Jeffrey Green

Jeffrey is a historian
based south of London

045: Borwick’s Baking Powder advertised 1890s

George Borwick and Sons produced baking and custard powder

George Borwick and Sons produced baking and custard powder

No one would claim that publicity and advertisements can be a reliable source of social history, but the posters, enamel signs, and adverts in the press reveal aspects of life decades ago.

In the 1890s several manufacturers promoted their products in order to get them requested by name in shops. Patent medicines and household goods were heavily advertised. The baking powder made by George Borwick and Sons (a factory was in Croydon) was promoted using this image (left).

Bread so light that it could be used as a balloon and carry nine passengers -“as light as air” indeed. But why are the passengers black?

An American counterpart, the Royal Baking Powder Company, conducted a massive advertising campaign all over the U.S.A. from 1893, so perhaps Borwick’s advert was borrowed from America? But the loaf carried by the senior male (left) is a cottage loaf, a very English loaf.

George Borwick’s son was knighted in 1902 and in 1922 became the first baron. Two of his sons inherited, and the 3rd baron’s son James (1917-2007) was the 4th baron.

How much baking powder was sold in 19th century England? Borwick’s sales campains seem to have worked – for decades later when this was reproduced as a postcard it had the name as “Borthwick”, so advertising seems to have been sensible. But why the black family as passengers in the bread-balloon?