Count the number of advertisements you see the next time you walk down the street in any metropolitan area. Try your best to count every single little bit of advertising space you can. This mental exercise can become overwhelming in a matter of minutes. Americans are bombarded with advertising at every turn in urban spaces. This isn’t the case in East St. Louis. Pictured above is one of the few standing billboards in East St. Louis.
Peter Hauptmann (1839 – 1904) was a major player in the tobacco industry and St. Louis bigwig during his time. The Peter Hauptmann label was one of wealth and prosperity. This bulletin board advertised a brand of whiskey the company produced called David Nicholson 1843 Bonded Whiskey (source). By the looks of this sign however, Peter Hauptmann’s time has long since passed us by. Poverty has driven advertisers completely out of East St. Louis. With median household income of only $26,000 (2008 – source) most residents of East St. Louis have no discretionary income. East St. Louis is not in some third world country located in South America, Eastern Europe, or Africa. East St. Louis is in the heart of the United States of America.
This map shows the long shadow cast by the billboard. When navigating cities it is important to get your bearings by picking landmarks. When in East St. Louis I used the Peter Hauptmann billboard as one such bearing.
Find a Grave – Peter Hauptmann
Google Books – Emil Harms: Peter Hauptmann Company Vice President
Google Books – The Southwestern Reporter: State vs. Kosky
Peter Hauptmann Company – 1892 Advertisement
The New York Times – June 19, 1897 Tobacco Trade Secrets
History of the National Cigar Company – Acquired Peter Hauptmann Company in the 1960’s.
Jonathan Kozol – Savage Inequalities
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