Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tablescapes - Then and Now - Campbell's Tomato Soup Style

Recently, I ran across some old magazines from the early 1900's through the late 1960's (as told in my blog here).  It struck me how many little things that were "news" a hundred years ago are still "news" today, so I'm doing a series of blog posts about  similarities of Then and Now.  Today is an odd one:  Tablescaping:  Campbell's Tomato Soup style.  As I looked at some of the newspaper ads, I realized that Campbell's was selling their soup by tablescaping in some instances.  Tablescaping basically means making a table look attractive.

We're all familiar with Campbell's Soup in the little red & white can, but how many of us know how long they've been around.  The company was started in 1869 by Joseph A. Campbell a fruit merchant, and Abraham Alexander, an icebox manufacturer.  They produced canned vegetables, soups, condiments, and minced meats.  They've been around over 150 years!  I didn't know that.  In 1897, one of their chemists invented condensed soup so it could be packaged in a smaller can and sold at a lower price.  All you had to do was add water, heat it in a pan, and voila!  You had instant soup.  Tomato, Cream of Mushroom and Chicken Noodle have been their most popular and Americans consume approximately 2.5 billion bowls of these three soups alone each year!  That's a lot of soup, folks.

Take a look at this one that shows the soup steaming hot in a bowl.  It's the one directly below and is dated 1924.  It's not the earliest I found, but it's the earliest in color.  Notice the pretty white china with gold band around the rim - a layered look with the salad plate under the soup bowl.
The ad above is from 1933 and again shows the layered look with the soup bowl over the salad plate.  This china has a wide green band trimmed in gold.  I love that china pattern - I would love to know what it is.

And below we get more into tablescaping.  The ad is from 1952 and shows mom setting a pretty table for her family.  There's a green linen tablecloth on the table and a bouquet of fresh flowers as a centerpiece. 
What pretty little soup dishes below on the green checkered tablecloth. This ad is from 1954.  I love the addition of the pepper mill and the individual salts dish.   Check out those great dishes.  Could they be ironstone?

 The ad below is from the late 1940's with the pretty blue pastel bowl and plate on a green placemat - an odd combination in my mind.  I'm still from the old school that blue and green aren't the perfect match - especially in those shades.  Notice that we're also getting into something besides tomato soup on this one. - beef noodle it is!
 The next two are from the 1930's.  The tablescaping is a little more elegant on these.  You'll notice that the pea soup is served up on three layers of china.  Getting pretty fancy there for a bowl of canned soup!

The one below with the young girl is also from the late 1940's.  I would love to have that apron!  This one also has one of the Campbell's Soup Kids in the bottom righthand corner.
 1943 - World War II - How to pull a hot dinner out of a Jeep.  What better form of advertising than to let the people back home know that Campbell's Soup was feeding their soldiers on the front lines.  Also notice that the cans are not the typical red & white.  Did the army have Campbell's Soup rations in different cans, I wonder?  Tablescaping on the hood of a jeep - that's the spirit!
The square bowls below are from 1953.
And above is my favorite!  An elegant dinner party in the late 1940's with the maid serving up hot tomato soup in those beautiful china soup bowls with dainty little handles. In the next room we have the hostess and dinner guests seated around the table.  Tablescaping at it's finest!
The ad above with the farm girl with her basket full of tomatoes is from 1944.  I'm going to have to find some soup bowls with handles. They even make a can of tomato soup look appealing.
The ad above is what started this all!  As I was going through those magzines, it was the first one I found in a Life magazine dated 1964 and I realized that people have been tablescaping long before they knew what the word meant.  It's all about making a pleasant place for our families to gather together and be thankful for the bountiful blessings we have.  The fact that you could have a bowl of soup for 4 cents was amazing!  Wouldn't that be nice?
And this is what I remember about Campbell's Tomato Soup.  Serving it up hot with a grilled cheese sandwich made with good old American cheese.  My children had their share of these growing up. Campbell's Soup - it's fed Americans for over one hundred-fifty years and I have at least ten cans in my pantry right now.

I hope you enjoyed the little history lesson of Campbell's Soup and tablescaping.  Now, let's go have lunch.  Here's my cup of hot soup - where's yours?  And don't forget to set a pretty table for it.

Oh, and Campbell's Soup is not paying me to do this blog.  I wish!

Linking to Thursday's Tablescapes at Between Naps on the Porch 
and Vintage Thingy's Thursday


  1. WOW!

    That is so cool. Some things I didn't know. Thanks for the info. I love to find out things like that.

    And I love older things and antiques.

    Wouldn't be great if there were paying you?? :)

    Can't wait for your next post.

    Take care my friend, Janet W

    1. Janet, I love old advertising! I would rather look at the ads in the old magazines than the stories, but there's some pretty amazing stories in there too.

      I'm like you - I love older things and antiques. I tell my husband it's a good thing I love them, because I'm married to one, lol. He can say the same thing about me.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Fabulous post Glenda - my Mum swore by Campbells, it was what we got as a big treat if we were sick. Maybe thats why I am so rarely sick ... I really dislike the taste, they always leave a film of something unidentifable in my mouth.

    Sorry I have been away for a few days - it was my birthday earlier in the week and I have been busy having little adventures, which now they are over with I will blog about this week.

    1. Jane, when my children were growing up, I thought chicken soup was good for all their ills! Even at a hint of a cold, I would cook up a batch of chicken soup - and of course it had to have an onion in the pot, or it wouldn't be effective. Still love my chicken soup!

  3. Love your comment that Campbells weren't paying you for this post ! I love all those vintage adverts! I had never heard the word tablescaping before I started blogging. It's certainly not a word that is used here in England.

    1. I'm convinced that tablescaping is an American invented word. It's too bad you Brits don't try it though since you had some of the best manufacturers of fine china! I would love to see how you set your tables.

  4. I love seeing vintage ads for products. They are so interesting! Your dishes are so lovely. I always loved tomato soup when I was a kid...Being Italian, my mom always added a sprinkle of Romano cheese. Stopping by from Tablescape Thursday.

    1. Hi Pam - I visited your tablescape also. I love those old shops in Savannah. We're close enough that we can make a day trip but don't get down there nearly enough.

  5. Love all the vintage it was sure a simple time your blog and I am now a new follower...I am beginning to be a vintage gal too...

  6. Such a fun post! I have fond memories of walking home from school for lunch. Mom usually heated some type of Campbell's Soup and added a grilled cheese or other sandwich. I still associate those lunches with love and comfort!

  7. I'm amazed. I've been debating whether or not to get square dishes for past year. They aren't something new. Who Knew? Thanks for opening my eyes. I think we're having soup tonight.

  8. You should at least get a can of soup for the post! :)

    I LOVE old advertising! These ads are wonderful and they say so much about the time. I love reading the copy and finding out what language sold products back when the ads were more copy than pictures. Now the copy is mostly legal disclaimers.

    Oh, and I need to try tomato soup with grilled cheese. In 46 years, I have NEVER eaten them together in a meal. Makes me feel un-American!

  9. Thanks for taking me back in time. Great post for today.

  10. My favorite is the little girl in the white apron. She is adorable. I used to love tomato soup with grilled cheese. Very fancy adds back then.

  11. I loved your stories,all the pretty vintage dishes and table settings, and the Campbell's soup history! Campbell's was in Camden, New Jersey, near me. Like you, my mom often fixed grilled cheese and Campbell's Tomato Soup, and she made it with milk, so it was Tomato Bisque, and she used Velveeta, because it was economical. She had seven children. I also love old advertising! What a fun post!
    I am followeing you now!
    Happy Spring! Linda


I love to hear your comments!