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]

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]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Original 1910 Coca Cola Celluloid Advertising Pocket Mirror By Hamilton King1950's Frostie Root Beer Thermometer--nice Snowman Graphics--1950's !!!Antique Bailey's Pure Rye Adv. Pocket Mirror. Rare Advertising Pocket MirrorRare Antique Advertising Pocket Mirror. Continental Cubes Tobacco Pocket MirrorOriginal Vintage Celluloid Pocket Mirror Advertising Umbrella & Luggage MachalekVintage Trade Token Advertising Mirror 12 1/2 Cents Celluloid Brokaw Liquors Advertising Pocket Mirror -- Theatre Unique 1909 Opening, Asbury Park, N.j. 2 Antique Advertising Pocket Mirrors. 2 Duffy's Malt Whiskey Pocket MirrorsHotel Raymond,fitchburg,mass.,good For 10c In Trade,pocket Mirror,1890'sAntique York, Pa Cafe Pocket Mirror. A.c. Boll Cafe Pocket Mirror, York, PaStock Yards Advertisingcelluloid Mirror Union Stock Yards ChicagoWeaver's Clothing And Shoes Ligonier Pa~ Rare Vintage Advertising Pocket MirrorUltra Rare Makers Mark Bourbon Whiskey Baseball Bar Mirror Sign Cubs Yankees Sox1950s International Harvester Dealer Mirror & Calendar....minden, Nebraska Celluloid Advertising Mirror, Mound City Paint & Color Co"rare" Vintage Coca Cola Memos Mirror1950's Ford Mirrors Dealership Showroom "button" Display Sign1927 Celluloid Advertising Pocket Mirror For Irwin Paper Co Quincy Ill.Ad Mirror - Buy Shawmut Rubbers - H. M. Baldwin - Mountain, Wis. - $2.75 S&hShasta Water/shrine Victory Convention--july 1946Buffalo "ice" Brewing Company--sacramento, California2 Captain Morgan Flag 18' X 24" Double Sided Not Shirt Polo Mirror Neon VintageVintage Crown Royal Whiskey The Legendary Import - Mirror Bar SignCelluloid Adv Tray, H.h. Hadley Co Watch Material Dallas, HoustonEarly Orange Crush Dry Soda Opener With Crushy Guy !!! (1920-30)1890-1925 Antique Duffy's Pure Malt Whiskey Makes The Weak Strong Pocket Mirror Shell Oil Company--kork N Seal--bottle Cap For Oil, Gas, Fuel..Cracker Jack & Sailor Jack/bingo Wwi Sailor's Suit-from Old Ad-pocket Mirror Vintage Calo Cat Food--"his Masters Choice" Cardboard/paper Adverting DisplayVintage Advertising Mirror Birthstone Gems Diamonds Ellwood City Pa DaughenbaughVintage Coca-cola Glass/mirror Tray ~ Wooden Frame ~ Mirrored Coca Cola SignStandard Oil Company (indiana)--kork N Seal--bottle Cap For Oil, Gas, Fuel..Wyandotte Detergent--early 1900's--nice Indian Graphics !!!Everglad Milk--bottle Cap--1930-40's--nice Graphics Of Baby & Milk Bottle !!!The Famous Grouse Bar MirrorKyanize Boston Varnish Co - Celluloid Advertising Pocket Mirror -happy Sad Art Deco Advertising Mirror J.m. Leinen Conoco Products Twin Falls Idaho Ph 134Mammy's Atlanta Shanty Restaurant Black Americana Ad Handy/purse/ Pocket MirrorReddy Kilowatt Reddy To Serve The Right Voltage 2 1/4" Pocket Mirror Donald Duck Store Freezer Door Decal--1960-80'sEarly National Park(mt. Rainier) Inn Room Key--very Rare !!!Fashion Eyes Design 3d Decoration Sticker For Car Side Mirror Rearview Red