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    

Vintage 1950s Or 1960s Orange Crush Carbonated Beverage Mirror 10" X 3"Nos 40s 50s Mint Vintage Mopar Chrysler Plymouth Visor Vanity Mirror Oil ServiceJack Daniels Mirror 26"-17"excellent Condition!!!no Reserve!! Man Cave:):)Vintage Large Crown Royal Whiskey Mirror Back Bar Man Cave Garage New Old StockJack Daniels Old No. 7 Bourbon Whiskey Bar Mirror Sign Vintage MancaveVintage Pocket Mirror Advertsing Fort Bedford P-nut Butter Bedford Pa2 New-way Air Cooled Engine Vintage Advertising Mirrors, Lansing, MichiganRare Mobile Alabama Handled Celluloid Pocket Mirror - Lyric Theatre - Mobile AlaVintage Everybody Drinks Coca Cola Pocket Mirror Women Girl Coke Soda AntiqueVintage Allis Chalmers Mirror With Wc Pulling All Crop Combine Oklahoma Ph 7Antique Vegederma Barber Shop Tonic Advertising Hand Mirror SignRare Large Captain Morgan Rum Pirate Mirror Bar Man Cave Pub Home Decor Sign1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Nova Corvair Remote Mirror Complete 65 66 64The Dalmore Scotch Whiskey Mirror Sign Liquor Advertisement Bar Man Cave DecorAntique Horlick's Malted Milk Racine Wi Advertising Pocket Mirror Cow VintageHorlick's Malted Milk Advertising Pocket Celluloid Mirror Gold Rim Near MintVintage Meguiar's Mirror Bright Chrome Polish Tin Can Auto Boating Wheeling Wall Plaster Co., Wheeling, Wv Advertising Paperweight MirrorVtg 1901 Leadville Colorado Gold Mining Mill Advertising Pocket Celluloid MirrorSuper Rare! 1929 Seattle, Wash. Advertising Mirror - Pacific Outfitting Co.Kentucky Derby Blue Grass Bourbon Mirror Advertising Sign BarFour Vintage Souvenir Pocket Mirror / Coca-cola Santa / Merry Christmas 1979 The Union National Mount Joy Bank Mount Joy Pa Pocket MirrorVintage Snap-on Tools Mirrored PictureH.s. Johnston, Apollo, Pa Expert Jeweler, Optometrist Advertising MirrorCollectible Advertising Svedka Vodka Sun Glasses White/gold/pink Mirrored Uv 400Vintage Bar Mirror Hennessy Cognac "worlds Most Civilized SpiritMichael Collins Irish Whiskey Mirror Sign - "the Big Fellow" - 21" X 27"Mirror - Artistic For Woven Labels, Pompton Lakes, N.j. (label Under Celluloid)Vintage Sunlight Soup First Advertising Wood Framed Glass Mirror Scarce England1994 Coca Cola Mirrored Wall Clock "coca Cola Corner"1940's Keller Bros. Ford Pocket Mirror - Buffalo Springs, PaRare—brass Manufactures National Bank, Racine, Wi. Hand MirrorBeautiful Vintage 1970's Delicious Coca Cola Very Rare Style Mirror Sign Advertising Pocket Mirror Duffy's Pure Malt Whiskey J B Carroll Makes The Weak SCar Windshield / Rear View Mirror Lcd Digital Room Temperature Meter ThermometerFord Motor Co. Show Room Advertising Mercury 8 Visor Vanity MirrorImperial Whiskey Advertising MirrorCoca-cola Sign/framed Mirror No Reserve Vintage Atna Pocket Mirror Mishawaka In. SchindlerBoonville N. Y. " W. J. Porter-hardware-stoves " Advertising Mirror Xf NrVintage Advertising Pocket Mirror "at Leading Dealers" Man In Top Hat BottleTwo Coca Cola Advertising Oval MirrorsJameson Irish Whiskey Mirror New - Large 39"x27"Seagram's Seven 7 Crown Whiskey Glass Mirror Framed Sign 15"x19"Coca Cola Mirror Sign Relieves Fatigue Sold Everywhere 10" X 8" Retro Design EucBeautiful Captain Morgan Original Coconut Rum Pirate Mirror Bar Sign Tray Antique Foster Piano Co.; Troy, Ny Late 1890's Pocket Mirror Nice Pepsi-cola Pepsi Vintage Glass Mirror With Wood Frame Matilda Bay Wine Cooler Bar Mirror ** Alderney Butter Color===button Style Mirror Advertising==Coca Cola MirrorBlack Americana Advertisement Mirror, VintageSet Of Coca Cola Hand Mirrors 1908 And 1973Shirley Temple Pocket Mirror