On any given day throughout the 1940s and ’50s, shoppers gathered around the Hutzler Brothers Company’s magical window displays on Howard Street. Costumers gawked at pristinely pressed panaches or furbelowed fashions framed by hand-written advertisements. The window displays became a part of the Hutzler experience. From ads in The Baltimore Sun, to the Art Deco façade and in-store displays, shoppers came to know Hutzler’s as the leader in Baltimore style and aesthetics.
Behind the scenes, Hutzler’s enchanted image in ads and window displays was generated from the company’s own in-house advertising agency. While this may summon initial expectations of Hutzler’s own brand of Don Drapers and Pete Campbells a la the fictional Sterling Cooper agency, the reality of Hutzler’s operations was quite different. In humble workshops, Hutzler’s employed a diverse advertising staff that behaved more like a family and left behind a historical record.
True to “Mad Men” form, men exclusively staffed the advertising department throughout the 1930s and ’40s. In 1943, however, display superintendent, Harry McCauley, changed the gender dynamics and added 13 women to his staff of eight men after “decid[ing] to employ women for atmosphere and inspiration.” By the 1950s and ’60s, the advertising department was dominated by women, most of whom were young post-graduates.
A Tips and Taps employee newsletter section introducing new employees from February 1950 gives insight into the gender ratio within the advertising department. “Harriet Mazur, artist in Advertising, came to Baltimore eight years ago to study portrait and commercial art at the Maryland Institute… Since her schooling, Mrs. Mazur has been in and out of department stores round town doing freelance work. Hutzler’s is the first advertising department she has known to be staffed entirely by women.” (1)
By 1951, there were nine branches of Hutzler’s advertising team, neatly under the watch of publicity manager, A. A. Stirling, and store design counselor, H. A. McCauley. The departments covered interior and exterior display, store architecture, a sign shop, two departments of main store advertising, and style shows.
The hand-produced work required an intricate network of studios and workshops.
“We have workrooms which look like those in theatrical agencies… We employ carpenters, scene painters, and a host of other people with technical and artistic habits,” said Mr. Shenkel of the exterior display team.
Mrs. Dillihunt, a copywriter, told Tips and Taps about the common process in advertising at Hutzler’s. “The advertising department is the mouthpiece of the store… We use a wide variety of techniques requiring different kinds of creative people who have one thing in common—a sense of sell, a flair for the new and smart and the ability to communicate it.”
One of Hutzler’s most successful advertising ventures did not advertise Hutzler fashions at all. Hutzler’s opened their Victory Windows to sell war bonds on January 9, 1942. They were the first department store displays in the country to display ads of this kind. By 1943, the windows had generated over $2 million in bonds. Hutzler’s received an award from Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau stating, “We in the Treasury Department are most appreciative of your fine work.” By the end of the war, when Hutzler’s started replacing Victory Windows with women’s fashions, over $18 million war bonds were sold. (2)
As for advertisements, the main slot for Hutzler’s ads was The Baltimore Sun, of which the company held the premiere “Society” page. Every Sunday issue of the Society page featured a front-page advertisement for Hutzler’s. Rather than promoting sales, the ad promoted the store as a leader in fashion trends while maintaining its position as a high-image store. The ad was almost always a sketch done by one of the Hutzler artists. Among Hutzler’s advertising artists was famous Baltimore illustrator Hazel Croner, who was recruited as head fashion illustrator around 1959. Croner’s ads for Hutzler’s were frequently featured in high-fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Hutzler’s advertising remained an in-house operation into its declining years. In the late 1970s, the company eventually brought in outside help by hiring Barbara Bailey of Magnin & Co. from San Francisco. As executive vice-president in charge of sales promotion, Bailey decided to completely dismantle Hutzler’s previous image, from the company logo to the store’s color scheme. Despite “Barbara Bailey Brown” (as it was dubbed by peeved employees) and updates to advertising and store renovations, Bailey could not help resuscitate Hutzler’s from its decline. Sales continued to deteriorate into the 1980s leading to final closure of the Towson branch in 1990.
Although Hutzler’s window displays have been dismantled, images from Howard Street storefronts between 1930 and 1970 can be found in the Hutzler Photograph Collection. (Sarah LaCorte)
Sarah LaCorte is a graduating senior with a double major in History and Journalism and a minor in French at Towson University. Sarah has worked over the past semester as an intern at MdHS in the Imaging Services department. Her efforts in reprocessing the Hutzler Photograph Collection (PP5) have been invaluable.
Sources and further reading:
(1)Tips and Taps. Hutzler Brothers Company Employee Newsletter, February 1950, pg. 12.
(2)Tips and Taps. Hutzler Brothers Company Employee Newsletter, Summer 1944, pg. 1.
Lisicky, Michael J. Baltimore’s Bygone Department Stores: Many Happy Returns. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012.
Lisicky, Michael J. Hutzler’s: Where Baltimore Shops. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2009.
Schoettler, Carl. “Drawing Inspiration,” The Baltimore Sun, July 28, 2004. Accessed May 16, 2014.
Tips and Taps. Hutzler Brothers Company Employee Newsletter. April 1946 to December 1956. Call Number: MHF 5465.A4 H973.
Photos and captions: All descriptions are from Tips and Taps February 1950, pages 6-7.