Curious advertisers ask –  “Is it possible to draw attention to your product by starting a conversation about something else entirely?”

The rest of us, who have been marinating in a marketing stew for most of our lives, answer “Where have you been living?”

Much advertising is based on this.

Until yesterday, I would have argued that this technique took hold sometime in the last 80 years or so, pushed forward by the creation of radio and television – two mediums that offer great advantages and even greater rewards to liars and deceivers.

But I was proven wrong while scouting about aimlessly on the Internet, when I stumbled across the odd marketing approach of a window shade merchant in Yonkers, NY around the turn of the 20th century.

The American Carpet and Upholstery Journal described it this way in 1902:

William Welsh, dealer in window shades, matting, oil cloth and linoleum, 5 North Broadway, Yonkers, N.Y., is a rather daring and novel advertiser. He makes use of a 6-inch space, in a good position, in the Yonkers Statesman, and always fills it with a semi-facetious matter, which is no doubt looked for and read by the subscribers of that enterprising daily.

While this style of advertising is generally considered bad, as Mr. Welsh conducts it, the effect is undoubtedly good.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 10.05.45 AM

Welsh goes at his customers again and again from various odd angles, trying to get their attention with a barrage of words. Today’s advertisers use swimsuit models for the same purpose, but that wasn’t permitted in the Yonkers Statesman of 1902. Regardless of the chosen topic, he always brings it home to the real point – WINDOW SHADES.

Cold Chunks

Politically speaking, we have been lambasted, garroted, buncoed, gold-bricked, solar-plexed, sandbagged, knocked out, our picture turned to the wall, and otherwise treated with brotherly love and now we feel that we are not as other men – and to show our distinction we will have to wear a badge, but not one bought with the people’s money. It happened this way: Last fall, when the political bosses were fishing for suckers the bait looked tempting, and we swallowed the hook and were landed. Now, there would be no kick coming from lus if the bosses had not shoved whole chunks of cold political harmony down the back of our neck, remarking at the same time, “Peace be with thee, brother.” We are under the impression, from the chill it gave us, that it was not a “peace” of cold political harmony that went down our back, but the whole lump. Now the reaction is great, and our political temperature is 106 under the collar. There are sudden changes in some other things besides the weather, but no so with our WINDOW SHADES. They are always the same – A No. 1.

WM. WELSH, 5 North Broadway, Yonkers

Even when the talk is small and light, the payoff is as usual.


We met a friend of ours, this morning, who did not ask us if we liked this kind of weather, or if it was wet enough to suit us, or when we thought it would clear up, or even remark that we are having a wet spell. Now, this must seem surprising to you, but it is a fact; there are a few people in the world who think that some other people know when there is a wet spell without being reminded of it every few minutes in the day.

Now, we wish to say, right here, that we know when we are having a wet spell, and we also know when we have enough. The next time we have a dry spell we shall mind our own affairs and peg away at our WINDOW SHADES.

We have a large stock of Oil Cloths, Linoleums, Mattings, White Beds and Bedding:

 WM. WELSH, 5 N. Broadway, Yonkers

We forgot to say that the man who didn’t speak to us about the weather was deaf and dumb.

Like re-hearing a well-loved joke, you already know the punch line, but the fun is all in getting there.

Recall a character from your life who only wanted to talk about one thing.

75 thoughts on “Sleight-of-Brand”

  1. An old man in a country corner grocery across from my parent’s house near Hawk Ridge in Duluth surviving long past profit to fill the life of him and his wife would only talk about the weather in large detail.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The wife of our retired pastor only wants to talk politics and the evilness of Republicans. A conversation with her is more like a monolog. There also is a gentleman we run into who only wants to talk about the Twins. We also know a fellow recovering from alcoholism who only talks about his recovery and all his behaviors when he was drinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Recovering alcoholics tend to do this. A drug counselor friend of ours said they and their problem are the center of attention for a few weeks and they learn that bad habit. He counseled families to put up with for a week or so an then tell the person it was time for them to move on. We are in a class for diabetics who, all except for Sandy, are the same way.


      1. Agreed, Clyde. Alcoholics have trouble keeping things in proportion. When they sober up they often need to find a new obsession. A friend of mine is a famous fisherman who was a legendary drunk before his religious conversion. Ron was the most entertaining drinker I know but now is a tedious Jesus crank. I preferred him as a drunk.


  3. Good morning. A friend from graduate school was a very devoted fan of country and “old time” music. He was so devoted to this music that I think that is all he wanted to talk about most of the time. I learned a lot from him about Blue Grass and many other kinds music. He was the President of the Bill Monroe fan club, had a radio show, and corresponded with people all over the world on the topic of country music. Also, he had an extensive knowledge of the history of country music and the earliest “old time”music.


  4. Rise and Obsessively Talk Baboons!

    My beloved Uncle Jim, and I do mean beloved–he was such a gift to our family–only wants to talk about The Republican Way. He is such a great father, grandfather, uncle, neighbor. Yet his insistence on this topic, and the chronic Fox News station in his home, drives the people who love him away.

    Sigh. It took me a very long time to see through this topic and to tend to him anyway. A story I have written here before:

    He took me to vote for the first time in 1972. We voted in side-by-side booths saying all the while, “Jac, if you are voting for McGovern and I vote for Nixon we are just canceling each other’s vote. I won’t vote if you won’t.” I voted. So did he.

    He wants me to go with him to Nebraska to visit the museum about Black Elk and John Neinhardt (Not sure about the spelling of the name). Uncle Jim is 84 years old, at the end of a long, healthy, productive, loving life. I need to do this trip with him, but it will require a limit-setting conversation about the topics which are appropriate while in the car! I am avoiding the conversation and the trip.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. My partner had an uncle who got wealthy using ads like these to sell furniture. He got angry with Des Moines register when they put the little advertisement label around his ads


  6. An odd fellow once called me up to volunteer to guide me to pheasant hunting in marshes near his South Dakota home. Jim was kind to me and my partners, but we couldn’t figure him out. He was secretive and unable to talk about himself. Usually I can tell what drives a person, but Jim was an enigma. We had to notice one thing: he talked about food obsessively. If Jim made three comments, at least one would be about food. I later found out that when he was a soldier in Korea Jim once was trapped behind Chinese lines, eating nothing but grass for nine days.


  7. My dad was an attorney and he was fascinated by the trail of O.J. Simpson. I don’t think he cared about O.J. at all but was really interested in the trial and the legal maneuverings. I was on the opposite site of the spectrum and didn’t care if I ever heard the words “white bronco” again. So you can imagine that most of 1995 was a wash between my dad and me. On more than one phone call I had to say “If you continue to talk about the trial, I’m hanging up.” And then having to hang up. When the verdict finally came through, he was very unhappy, as he thought that legally the case was proved, but then after about a week, he dropped the subject completely and I don’t think he ever mentioned O.J. again!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kinda OT. Today my work computer is flashing a task that says “Should we have a baboon asteroid party on June 30?” I googled Baboon Asteroid June 30 and found out that June 30 is Asteroid day, along with QUITE a few links to the Trail, none of which shed any light on why I set this reminder for myself. I don’t remember when I set this task, but I’m sure it had to be a few months back at least.

    Any thoughts????


        1. Ack…. I looked all through the Trail, but didn’t think about the Docks! OK, so I guess we need to plan an Asteroid party. June 30 is a Tuesday – maybe we can jump the gun and do something on Sunday the 28th. Anybody wanna play?


        2. I think I have an afternoon event on the 28th, but could do something in the evening, as long as no humans or animals are harmed in the process.


    1. who cares where it came form lets arrange the party. shall we go find a dark spot near rocjester so clyde and ben can join us? get a camp site or two and party in the dark?
      ill drive.


  9. I’m lucky I guess, I can’t think of anyone who wants to talk only about one subject. My next door neighbor, however, can be very difficult to talk with because he repeats himself, over, and over, and over again. It’s as if he lacks the ability to just shut up when he has said what he has to say. Unfortunately, whatever he has to say is usually not very interesting in the first place, and it doesn’t get any better by him repeating it ad infinitum.


  10. Grandkids are with us, which leaves me too much time to be on here. I hate being with old people. All they want to talk about are their health problems. Mine are so much more interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. OT – As you may recall, we have had some “issues” with above neighbor over the years. The most recent is a large silver maple his son planted right on the property line next to our house. Some of the branches from this tree were dragging on our roof, and we talked with him about trimming the tree, and offered to share the expenses with him. He claimed that he couldn’t afford it, but agreed to let us hire a tree cutter to trim off the offending branches (at a cost of $800.00 to us). This was done last week, and now he’s ticked off about the tree being lopsided.

    Ironically, his neighbor on the other side of his house has a tree in his yard that has branches touching our neighbor’s house. Our neighbor wanted his neighbor to trim those branches, and threatened to call the police if he didn’t! So yesterday, that neighbor hired a tree trimmer to saw of those branches.

    I’m wondering, did CrystalBay ever get the tree issue with her neighbor resolved?


    1. oh im sure cb will be so happy to talk about her wonderful neighbor. she says they have great conversations on a variety of topics…. not


  12. I can’t think off-hand of a one-topic talker, but a friend I haven’t seen for years now, had the conversational quirk of joining in and finishing your sentence with you. I don’t know if she still does it but it was a very annoying habit.


    1. The young man who sometimes helps me with gardening chores, does the same thing, it’s almost like an echo, very distracting.


  13. I can think of two people like this. One sold Shaklee and the other sold Amway.

    I was amazed at how the Shaklee person could take any conversation about any topic and manage to insert at least one comment, usually several comments, about Shaklee products and how she loved them. Most of the time it was sort of relevant to the conversation. Sort of.

    The Amway person didn’t try to make the spiel about Amway be relevant to the conversation; he just unashamedly tried to sell Amway products, or better yet, recruit you to the Amway organization.


  14. Wasband would talk about lots of esoteric topics, but there was always a bottom line – he was right. Let’s just say it got tiresome, but I’ve noticed lately that I also have an odd tendency to want to be right.


  15. OT – A Facebook friend of mine, Tom Jessen, posted this on his FB page this morning:

    These animated music videos from Canada are absolutely delightful! Here’s another favorite old tune we all heard in the early ’90’s on Jim Ed Poole and Dale Conellys Morning Show. I want Minnesota to secede and become the southern-most province of Canada. They make videos of this stuff! I’m going to bed smiling.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Forgive me if I’ve already posted this – my memory is fading. In fact, I recently read an article which says that the lower the weight, the greater chance of dementia. If this is true, I’m doomed.

    The character in a movie with whom I most Identified is Maude from Harold and Maude. At 30, I first saw this movie and instantly identified with her. I somehow knew that I was a Maude in the making. Fun-loving, spontaneous, emanating joy. I knew she was my destiny. She shed all vestiges of conventionality as have I.

    I use this an excuse for having poor poor boundaries a. Nevertheless, I’m the one to say what other normal people only think. At this age, I’m probably not going to change, like the terminal lung cancer partient who decides to keep smoking.

    If I ever lose the Maude in me, I’m dying, not living. I’ve spent my whole life making others who don’t speak their truth uncomfortable. Although knowing many don’t appreciate this, I can’t help it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Don’t sweat the weight issue too much.
      This article
      cites research that indicates obese people have an 80% higher risk of dementia than people of normal weight. Underweight people have a 36% higher risk. You’re still far better off being underweight.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. up at 4 and off…. its gonna be a busy couple of months coming up for me. up and at em early til late is the plan. i will try not to turn into a drone who chsants the same old thing but that should be easy because i seldom remember what i said long enough to get it locked in. i have had discussions with people who told me they took their stance because of my convincing conversation on how it should be and they are disappointed that i now feel the other way. not big things but things like the big topic of if glasses should be up or down in the cupboard. how you plug a computer into the wall in europe or china without regard for the reducer because the plug does it for you.

    my children each only want to talk about one thing. son one has things of sequenceal relationship alway on his mid daughter one has the big ideas of the world as her topics of focus. the huffington post s her lifeline. son two is a sports guy. wow is he a sports geek daughter two is arts head. music theater voice. now medicine and law are of interest as she looks at vocations ( anyone have a lawyer contact who would like to hire her to gopher for them in june ( next week) then she is off to arts classes for the rest of the summer. daughter 3 is a insider kid. not opne to discussing what she is open to discussing. if you are her friend you are in tighter than thieves if youre not youre not. plain and simple no reason to discuss it it just is what it is. my wife is a german dutch pillar of stoicisim. i had a friend who had a wonderful delightful life who was a delightful woman with a lilting laugh and a tendandcy to go find a person to talk with and laugh and thing deep thoughts he was a nice hguy but didnt like people. i told him we should switch wives he and my wife could be perfectly happy locked in a clost and i would laugh with his wife and talk and talk. he thought that was reall funny. you know youre right… i dont like people. and she does…. they got divorced two years ago after the kids left fo college. …. ive still got two left to send off. bt my wife and i have grown very familiar with the fact that we dont share lifes paths and methodology. my daughter pointed out that even though you dont always get along at least you have the same sick sense of humor and love of old movies.
    i have told my mom many of her topics of everyday discussion are not to be uddered in my presence. family, politics, finances, lets not go there. its exhausting. same old tired crap. lets skip it. tell me about your grandfather mom. he was fasinating. tell me how to mix oil paints and about the people who played in the arts hall at the college in fargo in the 40’s the list was unbelievable.


  18. I am noticing that increasingly when I ask questions of some agency (my mother’s residence comes to mind), I get “corporate-speak”, the Company Line. Phrases such as resident-centered approach, team of serving hearts, we value your input… One day I’d like to have a “straight” conversation with, say, the general manager.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Twins are bringing back memories of that 15-game winning streak in 1991. Happy days for the fans, and the ticket scalpers.

      And yes, the moon is a real crowd-pleaser tonight, too.


  19. Evening!
    Not one topic so much as one common ‘Catch-phrase’ this guy always used. Whatever we told him his reply was ‘Sweeeet!’.

    And there’s another guy, things are never his fault; his first comment is ‘Someone has been messing with the equipment!’ And there’s a head shake that goes with it. Makes me crazy…

    Liked by 1 person

  20. A wonderful innovation for people with medical conditions: support groups. These are gatherings of people who have the same condition you do and who never tire of hearing you talk about it. Provided you will listen while they talk obsessively about it. A welcome relief valve for the friends and families of the support group members.

    Liked by 2 people

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