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    

40s 50s Vintage Rare Automobile Temperature Gauge Car Accessory Thermometer OldYankee Side View Mirrors Display Late 1950s??1950s John Deere Dealer Mirror Thermometer...kansas...nice!Antique Dutch Java Coffee Colorful Celluloid Pocket Mirror - Excellent ConditionC.1918 Socony Motor Gasoline Celluloid Advertising Mirror - Excellent ConditionVintage Original New York Daily & Sunday Mirror Paperboy ApronVtg Rare Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey Mirror Bar Clock W Pendulum Man Cave Minnesota Paints Antique Advertising Pocket Mirror MinneapolisCaptain Morgan Spiced Rum Mirror /sign Captain Morgan Natical Style Mirror/signVintage Advertising Thermometer Windom Minn. Rendering Co., Art Nouveau MirroredBudweiser Beer St. Louis Cardinals Mlb Baseball Team Bar Mirror Sign 1996Coca Cola Advertising-lot Of 10- Bottle Openers, Ruler, Pocket Knives & MirrorVersatile Tractor Dealer Mirror#229c) Glen Rock, Pa. Adv. Pocket Mirror (14/12oct)Old Vintage Jack Daniel's Old Time Bar Mirror Grooved Wood Frame Estate FindVintage John Deere Mirror Picture Tractor Bierman Farm Implements Steeleville IlRare—the Birmingham Ledger Oval Pocket MirrorAntique Allis Chalmers Advertising Mirror Steam Turbine Electric Generator 1900'Coca Cola Advertising-lot Of 5-opener,token, Wooden Nickel, Mirror & CardCirca 1940 Delta Cruise Ship Lines, New Orleans Celluloid Pocket MirrorVery Early 1900's Celluloid Pocket Mirror Showing Young Girl Caricature 38'' X 18'' Coors Lite #42 Silver Bullet Racing Wall Mirror - 1996Vintage Antique Celluloid Photo Souvenir Pocket Mirror Wedding Bride And GroomVintage Advertising Glass Paperweight-mirror Back, Gravel Tipple W/rr Train CarsDewar's Scotch MirrorVtg Mission Brand Orange Juice Advertising Mirror William Stoffel Wilkes BarreAntique Victorian Ed. Pinaud's Perfume Hair Tonic Folding Trade Card W/ Mirror Vintage Stand-up Calendar And Mirror For Sanford And Charles, Inc. Petroleum Co.1937 Shirley Temple You'll Just Love My Summer Breakfast Pocket Mirror 3"x2"Vintage Ford Auto Advertising Visor Mirror 1949 Stanford's Of Geneva, Nebraska Vintage 1910 Advertising Pocket Mirror Mullen & Bluett Los Angeles Ca StoreOld Rovane Dental Supply Co Keokuk Ia Advertising Glass Paperweight W MirrorChivas Regal Thank Your Father Lion Ad Mirror 17" X 19"Circa 1900 William Wanamaker Store, Philadelphia Pa Celluloid Pocket MirrorLot Of Coca-cola Advertising Items Nib Playing Cards, Mirror And Small TinCoke Mirrors And Coasters Tins And Sewing Kits LotShirley Temple Round Pocket Mirror 2 1/4"Shirley Temple Round Pocket Mirror 1 3/4"Vintage Burma-shave Advertising MirrorWild Turkey MirrorVintage Martini & Rossi Wines Bar Wood Framed Glass Mirror Advertisement - Rare 90's Coca Cola Advertising Mirror, Preproduction Of 1939 Through The Year AdsStarbucks Coffee Mug Collectors Silver Mirror Reflective Metallic 14 Oz 2013Vintage Shirley Temple Quaker Puffed Wheat Pocket Mirror 2" X 3"Vintage (rare Find) Coca Cola Framed Mirror SignVintage 1978' Freelance Pocket Mirror Good - N- Plenty Candy Advertising W/case