18-year-old copywriter, Lillian Eichler, was working for the New York Ad Agency of Ruthrauff & Ryan.
Her first problem:
To move 1,000 dusty copies of the pre-1900 Encyclopedia of Etiquette, written by Eleanor Holt, which were sitting on Doubleday’s shelves.
Her second problem:
Most of the 1,000 copies were returned after the 5-day-trial period. Respondents weren’t thrilled with the ludicrously archaic text and pictures.
Lillian’s ad copy had emptied the shelves in mere days.
Doubleday, being the smart publishers they were, realized if Lillian’s ad copy could move 19th-Century books, she was probably gifted enough to rewrite the book herself and have a second go at advertising it.
Lillian’s revamped effort, The Book of Etiquette, sold two million copies at $2 each, in the course of two years, resulting in $2.5 million in net profits.
Nearly $26 million in 2008 dollars.
All inspired by the wish to unload a roomful of dusty books…and the vision of a young copywriter.
Reading this copy in 2008, it’s stunning to realize it came from the pen of an 18-year-old girl, nearly 90 years ago.