Alfred W. Erickson (1876-1934)

By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!

Erickson is known to have donated at least $975 to American Liberty League and one of its front groups, the Crusaders.

Alfred Erickson, a self-made millionaire, was the chairman of numerous companies and, reputedly, a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt. In 1902, at the age of 25, he started an ad agency in Manhattan. One of his earliest clients was the American Coal Tar Co. (Coal tar, a carcinogenic, industrial by-product used in dye-production became a major source of explosives during WWI, after German scientists associated with I.G. Farben, discovered its value in the creation of TNT.)

Around 1920, Erickson started investing in efforts to make colour movies. He and Technicolor’s co-inventor and president, Herbert Kalmus, owned the most of its stocks. Erickson was later joined in this enterprise by some of his early clients: Eversley Childs, board chairman of Bon Ami (cleansing products) and A.W. Hawkes, President of Congoleum-Nairn (floor coverings). Besides advertising for Congoleum-Nairn, Erickson was also its board chairman.

Erickson donated generously to the fascist efforts of Merwin K. Hart, a lawyer who formed several ultra-right, anti-Semitic groups. With close ties to Father Coughlin’s Christian Front, Hart led such ultra-right groups as the National Economic Council and the John Birch Society’s New York branch. Hart was one of the world’s leading propagandists for Spanish fascism. He visited Spain during its Civil War, met with Franco’s officials, spoken on official Franco radio, formed the American Union for Nationalistic Spain and wrote America Look at Spain (1939). It warned against the dangers of both democracy and communism. During the Depression, Hart fought the Unemployment Insurance and Child Labor Acts (saying they were commie-inspired) and spoke out against allowing those on relief to vote.

In 1930, Erickson teamed up with another advertiser, Harry McCann. They merged their firms to create McCann-Erickson. When Erickson died in 1934, the company had more than $50 million dollars in billings and McCann took control. McCann had started his advertising career with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil in 1911, just months after it was broken up by President Theodore Roosevelt’s antitrust laws. McCann created an ad agency to service all six of Standard Oil’s companies. In 1927, Standard Oil entered a partnership agreement with I.G. Farben, the German chemical giant that financed Hitler’s rise to power, and became Germany’s main weapons supplier in WWII. By 1927, McCann was in the top handful of U.S. ad agencies and had offices across the U.S. and in London, Paris and Berlin, all just to serve Standard Oil.

McCann-Erickson came up with such classic slogans as: “Things go better with Coke” (1958) and “Put a tiger in your tank” (Esso 1964). By 1997, with billings at $6.7 billion, the firm expanded into other communication services to became McCann-Erickson WorldGroup. In a self-promotional blurb, it call itself “the world’s largest and most globally experienced advertising agency network. With offices in 130 countries, [it] is the leader in multinational advertising, handling more global accounts than any other ad agency.” It won Adweek magazine’s ‘Global Agency of the Year’ award in 1998, 1999 and 2000. In 2002, it had revenues of $1.2 billion. Several of it’s clients are mentioned in this issue of Press for Conversion!, including General Motors, Singer and Unilever.


"K. McCann & A.W. Erickson,"

"Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850-1920," Timeline, 2002.

"TNT (Trinitrotoluene)," 2004.

"What? Color in the Movies Again?," Fortune, Oct. 1934.

Introduction, The Crimes and Punishment of I.G. Farben

Subject guide to Conservative and Libertarian materials, in Manuscript collections

John Roy Carlson, Under Cover, 1943.

McCann Erickson

McCann Erickson WorldGroup (US)

"McCann-Erickson completes 100 years," Ad Agency News, 2002.

Dr. Mark Michalovic, "Destination New Jersey: Sharing With Standard," The Story of Rubber, 2000.
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Source: Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue # 53, "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," March 2004. Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

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