‘Us’: Lifting the Voice of Mainstream Authority – March 10, 1894 (Page 316)
On the back page of an 1894 issue of Black and White is what appears to be an editorial framed by two vertical rows of advertisements. But just before the text’s conclusion, it reveals itself to be yet another advertisement (“maybe Mother Seigel’s Curative Syrup might help me”). The commercial is disguised by its graphic similarity to Black and White’s journalistic text, and by its obvious dissimilarity to the page’s other ads (which use text size and font to crassly accentuate brand names); the bottom of the page is even tagged with the “Black and White Publishing” label reserved for the journal’s main text. Most interestingly, the ad implements the authoritative force of the journal’s editorial voice, suggesting that Black and White’s mainstream identity was so persuasive that advertisers sought to channel, replicate, and benefit from it.
Not only does the headline (“What A Host Of Us Feel This Way”) lift the first-person plural of a traditional editorial (seen in “A Note About Ourselves”), but like Black and White the ad feigns to speak with the public’s wholehearted agreement. This populist undertone is exaggerated when the text addresses “the suffering borne by humanity” or “by millions,” and inflated further as the ad laments “the great bulk… of physical, mental, and moral suffering” (italics mine). An immense imagined audience is further expanded through familiar colonial vocabulary:
People who have found benefit from that medicine are to be come across all over the earth. They speak almost every tongue known to human lips, and the words “Mother Siegel’s Syrup” have been translated into every one of them.
In constructing this global market, in speaking both towards and with the masses, and in its consideration of moral suffering, the advertisement effectively espouses the conventional vigor of Black and White. That this syrup seller would try so hard to join the powerful “us” – the “us” within the “Word About Ourselves” and in the article on Corfu Jewry – demonstrates just how important Black and White’s own commercial identity proved to be.