18-Year-Old Millionaire Copywriter: Lillian Eichler

Again She Orders A Chicken Salad PleaseThe year was 1919.

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.

The result:

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.

15 Responses to “18-Year-Old Millionaire Copywriter: Lillian Eichler”

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  1. Lawrence,

    Thanks for this. As you say, an astonishing piece of writing. Amazing how she cut straight through to the real benefits of the book…primarily the emotional benefits.

    I was unaware of where the “Chicken Salad” headline came from and it had always puzzled me somewhat. Thanks for solving the mystery!

    Thanks again!

    Copywriter Kevin Francis
    “www.MaximumResultsCopywriting.com”

  2. admin says:

    Hey Kevin,

    How’ve you been?

    The Chicken Salad ad was a mystery to me too for many years. It’s inspiring to know that such a young lady wielded such a mighty pen.

    Wonderful ad.

    Cheers mate,
    Lawrence

  3. Trey Smith says:

    That is awesome man… Amazing copy.

  4. Edward Eichler says:

    What a thrill to read this. Lillian was my aunt, my father’s older sister. I knew she was successful but had no idea she was millionare at 18! Anyway, I remember her well from my childhood. She died in the 70s or thereabouts of Alzheimer’s….

  5. Sean Trapani says:

    Thank you for this insightful article, and the accompanying ad copy. I was reading Victor Schwab’s “100 good headlines” and Ms. Eichler’s headline jumped out at me.

    I’m now happy to include this gem of a story in my university course on the great copywriters.

  6. Karen Dill says:

    While going through some old books, I came across The New Book of Etiquette Volume II written by Lilian Eichler c. 1924. It was my grandmother’s. In it was a newspaper clipping titled When Attending a Party by Edith Schuyler King. I wonder if the book is worth anything?

    What a treasure.

  7. Rich says:

    Ah that is crazy 18 years old and nailed an all time add, what a gift and how many middle aged wanna bees myself included fight over copy like its a battle field.

  8. Hello:
    I stumbled upon this 1924 Book Of Etiquette by Lillian Eichler. I love it! I would never sell it; however, I am concerned of the value. I will be passing it down to my grandchildren. Thank you for you website. It is delightful.

    Regards:
    Deborah

  9. James Sutton says:

    I have a first edition of ” The New Book of Etiquette” 1924

    wher can I find more information about this book.

    Than you

  10. Gaju says:

    @Kevin Francis: Share the same feeling. It made a lot more sense to see the headline in context.

    As for me, I had seen it in Caples.

  11. dean says:

    I found a unique copy of a 1948 printing. the cover is bound upside down.

  12. Mary says:

    I just inherited a beat up copy from 1921. Looking forward to dusting it off.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hi All, I’m happy I found this site.
    I have a 1923 book titled:
    THE CUSTOMS OF MANKIND
    “With notes on modern etiquette and the newest trend in entertainment”
    BY, LILLIAN EICHLER
    It’s in amazing condition with the sheer dust sheet on the title page.
    Does anyone know the potential worth of this book?

  14. Mary Indiana says:

    Miss Eichler was important because she was able to reach out to the masses of immigrants to America with her etiquette in a way that the blue blooded Mrs Post and others could not.

    As to the value of the books…I am sorry to report that they are not worth much. I collect old etiquette books and have found them anywhere from $2.00 to $15.00 or so. They were popular (not rare) with many different editions that were only slighlty modified.

    The biggest rate of return you will get is by reading them for the fun of seeing the now outdated information.

  15. Carrie says:

    Does anyone know where I can find a photograph of Lilian Eichler. I’m writing a book about manners and it has a section on Eichler and I’d like to have an image of her.

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