Campbell’s Soup had free advice
for idealized mothers and housewives

1950s advertising campaign for Campbell’s Soup Company went a long way to advance the advice that everybody
should eat soup every day with the meal, or as a meal

Free advice, it is often said, is usu­al­ly worth exact­ly what you pay for it but Campbell’s Soup Com­pa­ny ignored that max­im in a 1950s adver­tis­ing cam­paign fea­tur­ing Anne Mar­shall, Direc­tor, Home Eco­nom­ics at Campbell’s. It’s a notable campaign.

The campaign—in print and on film—promoted soup as the heart of a meal, as a par­ty dish, as a fam­i­ly favorite, as babies first sol­id food. The mes­sages in these 1950s adver­tise­ments had direct advice for mar­ried women pre­sum­ably striv­ing to be bet­ter moth­ers and wives. There’s not a sin­gle adver­tise­ment direct­ed to sin­gle women or women who work or men who cook. Not even teens mer­it­ed a mes­sage. Judge for yourself!

Soup is just nat­ur­al in win­ter, appar­ent­ly, when “all the folks come home cold at noon” to a “warm-you-fast lunch of Veg­etable Soup (14 veg­eta­bles in a good beef stock), brown bread and cream cheese, ham and cel­ery rolls. What a real­ly good lunch!”

Sun­day is described as mother’s “night off” and so the fam­i­ly choos­es soup as a main dish because “it can be pre­pared in just four minutes.”

The Schools Days adver­tise­ment makes the claim that chil­dren who get nour­ish­ing, sub­stan­tial meals are the ones who fre­quent­ly stand out because it helps in their work and in their play­time ener­gy. “You can give your boys and girls the right lunch—and so eas­i­ly!” Moth­er is then cau­tioned to “make sure your chil­dren are eat­ing right, whether at home or at school with a lunch like this: a hearty soup…their favorite sandwiches…a sim­ple dessert…and milk. It’s an ide­al meal!”

A woman’s place, it is implied, was in the kitchen but “who wants to be tied to the kitchen” in summer—so this adver­tise­ment sug­gests even wilt­ing appetites will “perk up…since soup takes only 4 min­utes to pre­pare, you’re in and out of the kitchen in prac­ti­cal­ly no time.” The menu sug­ges­tions are Bean with Bacon soup, but­tered toast and jam, sug­ared straw­ber­ries, and milk. Or, Veg­etable soup with hot dogs and trim­mings, banana out­meal cook­ies, and milk. Or, Cream of Cel­ery soup with egg and pick­le sal­ad, fresh cher­ry sun­dae, and milk.

Meal plan­ning was required if a moth­er or wife was to rise to suc­cess and Toma­to soup “helps you and your meal plan­ning in so many, many ways.” This adver­tise­ment asks, “Baf­fled about a meal? Stay out too long? Hur­ried…? Guests pop in unex­pect­ed­ly?” The answers—the solutions—to these ques­tions? Campbell’s Toma­to Soup for lunch, as a lift for ham­burg­ers, as a sauce for mac­a­roni. Recipes included.

The campaign—in print and on television—promoted soup as the heart of a meal, as a par­ty dish, as a fam­i­ly favorite, as babies first sol­id food.

The slo­gan read: “A good (“clever” some­times sub­sti­tut­ed) cook keeps a full soup shelf.” The con­tents of that shelf includ­ed veg­etable purees, such as Toma­to, Pea, Cel­ery, Aspara­gus and Bean soups. Hearty sub­stan­tial soups such as Veg­etable and Veg­etable-Beef, Oxtail, Mock Tur­tle, Mul­li­gatawney, Chick­en and Chick­en Gum­bo, Pep­per Pot and Clam Chow­der.  And, as Campbell’s described them, dain­ty clear soups such as Con­somme, Boul­lion, Juli­enne, Print­anier, and Clam Bouillion.

This “almost end­less vari­ety” has grown to more than 80 soups in Campbell’s prod­uct line.

On shiv­ery days…when the wind whistles…soup is par­tic­u­lar­ly appeal­ing. The look of it…steam ris­ing. The smell of it…savory and warming.

 Of course the advice was self-serv­ing, pro­mot­ing the theme that soup should be eat­en by every­body; served reg­u­lar­ly, not just occa­sion­al­ly, and what a help dif­fer­ent soups are to the moth­er so anx­ious to keep diges­tions sound and lit­tle bod­ies sturdy! 

This para­graph is tak­en from a Campbell’s adver­tise­ment in McCall’s Mag­a­zine, Sep­tem­ber 1926


“And so we make this suggestion: Start now and serve soup every day for the next two weeks. See if it doesn’t make an immediate difference in the way your meals “go”. Notice how every member of your family responds—how much brighter and more attractive your table seems to be.” icon­ic red-and-white soup label hasn’t changed much since it was designed and adopt­ed in 1898. Her­ber­ton Williams, a Camp­bel­l’s exec­u­tive, con­vinced the com­pa­ny to adopt the red  and white col­or scheme worn by Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty teams. The metal­lic bronze medal seal from the 1900 Paris Exhi­bi­tion was added later.

The iconic red-and-whiite Campbell's soup labelsoup
printers devil

Here is a link to a campy 1952 movie col­or The Mag­ic Shelf about Campbell’s Soup fea­tur­ing Anne Mar­shall. Open­ing with an uniden­ti­fied magi­cian, Ms. Mar­shall presents a vari­ety of dish­es made with Campbell’s includ­ing a chick­en soup souf­flé, mush­room soup muffins, a cake made with toma­to soup, and a chick­en soup/cranberry sal­ad. A Campbell’s Soup Kid opens the video.

This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest his­toric mil­i­tary, trans­porta­tion, and avi­a­tion stock footage col­lec­tions in the USA.

Mothers, Militants, Martyrs, & “M’m! M’m! GOOD!”
Taming the new woman: Campbell Soup advertising in Good Housekeeping 1905 – 1920

In 2006, Lori S. Liggett, a Doc­tor­al Can­di­date, pub­lished this qual­i­ta­tive his­tor­i­cal analy­sis of the dra­mat­ic cul­tur­al turn that took place dur­ing the ear­ly decades of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry and how those changes were expressed with­in the edi­to­r­i­al con­tent of Good House­keep­ing and the adver­tise­ments of the Camp­bell Soup Company.

The Dis­ser­ta­tion was sub­mit­ted in Decem­ber 2006, to the Grad­u­ate Col­lege of Bowl­ing Green State Uni­ver­si­ty in par­tial ful­fill­ment of the require­ments for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY