Saturday, September 11, 2010

Deconstructing Old Ads: Thoughts on Herter's

I always get a kick out of Herter's of Waseca, Minnesota. When I was young I used to get the catalogs and order lots of fly tying supplies. Without exception it was all crap. The catalogs are so over the top they make for hilarious reading. I do have three of his books and let me say they contain, even by the standards of the day, some of the most racists stuff ever seen in print. He would be hung in effigy today.

Outdoor writer Jim Dean wrote about George Herter in his entertaining book The Secret Lives of Fishermen: More Outdoor Essays (1990):

Unquestionably, George Leonard Herter and his remarkable family were experienced and widely traveled sportsmen with useful insights and knowledge. But to hear him tell it, he had invented nearly everything, including items any discerning reader would recognize as pure rip-offs. George also apparently wrote almost all of the pompous, grammatically fractured, and wonderfully weird copy that accompanied the ads.

Throughout the years, George could never decide whether his company was singular, plural, possessive, or incorporated. Thus, one encounters the oft-repeated motto, "Herter's Have Tomorrow's Products Today."

The above advertisement is for his book SECRET FRESH AND SALT WATER TRICKS OF THE WORLDS FIFTY BEST PROFESSIONAL FISHERMEN. Some of the things he has to say about native peoples (and the white people who associate with them) would curl your hair. The first time I read this I almost dropped the book!

-- Bill Sonnett

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