Salt Lake Mailing & Printing Blog

History of Direct Mail Part 3

In 1780, George III’s oldest daughter was married. During the time of the wedding, all around London, a two-sided handbill was passed out to the public. A wedding announcement? Far from it. It was an advertisement for a portable washing machine (“washing mill”).

Weddings weren’t the only target for advertising. Today, the practice of prepaid funerals is commonplace. Individuals purchase funeral plans, in advance, avoiding inflation and rising prices, by locking in today’s price for a funeral. This is not a new practice. In 1825 in London, a burial society offered its prepaid funeral services on direct advertising handbills.

The advertisement appealed to all men and women who would like to be buried in a “genteel manner.” The society offered membership to be paid weekly for six months. This purchase would ensure burial in a strong elm coffin with “superfine black” covering, a “handsome” inscription plate with an angel on the top and a flower on the bottom, and many other adornments and accouterments.

Gloves and dress jackets for pallbearers were available for borrowing, also included in the price. The deal even included the wages for two porters to attend the funeral.

The Mr. Middleton who put out the advertisement, and to whom all moneys were to be paid, was an undertaker and wicker-ware dealer. His advertisement so appealed to the masses, that he ended up with 1,100 prepaid funerals purchased. It was a very successful direct advertisement.

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