Jul 20

A. Crocker and Bros. department store, shopping in the 1880s

The Tribune inside page from July 6, 1888 with A. Crocker & Bros. department store advertisement.

Remember dot-matrix printers?
Remember people who had too much time on their hands who delighted in creating visual patterns with type?
Apparently the tradition goes back further than I thought. This ad is from the Tribune, July 4, 1888 but it ran on several occasions during this era. It is very different from the other ads on the page without bold headline type, it used smaller letters to make larger images.
Professional typographers are a bit snobbish about this. They wax rhapsodic about line and shape of letters, the arc of serifs, the weight and heft of sans serif fonts. They look at monospaced fonts, fonts that give equal weight to each letter, as a monkey mashing keys on a typewriter.
My guess is that proprietor Benjamin Brooks thought, “If that’s the way they want to spend their advertising dollar, I’ll sell them the one-third page space.”
The ad makes you stop and look, it is unlike anything else on the page, with lots of empty white space. However the ad has an accidental, unfinished quality.
Apparently the competition was dark and dank because the Crocker brothers advertised their department store as light and well ventilated.
Fresh air was believed to have extra healthful qualities before the microbes that caused disease were identified. Chances are there were more bad bacteria in a closed fetid environment than a clean airy one.
At least one treatment for flu symptoms in this era was to throw open all the windows in the house, no matter how cold it got.
Quoting from the ad:

The greatest advantage in selecting goods is light, and the public can safely purchase goods any time in the day and will find that their selections will prove to their expectation.
No energy or life without fresh air, and the ventilation we possess in our establishment will always keep our stock neat clean and fresh.
It will be a great pleasure to the ladies and the public generally, to purchase their requirements in such a well arranged, modern and beautifully decorated establishment.

A. Crocker & Bros. called themselves the leading dry goods, clothing boot and shoe house. They were located at the corner of Higuera and Garden Streets in the Crocker Block.
In 1920 the business was sold to J.D. Riley who changed the name to Riley-Crocker and later Riley’s. The business would move to Higuera and Chorro Streets in 1955.

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