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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Truth in advertising?


From: The Times, 11 December 1912 p5

25 comments to Truth in advertising?

  • DOuglas2

    I initially thought that the symbol was the point, but upon clicking the text see that the advertisement for an advertising agency is a very humble one — basically saying we suspect that if you let us work for you you will like the result, so we encourage you to try us.

    I wondered if the company still existed, so I did a search on H Powell Rees. I found an account from an ancient printers trade journal that his agency was up and coming. I found a patent for a wireless set, which based upon queries in radio collectors forums I discern was manufactured during the war for the MOD.

    I also found that he was the author of a book called “The swastika: An attempt to account for its widespread appearance in time and latitude”

  • Alex McKee

    H. Powell Rees seems to have worked for Paul E. Derrick in 1904, he attended the inaugural meeting of the London Sphinx Club (a professional association of advertisers) as the representative of the Paul E. Derrick agency according to a book Man Appeal (2005).

  • bloke in spain

    I remember my grandmother had a silver bracelet with small, dark blue enamelled swastikas decorating it. She was born 1899 & this was probably something from her early 20s. Why the symbol? It’s in Indian culture, no? There was a lot of stuff round the house, would send a few people pale today. The brass negro’s head with a hollow to contain matches. A little black boy doll, beautifully crafted in velvet with orange dungarees & matching floppy hat. Inevitably named Sambo. Different culture. Proud of Empire. If shown a modern leaflet from the council, she’d have probably commented how wealthy the white couple must be to have all those servants from diverse parts of the world

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Yes, the swastika was seen as a Hindu symbol of good fortune, or simply as a pretty pattern. We own an edition of Kipling’s poems from the 1920s with a swastika stamped on the spine. If you ever go to Coventry cathedral you can see the tomb and effigy of a bishop. The sculptor decorated the edge of the bishop’s robe with a pattern of swastikas. Ironically, this tomb now lies open to the sky because that part of the cathedral was destroyed in 1940 by bombers bearing the swastika.

    The advert is quite good, if a little long winded for modern tastes. It’s interesting to see that a few of the companies listed as clients are still going now.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    Go to India, and you will see swastikas used as decorations from time to time. The stigma that they have to us does not apply there to the same extent that it does here. I suspect that even in India they are used less than they would be if that whole Nazi thing had not happened. (In Pune earlier this year, I saw an advertisement inviting people to apply for jobs at something called the “S.S. Organisation”, too. I doubt a company would use that name here.

  • Yes, my family had many Kipling books, all abounding in swastikas.

    Simply as a piece of design, I have always rather liked the swastika, and wished it hadn’t been taken for ever by Nazis.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    We also have an old metal mini-chest of drawers used for filing cards which was made by a company called “Sankey and Someone” where “Someone” is a name beginning with S that I cannot read because of a rust spot. The company’s logo is the letters “SS” written in almost the same runic, zig zag style as were later used by the Schutzstaffel.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    The Nazis had an eye for good graphic design and impressive sounding names. Much of what they used had been used somewhere before because it was, well, good. So pity the people who used it.

  • Cultural relativism (of a sort is real). I once dated an American and she had a mate who had similarly to her done a junior year abroad from Cornell at Oxford. Well he wondered why he got funny looks. He was wearing an “IRA” T-shirt. So obviously in England he got funny looks. Except it was a mere error. He was a keen rower and in that part of the USA “IRA” stood for “Inter-collegiate Rowning Association”. Something quite different and not at all sinister. But we are all guilty. When I first met my brother’s Japanese girlf we have a drink and I say, “chin-chin!” and apparently in Japanese that sounds almost exactly like the Japanese slang term meaning pretty much “cock”. And not in the sense of a male chicken.

  • Same here in sunny Penang, albeit a Taoist (Chinese) organization.

    World Red Swastika Society – Penang

  • M. Thompson

    It’s an interesting example of how we’ve anathematized a symbol, that simply stood for good luck. Just another entry on why the Nazis were so vile.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    I was told an amusing story once about how a group of employees from the Banque Nationale de Paris booked a table at an Indian restaurant in London, under the name “BNP”. When they arrived, they were greeted in a somewhat hostile fashion by waiters and cooks who looked like they wanted to start a fight with them, or at least to spit in their food. Then all was explained, and the everyone laughed themselves silly.

  • Miv Tucker

    Staying as a small child with my aunt and uncle in Portsmouth in the early 1960s I remember seeing a laundry van labelled Bell and Swastika. I learned many years later that there’d been a Swastika laundry in Ireland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika_Laundry) so conceivably they were linked. But I still wonder what the locals made of it, at a time when the city’s suffering in the Blitz was very much within living memory.

  • AndrewWS

    IIRC, when the swastika is at the angle shown, it is an emblem of light. Hitler turned it through 45 degrees and made it a symbol of darkness.

  • David C

    The interesting thing here is the incredible success of the opponents of the Nazis who have turned its badges into enduring symbols of evil. MPs are chastised for being at private parties with people bearing those symbols, even when worn in jest. Would that we could make that other badge of tyranny, the hammer and sickle, carry its equivalent burden of shame and evil.

  • I wonder when that was published.

  • When I put this up I had rather thought this would have you all rolling on the floor laughing. “Look at those silly advertisers – what a bunch of Nazis! Ha, ha! But no. Instead, all I get is informed, intelligent comment.

    Damn you Samizdata Commentariat! Damn you with your facts and reasoning!

  • Michael: in the US it is common to refer to a Social Security number as ‘SS Number’. It is done mostly in speech and I don’t think you’d see it actually printed that way (you will see it printed as SSN though). But if you google ‘ss number’, you’ll get hits with ‘Social Security number’.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Actually the swastika is one of the variations of a design often (but not as a matter of definition) called the fylfot or fylfot cross, which, per the OED,

    has been extensively used as a decoration (often, apparently, as a mystical symbol) in almost all known parts of the world from prehistoric times to the present day.

    The Greek gammadion, Nazi hakenkreuz (the familiar version of the swastika), and cross cramponnée are all varieties of the device.

    —-The foregoing is taken from the source (checked against my print edition, 1970’s printing, of the Compact OED–and the whole thing is interesting) at


    . . .

    There are many photos from, mostly, the First Millenium A.D., at


    Examples are from the Isle of Man, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Egypt, Sutton Hoo, and elsewhere. Notice that the arms twist sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left–although as Wikipedia observes, you can read the bend or break either way, depending on how your mind works. A rock carving in which the device swirls, rather than breaking, to the left, is labelled as an artifact from Sweden dating from 4,000 B.C..

    . . .

    Ixquick Search (thanks, Laird!) for “fylfot” gives over 3900 results, some interesting and giving still more names for the design, e.g. the “Jaina Cross.” And, of course, there’s always the Foot of All Knowledge *g*:


    . . .

    It’s amazing what y’all would learn if you dumped all this philosophy/economics/history/politics nonsense and took up needlepoint–which is how I came across the fylfot. ;>)

  • Dale Amon

    I believe the Nazi’s also reversed the symbol. The original direction was the national marking on aircraft in Finland up through WWII

  • Harry Powell

    WWI German Jewish air ace Fritz Beckhardt had a swastika on his plane. A very popular symbol before the Great War, maybe a fin de siecle hippy hangover? It would be interesting if a cultural historian would tell us what the swastika meant to europeans before the Nazis.

  • Runcie Balspune

    It’s an interesting example of how we’ve anathematized a symbol, that simply stood for good luck. Just another entry on why the Nazis were so vile.

    Similarly with Fasces.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Harry Powell: ixquick.com, type fylfot into the search box, examine the >3900 results. For instance, one page is on the fylfot in the symbology of Freemasonry. You might not get a dissertation for the doctorate in cultural anthropology out of it, but you can pick up quite a bit. :>)

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Dale.

    Which leftists used in one of their liefests.

    “Look the Finns are Nazis – they even have…..”

  • stephen ottridge

    The swastika is a happy symbol perverted by the Nazis in World War II. The swastika, from the Sanskrit for “good luck”, is as ancient as the sea. The symbol has been found from Scandinavia to Africa to North America and Asia. It was the symbol of the Aryans, a race that included Romans, Greeks, Tuetons and Slavs, to name but a few. Buddhists regarded it as a chakra or wheel of the law; the Tibetans called it Yun-drun or path of life.

    In 1904, Jim and Bill Dusty, two rugged freelance prospectors, took a contract from a group of investors to locate a silver mine in an area known to hold gold. They found no silver but in 1907 they staked out the Swastika Gold Mine. In 1908, the town was incorporated as Swastika. The Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway established a watering station near the town and miners and prospectors flooded into the area. In 1909 a new mine, called Lucky Cross (after the good luck symbol of the swastika), adjacent to the T&NO railway tracks began producing gold. By 1911, the town consisted of hotels, stores and schools. The little town flourished.

    In 1935, the raise of Nazism in Germany created a major problem for the few hundred people of Swastika. As war loomed and then exploded in Europe the Ontario government decided that German sounding names should not exist in Ontario, regardless of the origins of the names or the peoples of the towns or area. Berlin, Ontario was changed to Kitchener and Swastika was changed to Winston. While the name change stuck in Kitchener, the townsfolk of Swastika were not amused. They tore down the Winston sign and replaced it with a restored Swastika sign (good for them!) and another sign which read, “To hell with Hitler, we came up with our name first”

    If you are looking for Swastika, Ontario, just go north on Highway 11 from North Bay to Highway 66. Turn right towards Kirkland lake and look for the sign of good luck.