Selling Dreams - Early advertising in Singapore
Modernising the Malayan Home
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, modern utilities and amenities like gas, electricity and piped water revolutionised domestic life across the world. Singapore was no exception. Along with such modern amenities, a vast array of appliances appeared on the market, radically changing the way people cooked, cleaned, and entertained themselves at home.
Singapore housing’s journey to modernity from the 19th century onwards had its complications. This was primarily due to the vastly different living conditions among the population. Wealthy families, both expatriates and locals, largely lived in the town centre and its environs in ‘modern’ homes made of brick. They were generally the first to receive new amenities such as running water, sanitation, piped gas, and electricity. The majority of the local population, on the other hand, either lived in kampongs (villages) on the outskirts of town and beyond, or crammed into partitioned tenement shop houses well into the 1960s. The physical construction of their homes did not allow the use of modern amenities and home appliances.
Nevertheless, in spite of the slow introduction of home amenities to Singapore households, the market for such equipment on the island was large enough for local dealerships to start importing them from overseas, initially limiting the marketing of their products to newspapers and publications likely to read by wealthier locals who would be more likely to afford their products and live in homes that were able to support modern amenities.
Advertising for home appliances diversified greatly after the Second World War, with products featured in newspapers of all languages, including magazines and souvenir publications with large circulations. This was largely due to the increased affluence of the local population after the years of war and economic depression, as well as rise in modern housing.