• Clayton Smith

Learn Penmanship in 1917 - The Song Remains The Same

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

In this instalment of The Song Remains The Same, I take you back to 1917.


Y'all remember 1917; Suffragettes protested the White House for the first time, a Coke cost 5 cents and Australia had a second referendum on World War I conscription.


At the same time, a man by the name of F.W. Tamblyn from Kansas City, Montana, was advertising his penmanship coaching program in the Popular Mechanics magazine;


While not quite as important as women getting the vote, it's a great ad with plenty to discuss and enjoy.


What can Mr Tamblyn's approach to lead generation for penmanship coaching in 1917 teach us almost one hundred years later? Read on!


1. Unreadable Headline

Let's start with the elephant in the room, the headline.

I assume this was the height of sophisticated font design at the time. While I like the simplicity and directness, the fact it's almost illegible by today's standards in an ad about penmanship tickles me greatly.


2. Showing Your Money Maker



We'll assume the person depicted in this pic/drawing/both (I can't tell) is of Mr Tamblyn himself. He's looking a tad dour, but remember, cheesy toothsome grins in photos were not the done thang in the early 1900's.


I'm forever telling business owners that the personal aspects of their business are some of the most powerful. Who you are, where you're from, what you are trying to achieve in your business and your work all help differentiate your business from others. In other words, what does your business have that no-one else's does? You!


In a magazine full of ads when photography was far rarer than it is now, I think Mr Tamblyn's pic would have caught the eye and helped connect with the reader, as well as build quick authority that he can achieve what he says he can. Nice one Tambo.


Jim's The One

Jim's Mowing is an epic example of a brand with this 'personal' approach, turning over $500 million a year and serving 35000 customers a day, yet retains the one man band feel and messaging. Imagine if founder Jim Penman had called it, "MegaCheap Mowing", with a graphic of a mower. Would it have been as successful? Leave me a yes or no in the comments!



3. Before & After

Front and centre and taking up a decent chunk of page space is a delightful 'before and after' from happy customer Clarence P Weber.

As always, an effective before and after is a great tool to show the effectiveness of the product or service advertised.


In this case, Ms Weber has provided a before and after that is also a testimonial. Two marketing birds, one stone. Pew pew!


I actually find the 'before easier' to read though?


Sell the hole, not the drill

My Tamblyn is not only selling what his course can do for his client's penmanship, he has identified an end result the client may be looking to achieve by improving his/her penmanship.


One hundred years later, this foundational marketing principle has not changed.


Most of the time, products and services are a means to an end. Sometimes multiple ends


This is more obvious for certain products and services, like a heater for example. No-body wants to buy a heater just to buy a heater, they are trying to warm up a room.


Go further though; why are they trying to warm up their room? What does a warm room mean for the customer? What does a warm room allow the customer to do that they couldn't do in a cold room?


Lead Generation in 1917

As it always has been, if you can get to someone's mailbox (whether it's a physical or digital one), your ability to stay top of mind skyrockets.


Mr Tamblyn may not have had indoor plumbing, television or sliced bread (which hit the shelves in 1928), he had the post and he had the nouse to know that if he gave away a free book, people would be inclined to hand over their address. Sound familiar?


I like that he said states the number of pages in the book. Compare 'My book "How To Become A Good Penman"' vs 'My 32 page book "How To Become A Good Penman"'. Its the little things!


Apparently his free book contained info and tips as well as "beautiful specimens that will make your eyes twinkle with delight". When was the last time your eyes twinkled with delight? That's what I thought. Me too. I want that book. I want to twinkle dammit.


That's A Wrap

Thanks for reading folks and I hope you enjoyed our little sojourn back to 1917. Don't forget to subscribe and I'll see you next time!


Extra note - The Marketer Live Q&A Event: 29th July, 2019

Carma and I are doing a Live Q&A hosted by the excellent Melissa Bowen at My Hustle in South Fremantle, where we answer your marketing questions live.


No presentations, no pitches, just your questions answered.


To get your tickets, click here.