DCSIMG

RFD: Marketing to a Rural Audience


Early Transportation

All weathers are alike when you roll along the highway in the 1903 POSTMAN
–Advertisement for Postman mail wagon, R.F.D. News, 1903

Butler mail wagon advertisement
Butler Company mail wagon advertisement

Transportation companies were major advertisers to rural mail carriers. Without reliable transportation, the mail carriers could not successfully deliver the mail along their rugged, secluded routes through rural America. The early years of service were propelled by the horse-and-buggy, as the major transition into the auto age among the working class would not follow for another few years, with the introduction of the more affordable Ford Model T.

During the reign of the horse-drawn mail wagon, companies such as Terre Haute Carriage & Buggy Company, Fouts & Hunter Carriage Manufacturing Company, and Kelly Foundry and Machine Company, took out full page ads with eye-grabbing titles to tempt the mail carriers browsing through the mail service publications. Companies emphasized the popularity of their product, quality and reliability, as well as the versatility of their wagons, which were advertised as built to withstand all types of weather and road conditions. Additionally, these early years of mail publications like R.F.D. News saw many products geared towards accessorizing wagons for more efficient mail delivery during unsavory conditions. Such items included wagon heaters, steel runner attachments, protective wear for horseshoes, and storm shields.

The principle tactic behind marketing transportation was to take a visual approach. Many companies used elaborate illustrations and photographs to market their product. Visuals ranged from a photograph or depiction of a mail carrier in action to the mechanics behind wagon styles. These visuals allowed the companies to emphasize the general size and shape of their product, an important factor in determining suitable transportation for the backwoods roads. Furthermore, the language behind many of these illustrations highlights favorable characteristics. An example would be the Butler Company of Butler, Indiana, which advertised their wagon as the “sensible vehicle for winter.”