It would not be in good taste or even legal to use a picture of the president of the United States as part of a product’s package design or advertisement. Most states have laws that prohibit the unapproved use of a person’s name or likeness for “commercial benefit.”
This was not a concern when George Washington (1732-1799) was president (1789-1797).
Product packaging back then was usually a plain black and white folded paper packet. In the 19th century, celebrations of Washington’s Feb. 22 birthday and the July 4 birthday of the United States made Washington a symbol of the country.
A surprising number of things collected today feature Washington’s portrait. At least three tobacco companies used “Washington” as a brand name one for pipe tobacco, one for plug tobacco and one for chewing tobacco. Each had a picture of Washington on the package, often beside a flag and other patriotic symbols.
Collectors of Washington memorabilia can also find a brand of coffee, a soup company’s ads, dishes, calendars and many other products that feature Washington’s image. Other Washington collectibles found today include old posters and signs advertising products like insurance, 1876 U.S. Centennial furniture with wooden inlay picturing Washington, and paper needle cases from 1930s dime stores.
Even today Washington is a spokesman for products. In the past year, he has promoted cars, beer, an appliance store and a state lottery. A colorful tobacco tin for Washington Mixture tobacco, picturing Washington and a flag, auctioned for $303 at a 2012 William Morford auction in upstate New York. Almost all George Washington-related collectibles and antiques are selling well.
Q: My mother said she and my father had the first radio in our area. She thought it was 1919 or 1920. My dad built the radio, then bought a cabinet to put it in. The cabinet has a label that says "American Beauty Radio Cabinets & Console Speakers, Mfg. by Pierson Co., Rockford, Ill." The radio was disposed of long ago, but we still have the cabinet. I'd like to know when it was built and what it's worth.
A: The first commercial radio broadcast was made when KDKA of Pittsburgh broadcast results of the 1920 presidential race between Warren Harding and James Cox. In the 1920s, many people made their own radios by assembling the components and attaching them to a board. By the late 1920s, radios were being manufactured for sale, and furniture companies began making cabinets to put them in. Pierson Furniture Co. was founded in 1927. It became Pierson Radio Co. in 1930 and began making radio cabinets. In 1940 the company switched from manufacturing to retail, and its name was changed to Pierson Factory Showrooms. Your empty cabinet might bring a few hundred dollars.