For magazines particularly, as more and more consumer goods came on the market, competition increased. It didn't take long for manufacturers to figure out that they needed to find ways to distinguish their goods and draw attention to them. Thus, advertising was born. Merchants no longer relied on street hawkers or peddlers as the way to sell their wares. Instead, they began picturing their goods and touting their services in publications. The first magazine to carry advertising was Scribner's in 1887 but other publications fell in line quickly.
It helped tremendously, of course, that railroads connected artists and art markets even as the catalogues and magazines they helped produce made their way to every town and hamlet. At the post office there was a special, lower rate charged to mail printed materials. As always, quality mattered but it was equally important to get information out quickly and drive demand. Faster rotary presses got the word out in short order, and printing costs were significantly lower than they'd once been.
Added to all these developments was a sense that women's rights were on the rise. The first wave of feminism is usually slated at 1895 to 1930. Girls were getting an education; women were beginning to work outside the home; and contraception, though still in the shadows, enabled women to choose whether and when to bear children. Women were fighting for the right to vote and were voicing their opinions at home and within the community. In motoring, women moved from chauffeur-driven vehicles to sitting behind the wheel themselves, and the idea that sex sells was afoot, too. Women were often depicted on MoToR covers — and not always as heavily-garbed motorists.
From the magazine's start to about 1910, it followed suit with other publications, illustrating America as a vibrant, comfortable place to live. Cover art and illustrated stories broke up page after page of plain text. Sales pitches were straightforward, as these examples attest: "Don't Experiment — Just buy a Ford"; "Dispense with Horses"; and an electric car "For Wife, Daughter, Mother, or Sister".
MoToR's stable of artists in these early years included, among others, Paul Bransom, H.B. Eddy, Louis Fancher, E. Frederick, F. H. Frolich, Paul Goold, F. W. Hawkins, William George Krieghoff, Gibbs Mason, Louis Rhead, F.C. Stahr, Penrhyn Stanlaws, and F.L. Stoddard. Here you'll see a single, representative image from each of these artists, a pattern we'll use for later artists, as well, along with some biographical notes.
While this parade of more than fifty artists who drew covers from the early 1900s through the 1960s (when illustration was being rapidly replaced by photography) is nowhere near exhaustive, it does underscore the high caliber of art in use on MoToR covers. Someday perhaps there will be a serious, book-length discussion of how the times affected the development of motoring as well as the artists who sought to attract motorists' attention.
The artist's names are links to examples of their works as well as their biographies.
This decade in the arts brought Hollywood's film industry into focus, gave jazz center stage, saw New York's 1913 Armory Show bring European modernism to the U.S., and viewed vaudeville at its peak. It was also, however, a time of great upheaval as factories supplanted craftsmanship, economies boomed, and nations engaged in WWI, the war to end all wars.
MoToR cover artists during this time also show mutability. More artists appear at this time than in any other decade, and their subject matter varies widely. This decade is represented by artists Vincent Aderente, H. Richard Boehm, William de Leftwich Dodge, William Harndon Foster, Walter Dean Goldbeck, D.C. Hutchison, Vincent Lynch, Herbert Meyer, Gustav Michelson, G. Patrick Nelson, Z.P. Nikolaki, Jean de Paleologue, J. A. Todahl, and A. M. Turner. Artists Mason, Stoddard, and others continued designing covers for MoToR, as well.
World War I had ended; the U.S. had contributed significantly to the Allied victory. The economy was booming, and there were more cars on the road, including new luxury models, than ever before. Even though prohibition (1920-1933) made liquor illegal, between speakeasies, bathtub gin, and "medical" necessity, customers were still able to whet their whistles. Women wore their hair bobbed and sported flapper dresses and cloche hats. Dance styles like the Charleston and the Lindy Hop were in vogue. Jazz claimed great popularity. Gangsters Al Capone, "Lucky" Luciano, John Dillinger, and others were active, and Hollywood branched into a new category — gangster films. The surrealistic and Art Deco art movements took hold. Popular feeling was optimistic, glamorous, and daring.
MoToR illustrators of the twenties included McClelland Barclay, Howard Chandler Christy, Ruth Eastman, Jules Gotlieb, Hayden Hayden, Lawrence Herndon, Walter Jardine, Coles Phillips, and Leslie Thrasher. It was their job to translate the pulsing energy of the twenties into automotive illustrations.