Date of Award

Summer 6-26-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley

Second Advisor

Ted Friedman

Third Advisor

Alisa Perren

Fourth Advisor

Cynthia B. Meyers


In the early years of the twentieth century, the unique new medium of motion pictures was the focus of significant theorization and experimentation at the fringes of the American advertising industry. Alongside the growth of the nickelodeon, and the multiple shifts in the American cinema's business model in the 'transitional era,' various individuals at the margins of the advertising industry attempted, and most often failed, to integrate direct consumer-goods advertising regularly into motion picture theaters. Via techniques as diverse as the glass slide, the commercial trailer, and the advertising wall-clock, cinema patrons of the 1910s witnessed various attempts by merchants and manufacturers to intrude upon their attention in the cinema space. Through research in the trade presses of the cinema, advertising, and various consumer-goods industries, along with archival ephemera from the advertising companies themselves, this dissertation explores these various on and off-screen tactics for direct advertising attempted in silent cinemas, and their eventual minimization in the American cinema experience. Despite the appeal of the new, popular visual medium of cinema to advertisers, concerns over ticket prices, advertising circulation, audience irritation, and the potential for theatrical 'suicide-by-advertising,' resulted, over a mere fifteen years, in the near abandonment of the cinema as an advertising medium. As a transitional medium between the 19th century forms of print and billboarding, and 20th century broadcasting, the silent cinema was an important element in the development of modern advertising theories.