Oscar Wilde could be found almost everywhere in 1882.
This phenomenon has been well-documented, most recently in David Friedman’s Wilde in America (2014) which portrays Wilde as being so intent upon fame that he had a strategy for achieving it—a view with much validity.
Whatever Wilde’s personal strategy was, however, he was compounded in the effort by his own tour publicity, the popularity of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience and its burlesques, and a general curiosity of the people to see him. As a result, one might wonder whether it is possible to be too ubiquitous.
Take the world of advertising.
Wilde was so famous on his American tour that his name was used by advertisers to generate media exposure for products with which he had no connection.
They include imaginary Wildean associations with suits, trousers, hats, neckwear, linens, collars and collarettes, and shoes. But his name was not just good for clothing. He could be found puffing everything from coach varnish, Easter cards, stationery, plant seeds, straw goods, plumbing goods, curtains, baby carriages, baseball, and even bosom beautifiers and veterinary skin cures. Finally, there is a poem that defies any rationale for Wilde’s name in its title.
It is a measure of true fame (or possibly Wilde’s simultaneous notoriety) that advertisers sought not only to suggest an Oscar Wilde connection to their products but also to deny it! This latter phenomenon is evident in the first five of the following advertising ephemera, all of which date from 1882.