Wisconsin Lawyer: Earliest Advertisers:

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    Earliest Advertisers

    Dianne Molvig

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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 76, No. 9, September 2003

    Page 1: Back to article

    Earliest Advertiserscollage of 


old ads

    In 1927, Gilson Glasier, the first editor of the Bulletin of the State Bar Association of Wisconsin, as Wisconsin Lawyer was then known, stated that "without the hope of receiving compensation from advertisers, this bulletin would hardly have been attempted." Glasier wrote to prospective advertisers extolling the benefits of advertising and the magazine's "genuine, wholehearted reader interest." The cost of a full page ad in 1927 was $50, and circulation was about 2,000. Today, a full page ad is $1,110, and circulation is nearly 22,000.

    The following 12 businesses advertised in the magazine's first year:

    • Belmont Hotel, Madison - "Facing the Capitol." Rooms $2 to $3.50
    • Callaghan & Co., Chicago - Callaghan's New Wisconsin Digest, six volumes for $90
    • Democrat Printing Co., Madison - Briefs printing, $1 per page
    • Farrington Co., Chicago - Laptop reading table
    • Hess Linotyping Co., Milwaukee - Briefs and cases printing. "Don't Ask Us - Ask Brother Barrister"
    • collage of old ads Henry B. Nelson Inc., Milwaukee - "A Complete Authoritative Service on Wisconsin Taxes"
    • Lawyers' Brief and Information Service, Madison - Briefs compiled, citations furnished, copies certified, $.80-$.90/page
    • Northwestern Mutual Life, Madison/Milwaukee - "When the Professional Man Frees His Mind of All Preconceived Notions Regarding Life Insurance"
    • Park Hotel, Madison - Rooms $2-$2.50 with toilets, $3-$4.50 with shower/tub
    • Prentice-Hall Inc., New York - Law books. One advertisement offers Annotated Forms of Agreement for $10
    • West Publishing Co (now West Group), St. Paul, Minn. - Has advertised continuously ever since, the only advertiser to be with us all 75 years
    • Wisconsin Life Insurance Co., Madison - "As a Professional Man Your Earnings Cease with You"

    Classified advertising. The earliest version of a classified ad, from an attorney looking for a set of used law books, appeared in the January 1929 issue. The first ads for positions wanted and for attorneys needed appeared in August 1935.

    Controversial ads. One of the most controversial advertising campaigns in recent memory was for the Memorial Blood Center's parentage testing; for example, one of the ads showed a boy at various ages with a milk bottle. The caption read, "How to Avoid Spending $236,000 to raise the milkman's son." The Wisconsin Lawyer received several complaints that the ads were demeaning to women and perpetuated the stereotype that women "were sitting around waiting for the milkman."

    The advertising subcommittee of the Communications Committee reviewed the ads and concluded that advertising should not be rejected for its content, as long as it was for products that were not illegal and not in violation of professional ethics. A formal advertising policy was written as a result.

    old ad for Park HotelThank you to advertisers. Over the years, advertisers have provided valuable financial support to the magazine and to the Wisconsin Lawyer Directory - covering the costs of printing and mailing. Today, the magazine, which includes the annual directory, costs each member $20.36 out of their dues (previously, members paid $30 to purchase the directory from another publisher). In turn, we've delivered advertisers' messages about law-related and other products and services in a reader-respected, visually appealing editorial environment. The State Bar of Wisconsin genuinely appreciates advertisers' support of the magazine for the last 75 years.




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