Unlikely Partners: Admen and Reformers in the Progressive Era

Jennifer M. Black

For many manufacturers, the 1905 Trademark Law provided a measure to police clandestine practitioners and streamline interstate trade.  As an added benefit, the new law promised to improve public relations by framing the lobbyist effort as having been motivated by a heightened sense of corporate responsibility.  This profession of public interest blended the language of Progressive reformers with prescriptions for sound business ethics in trade literature, and supplemented the moralized judgements coming out of federal courts that decried the fraudulent intent of trademark infringers.  Framing their reforms as growing out of concern for the general welfare of the public,  admen and manufacturers ultimately gained federal regulation that helped limit competition in the marketplace.  The language of consumer protection provided a way for advertisers to disguise their economic self-interest in the passage of the 1905 trademark law, and should be seen as part of a broader public relations effort that continued as the Truth-in-Advertising movement of the 1920s.