By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — A color print depicts a young boy laying on the beach with a straw summer hat adorned with blue ribbons and flowers protecting him from the sun. Standing next to him is a young girl wearing a hot outfit with her back to the ocean dotted with white sails.
The work from the Victorian-era is not on display at a museum or hanging on the wall of a mansion.
Instead, it’s an advertisement card for “Beach Soap Co’s Laundry and Toilet Soaps” of Lawrence, featured on the cover of the 2014 annual calendar printed by the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library.
It is one of more than 20 advertisements in color and black and white featured in the calendar ranging from the 1870s through the mid-20th century, said library archivist Louise Sandberg.
In addition to Beach Soap, other ads include Morin’s, Ketchum’s Pharmacy, Curran & Joyce, Cedar Crest, Papparlardo’s Wirths, and the Cross Book Store. She said 90 percent of the material came from the library’s collection and the rest from local collector Joe Bella of Methuen.
The ads were found in newspapers, trade cards, a stereo slide, city directories, postcards and the front cover of an almanac.
Susan Dowd of the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library, said they discussed monuments at the Campagnone Common, the White Fund paintings and veterans before deciding on vintage advertising as a theme.
“We wanted to pick a theme that people can identify with,” Dowd said. “We chose a cross section of businesses from restaurants, hotels and cemeteries, institutions that people would remember.”
Dowd is happy with this year’s calendar.
“Visually it’s very attractive and having color took it to a whole new level,” she said. “I don’t have a problem of it not having text because they stand out by themselves.”
Friends of the Lawrence Public Library have been printing a historic calendar since 1991. Past themes included the Bread and Roses Strike and Essex Street, which has been the most popular, Sandberg said.
She hopes the vintage advertising is also a big seller.
“Nostalgia was a big part of the reason why we chose it,” Sandberg said. “With Lawrence once being a commercial hub, it caught on because it was visibly appealing with the color and printing,” Sandberg said.
While the pictures were selected from the library’s collection and Bella’s private selections, Friends of the Library members Dowd and Arlene Ross made the final decisions on which photographs to use.
Dowd was most impressed at how the ads were created. The one from Morin’s candies features cutouts of cookies on a plate and a clerk tending to a customer.
“It shows that someone took their time to made this. It’s not just a neon sign, it brings you back to a time that’s not there anymore,” Dowd said.
Unlike the previous calendars, the 2014 edition does not have any information on dates about the stores.
“To some extent, I can’t bare the thought of not telling people stuff. I find that knowing about places and things is useful because you get an idea of the past,” Sandberg said.
Thomas Greene, associate professor in Victorian cultural studies at Northern Essex Community College, said that era refers to the reign of Queen Victoria. He said the period spans 1836 to 1901.
One important element in Victorian advertising was having a full description of the product or even a testimonial from a user.
“Unlike today, they wanted to have it in a language that was clear and verbatim because there were no competing sources of information,” Greene said. “Everyone read the newspaper and magazines and the ads were like a form of entertainment.”
Greene said Victorian advertising is and always be popular.
“It reminds us of a childlike optimism that they had back then,” he said.