This early ad for Anne of Green Gables appeared in the New York Sun in November 1908, five months after the publication of the book. It includes major endorsements by celebrity authors of the period, two of whom remain widely known today: American author and humorist Samuel Clemens (1835–1910), who, as Mark Twain, was the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), among many other titles; Bliss Carman (1861–1929), a Canadian poet who achieved international fame while living in the U.S. and one of the Confederation Poets; and Temple Scott, biographer and bibliographer whose works include The Friendship of Books (1911).
The endorsement by Twain is frequently misquoted, and even this version is not entirely accurate. Montgomery had received a letter from Clemens’s secretary in which “Mr. Clemens directs me to thank you for your charming book + says I may quote to you from his letter to Francis Wilson about it: ‘In “Anne of Green Gables” you will find the dearest + most moving + delightful child since the immortal Alice.’” This ad appears in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, as does the full letter by Bliss Carman from which his endorsement is excerpted.
Recently, while searching for L.M. Montgomery’s long-lost short stories on a variety of digital archives, I came across an ad for Anne of Green Gables in The Nation, a New York magazine:
This ad is unique for several reasons:
First, it makes no mention of the type of book it refers to (fiction? non-fiction?), let alone what the book might be about or what readership it targets. There’s also no mention of the book’s publisher, which is highly unusual, given that in most early ads for Montgomery’s early books, the “From Page’s List” logo appears prominently almost always.
Second, the first appearance of this ad that I’ve found is in the 9 July 1908 issue, which is less than a month after the book was published (on 13 June). That means that the designation “cleverest book of the year” seems a bit premature.
Third, this ad appeared again and again in the months to follow: on 20 August 1908, 17 September 1908, 8 October 1908, and 15 October 1908, and then again on 15 July 1909, 5 August 1909, 2 September 1909, 16 September 1909, and 7 October 1909. Not only does it seem odd for this ad to be deemed the “cleverest book of the year” in two separate years, but the later ads show no awareness of the publication of Anne of Avonlea, early in September 1909.
In short, while this ad campaign breaks from a number of advertising conventions, clearly it was deemed to be effective, or else it wouldn’t have run for a minimum of nine times over a fifteen-month period. These ads may not have given anything away in terms of the book’s contents or form, but by using the term “clever,” thus commenting on the book’s literary quality, this ad campaign would have appealed to readers searching for “clever” fiction who may have turned away from ads proclaiming the book’s staggering popularity.
Here are three ads for Anne’s House of Dreams, the first of L.M. Montgomery’s books to be published by the Frederick A. Stokes Company in New York (and by McClelland, Goodchild and Stewart in Toronto) after she left the firm of L.C. Page and Company.
The publication of The Watchman and Other Poems in November 1916 marked a number of changes in L.M. Montgomery’s career as a published author. Earlier that year, Montgomery had made the difficult decision to leave her exploitative first publisher, L.C. Page and Company, and move to the firm of McClelland, Goodchild and Stewart (now McClelland and Stewart), which then appointed the Frederick A. Stokes Company as her American publisher. This ad in the Toronto Globe called it “one of the choicest books of the year, 168 pages of beautiful poems of rare quality, delicate, lilting and full of music.”
This ad for Anne of the Island appeared in the Baltimore Sun in July 1915 as well as in several other dailies across the USA. Although starting with this book Montgomery’s literary output was listed as “The Four Avonlea Books” opposite the main title page (with Chronicles of Avonlea included between Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island), this ad omits Chronicles and refers to Anne of the Island as “completing the ‘ANNE’ trilogy.” This marketing strategy would continue with the publication of Further Chronicles of Avonlea in 1920 (at which point the series was renamed “The Five Avonlea Books”), even though by then Montgomery had published two more Anne books set in another PEI locale with a competing publisher (Anne’s House of Dreams and Rainbow Valley, with Rilla of Ingleside following in 1921).
When L.M. Montgomery’s sixth novel, The Golden Road, was published (in September 1913 in North America and in early 1914 in the UK and Australia), several ads paired it with other bestselling novels by the same firms (L.C. Page and Company and Cassell and Co.). First, in September, The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer of New York published an ad for The Golden Road and Eleanor H. Porter’s bestseller Pollyanna:
Next, in late November of that year, the New York Sun published an ad for nine Page novels:
And finally, in late February 1914, The Athenaeum of London published an ad for “Cassell’s Brilliant Spring Fiction”:
What’s especially noteworthy is that, with the exception of Pollyanna, none of the books featured alongside The Golden Road is still in print today—in fact, most of them have been forgotten entirely.
I know it looks like I’ve been a bit neglectful this week of my promise to post every single day a review of or an ad for one of Montgomery’s books (the focus of Volume 3 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, available late this December). In truth, I’ve become really busy with the end-of-year crunch, but there’s also a method to my madness, since what I planned to show next was an overall marketing strategy for L.M. Montgomery. In the second half of December 1921, Montgomery’s Canadian publisher, McClelland and Stewart, placed—in the Toronto Globe and the Toronto Daily Star—several different ads for Rilla of Ingleside, always prominently at the top of a page, as a way to promote it as a choice title for the holiday season. What’s especially noteworthy is that while Rilla is now celebrated as one of the only near-contemporaneous Canadian novels about women at the homefront during the First World War, the war is barely mentioned in this campaign.
Each image zooms in when you click on it, and you can also go through all of them as a slide show.
First, the Toronto Daily Star published this ad, complete with reviewers’ quotes, on 12 December:
Second, in the Globe, on 15 December:
An almost identical ad appeared the next day, on 16 December, in the Toronto Daily Star:
Third, in the Globe, on 16 December:
Fourth, in the Globe, on 17 December:
This one, too, appeared in the Toronto Daily Star, three days later:
Fifth, in the Toronto Daily Star, on 19 December, advertising Rilla of Ingleside alongside Marian Keith’s novel Little Miss Melody (Montgomery and Keith would eventually collaborate, along with Mabel Burns McKinley, on the volume of essays Courageous Women, published in 1934):
Sixth, the Globe, on 20 December:
Seventh, a similar ad in the Toronto Daily Star, on 21 December:
Eighth, in the Globe, on 21 December:
Stay tuned next week, when I start posting extracts from reviews that were less than enthusiastic about Montgomery’s writing—starting with the earliest known review of Anne of Green Gables.
Today’s L.M. Montgomery ad is once again from The Boston Herald—clearly they had really catchy ads!—and it promotes Montgomery’s fourth book, The Story Girl, which would eventually form part of the basis of the popular television series Road to Avonlea.
Today’s L.M. Montgomery ad shows the attempts of her first publisher, L.C. Page and Company, to advertise her books alongside those of her contemporaries published by the same firm. This ad, which gives pride of place to Chronicles of Avonlea, appeared in The Boston Herald in September 1912.