Godfrey Flury's Billboard Advertising Business:
An Austin Ad Man in the z9zos and 92 os
A BOVE THE HORIZON OF A LUSH LANDSCAPE THE WORDS "KODAK FIN-
ishing-One Day Service" appear like the rising sun. Carefully
posed in the landscape is the attractive figure of a young woman, whose
beauty complements the idealized landscape. Austin advertising man
Godfrey Flury painted this 192os billboard advertisement for Jordan's,
an Austin photography and framing shop.' Flury's use of imagery that
connoted natural beauty while promoting commerce was not unusual or
uncalculated. The prevalence of pastoral scenes in early billboard adver-
tising has been noted by media critic Mark Crispin Miller. Such a strate-
gy, he argues, not only provided escapist imagery in an era of rapid
urbanization but also attempted to deflect the criticisms of outdoor ad-
vertising as an "invasive force" in the "natural" landscape.2
Advertising, especially outdoor advertising, was often a central issue in
debates over urban beautification, the public good, and the sanctity of
private property. Turn-of-the-century reformers of the City Beautiful
movement attacked billboards as unsightly nuisances that also corrupted
public morals, depressed property values, blocked air and light, and
shielded criminal behavior. However, as historian William H. Wilson de-
scribes, reformers' efforts to prohibit or restrict outdoor advertising
were contested by those who upheld the primacy of private property and
the importance of commerce.3 Thus, until zoning emerged as the domi-
nant method of environmental regulation, debates over the harms and
benefits of outdoor advertising were often reflected in the actions of lo-
cal governments and their attempts (or lack thereof) at regulation. Like-
wise, the efforts of many advertising men at the turn of the century to
* Cynthia Meyers is a Ph.D. candidate in the radio-television-film department at the University
of Texas at Austin. She would like to thank Janet Stalger, Jeffrey Meikle, Diana Klelner, and the
anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.
Photograph, Advertising File (Austin History Center; cited hereafter as AHC).
2 Mark Crispin Miller, "Ads! Ads! Ads!" Paper Tiger Television production (New York, 1990).
' William H. Wilson, "The Billboard- Bane of the City Beautiful," Journal of Urban History, XIII
(Aug., 1987), 394-425.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed December 12, 2013.