One of the most important parts of any endeavor today is funding. Projects rise and fall–have a sudden boom and stall out–all depending on money. This has long been the case, especially for ventures like newspapers and other news delivery services, including union papers like the Boston Union Teacher. The Boston Union Teacher has been the news outlet for the Boston Teachers Union since the mid-1960s. Flipping through our digital facsimiles of early issues, I started to wonder how this newsletter was able to become and remain so prolific. It has been a well-received staple of the Boston teaching scene for decades and has even gotten national recognition. How was it able to keep going when so many other sources of news fail? Though of course, the primary reason that this newspaper succeeds is its people, money has to have played a role. Looking at the digital copies of the paper that we have on hand, I couldn’t figure out their initial sources of funding but I quickly found one prominent source:
Now, this immediately intrigued me as someone who loves design and is fascinated by the history of marketing. Which companies wanted to advertise in the Boston Union Teacher and why? Which companies were most successful marketing themselves in this platform? What kind of messages and images did they think would get them the most return for their investment? We can’t possibly know the answers to all of these questions, but we can hypothesize. I thought I’d take you on a short exploration of the content we have in our collection, and maybe you can come up with some theories of your own.
The first advertisements in the Boston Union Teacher were placed by the Boston Teachers Federal Credit Union (later the Boston School Employees Credit Union, Educators Federal Credit Union, Massachusetts Federal Credit Union, and Tremont Credit Union). Before advertisements became a stable source of funding for the paper, the Credit Union was involved. This organization continued to advertise in the Boston Union Teacher for decades. Looking at their ads, you can actually watch how the organization changed and grew over time. You can even track the location of their offices and watch as their name changed.
There were many other organizations, companies, and people that advertised in the Boston Union Teacher. Their ads often had to do with taxes and insurance, products (like tires) and services (like home renovation), and larger investments (like vacations and homes). Some of my favorites include ads for a seven-night tour of Ireland, an “unusually attractive Victorian” home for sale for $39,000, boxing lessons, and a fur showing and sale at significantly discounted prices.
There are still dozens of advertisements I wasn’t able to include in this blog post. If you are interested in seeing them for yourself or learning more about this prolific newspaper, check out the Boston Union Teacher on the UMass Boston UASC’s OpenArchives.
Kayla Allen is a second-year masters degree student at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is training to become an archivist and public historian, to support the preservation and interpretation of our communities’ histories’. Kayla will be working this summer and fall as an archives intern at the Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge. She plans to finish her coursework and graduate from her program in December of 2022.