising Mirror Rare Berry Brothers Celluloid Advertising Mirror Kids W/ Dog & Wagon C.1910Gorgeous Victorian/edwardian Women Celluloid Mirror Lot Of 2 Must See! Rare Antique/vintage Risque Naked Classical Woman Celluloid MirrorBeautiful! Original Knights Of Maccabees Detroit Mi Celluloid Advertising MirrorAntique Kansas City Mo Thornton & Minor Sanitarium Celluloid Advertising MirrorAntique/vintage Risque Celluloid Mirror Topless Classical Woman W/angels Morrell's Pride Meats Celluloid Advertising Mirror Ottumwa Ia & Sioux Fall SdGorgeous! Antique Chicago Litt Jeweler Celluloid Advertising Mirror Amazing CondVintage Old Watches Counter Top Display Mirror Glass Sign Watch Jewelry Store !!Antique "ilinoy Heaters - Stoves Ranges" Quincy Il Celluloid Advertising MirrorVintage Art Deco Lady Celluloid Mirror With Risque Image/graphic Look!Antique Garland Stoves & Ranges Advertising Mirror Circa 1910Mercedes Benz 1886-1986 Advertising Mirror Printed By SeriprintHyde Park Beer Mirror And Hyde Park Old Times Tunes Song BookAntique Old Reliable Coffee Celluloid Advertising MirrorYankton South Dakota Sd Livestock Sales Pheasant Advertising Mirror/thermometerAntique Morgantown In/indiana Queen Quality Shoes Celluloid Advertising Mirror John Deere "lord"s Supper Mirror" Farmers Implement Tofte/bruening Decorah,iaVintage John Jameson Irish Whiskey Ship Port Hole Bar MirrorAntique"lockhart Pianos" Advertising Bulldog Clip By Parisian Chicago1908 Advertising Pocket Mirror Coke Coca Cola Tray 1968 Re-issue *rare* Collectible Advertising Svedka Vodka Sun Glasses White/gold/pink Mirrored Uv 400Mirrored Bar Hanging Superior Coldstream London Gin Soldiers Guards Wooden FrameVintage Dewar's White Label Blended Scotch Whisky Highlander Bar MirrorIh Vintage Dealership Mirror Decorah Implement Co. F.c. VarnerAntique Princeton Illinois Citizens National Bank Advertising Mirror Must See! Vintage Roseville Illinois/il State Bank Celluloid Advertising Mirror Vintage Milk Incentive Mirror Byers Dairy Of New Castle / Enon Valley, Pa(15) Unopened 1973 Coca Cola Memorabilia Pocket Purse Hand Mirrors Estate FindMartini & Rossi Vintage/antique Bar Mirror Handmade In EnglandVintage Clements Garage & Service Station Rhodes Iowa Advertising MirrorCelluloid Pocket Mirror - Map Of The Short Route, Ohio, W. Virginia, MarylandPepsi Pepsi-cola Mirror, Old Photo, Round Cloth Patch, Round ButtonDr.mcgillicuddy's Mentholmint Schnapps Mirror/wood Frame Bar SignVintage 60's Shoe Mirror From Barman's Department Store Colville WashingtonVintage Antique Wwi Advertising Pocket Mirror Celluloid Back Grieving Widow 2.5"'90's Poodle Face Mirror Compact - 2 Mirrors Inside! Never Used! Vintage Pin Up Girl Risque Lady Pocket MirrorHarley Davidson Mirrors (used, Has Some Scratches On One Mirror On Metal)Killian's Red/coors Brewing Company Mirror/stained Glass SignBottle Toppers-mirror-coin Purses-rubber Keychains-beer, Coke, Pepsi6 Nos Coca Cola Pocket Mirrors.at Fountains 5c.-Mini Suction Cup In-car Vehicle Windshield Rear View Mirror Digital Thermometer