The buffalo are coming.

  • Curate Reynolda Blog

    Curate Reynolda

Why CurateReynolda? Our staff carefully sort and select (“curate”) content daily to find the most interesting stories to share on our CurateReynolda blog. Follow for behind-the-scenes peeks, insider perspectives, and curious observations from the staff of the Museum.

The buffalo are coming.

By Sarah R. Smith, Director of External Relations | @SarahatReynolda

It was Mark Twain who said that there are no new ideas, only “new and curious combinations.” The Museum’s current marketing campaign, “The buffalo are coming” is a good example of Twain’s observation.

The inspiration for the marketing campaign behind Reynolda House Museum of American Art’s spring exhibition, George Catlin’s American Buffalo, came from the advertising campaign for one of the first nationally known brands in the United States - Camel cigarettes. In 1913, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company introduced Camel cigarettes to the world, supported by a set of teaser advertisements in popular national magazines and journals. Historian Michele Gillespie writes about the campaign in her book Katharine and R.J. Reynolds: Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South.

“...employing top advertising firm N.W. Ayer, Reynolds drew up one of the most novel and ultimately most successful national advertising campaigns of all time. Once R.J.R. had settled on Camel as the brand to promote, he allegedly spent $1.5 million in advertising that first year. The October 13, 1913, release of the Camel brand had been preceded by a set of teaser ads. The first pictured Old Joe, the camel, and merely stated the word “Camels.” The second ad announced: “The Camels Are Coming.” The third and final ad guaranteed, “Tomorrow there’ll be more Camels in this town than in all Asia and Africa combined.”

Gillespie writes that the origins of the campaign involved R.J.’s wife, Katharine; advertising exec Mr. Ayer; along with R.J. himself who all contributed to the idea. The teaser campaign introduced a new cigarette, “but also an extremely effective and well-planned rollout of a new product.” By 1921, she writes, one-half the cigarettes smoked in America were Camels.

It was this clever phrasing that inspired our own tagline for George Catlin’s American Buffalo: The buffalo are coming. By now, I hope you’ve seen it on posters, billboards, and in advertisements around Winston-Salem along with the image of Catlin’s stalwart buffalo bull in place of R.J.'s camel. While we can’t claim originality in idea, we can claim authenticity in our desire to find new ways to share and connect the history of Reynolda with those who experience Reynolda today. We look forward to sharing this exhibition with you this spring.

What do you think? Tweet me at @SarahatReynolda #reynoldabuffalo.


R.J. Reynolds Tobacco History
Gillespie, Michele. Katharine and R.J. Reynolds: Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South (available for purchase in the Museum Store)
Trivia Happy Blog
University of California, San Francisco  

See the #reynoldabuffalo digital campaign here!

Add new comment