Essay by Sam Serafy Warner’s Corset Advertisement

Sam Serafy

In Warner’s Corset Advertisement (after 1910) a pair of children discover a brand new Warner’s Corset in its original box on their mother’s dressing table. They proceed to vigorously tussle over it, playing a violent game of tug-of-war with the garment before dropping it repeatedly into bath water. When mother enters, the children expect the worst but, instead of scolding them, she turns to face the camera, smiling confidently. A title card proclaims: “Thank Goodness it’s a Warner’s and it’s rustproof!” The film ends with a striking stop-motion sequence showing an animated corset rising into frame, unrolling and fastening and unfastening itself.

The Warner Corset Company was founded in 1874 by two physicians, I. De Ver Warner and Lucien C. Warner who opened a corset factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut two years later. Concerned by the adverse effects of a badly fitted corset to a woman’s health, such as impeded digestion and damaged ribs, the brothers designed a line of corsets that were touted as being less deleterious. (1) The company developed a flexible boning material called coraline derived from the fiber of the Mexican ixtle plant, which was advertised as superior in strength and elasticity to whalebone. (2)

Though next to nothing is known about the production of the film, it was clearly constructed with a sophisticated combination of motion-picture technique and skilled salesmanship. Advertising was always important in the development of the Warner’s business, and the film reflects years of experience gained from the company’s extensive print advertising campaigns. It is a textbook example of product endorsement, employing methods that would later became standard in television commercials. The film is divided into two sections. The first uses a narrative to demonstrate the durability of the product and to endorse it by a satisfied customer. The second depicts the product magically springing to life by the use of special effects and concludes with a finger pointing to the distinctive logo of the Warner’s brand and an address of where the corset can be purchased.
(1) Lucien Calvin Warner, Personal Memoirs of Lucien Calvin Warner, (New York: Association Press, 1915), pp.73-78.
(2) Priscilla Searles, “Greatest Hits,” Business New Haven, 7 October 2000.

© Sam Sarafy 2006

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