The McCann Time Capsule: APAC-American Heritage Month and . . . Australia

The McCann Time Capsule: APAC-American Heritage Month and . . . Australia

The death this month of Stanley Weston brought to light yet another person who passed through McCann on the way to obituary-worthy fame. Weston, who worked at McCann in the 1950s, then started his own licensing firm where he created the G.I. Joe line of action figures. It’s the kind of commercial success that is the more expected story of ex-McCanners who have gone on to achieve distinction.

Samuel T. Farquhar, by contrast, stands out for having taken a very different post-McCann path. His career is also one that intersects with the agency’s earliest entries into the Asia Pacific region. . .  exactly a century ago.

While McCann’s opening in Australia officially dates to its 1959 acquisition of Hanson- Rubensohn, the agency’s first explorations in Australia actually go back much further, to the spring of 1917.  The H.K. McCann Company, which was founded in New York in 1912, quickly within three years built a 4-office U.S. and Canadian network.  In April 1917, the founder Harrison K. McCann told the staff of further expansion plans, saying, “As a beginning in the development of our foreign business, the Company has recently sent a new member of our organization, Mr. Samuel T. Farquhar, to Australia to make an investigation of the Australian market, and appoint an Australian agency to represent this Company in that field.”

In a follow-up that August, Mr. McCann said that the agency had lined up some associates. “We have a representative in New Zealand and Australia, giving us first-hand information,” he said. “This representative is establishing relationships with the leading advertising agencies of those countries. We have the best agency in Australia as representatives. The best advertising agency in New Zealand is taking business which we send to that country and handling it as our correspondents.” 

No further details were provided about the affiliates or about Samuel T. Farquhar, other than that he had first set off for Australia in March. Mr. Farquhar, a McCann San Francisco account executive, did publish an article on the Australian market later that year in Printers’ Ink, the leading U.S. ad trade magazine. It focused primarily on what he described as Australia’s decreasing “hostility to American goods” now that the U.S. had, in April 1917, entered WWI on the side of the Allies.

Mr. Farquhar himself, however, while only a footnote in international advertising history, turned out to have had a much more distinguished career once he left advertising. A Harvard graduate originally from the Boston area, he worked for a year as a financial reporter at The Boston Herald before heading to San Francisco to begin his advertising career, which included his period at McCann. He left McCann in 1920 to join another agency (Lockwood-Shackelford Co.) and then a year later launched his own San Francisco agency, Farquhar & Seid. But by 1923, he had already shifted into the printing business and then became a partner in the SF printing firm Johnck and Seeger. He was also becoming enough of an expert on the subject of finely printed books that he started writing a weekly column on the subject for The San Francisco Chronicle in 1927-28.

Farquhar’s career then took a more scholarly turn, thanks to his esoteric reading preferences. On his daily commute his reading material consisted not of newspapers and magazines, but of fine book catalogues and the Latin classics. Another commuter with similar interests who struck up a friendship with him also happened to be an influential member of the Board of Regents of the University of California.

In 1932 the University of California Press recruited Mr. Farquhar as its superintendent of the printing office and then named him manager of the influential academic press the next year, a position he would hold through the next decade. He himself wrote the 1946 publication “Printing the United Nations Charter,” in which he discussed “how this difficult print job was accomplished.” 

According to a tribute published after his death in 1949, “his most conspicuous achievements were the expansion and improvement” of the U of C Press. For McCann, his business achievement was more fleeting, but was symbolically important, reflecting how focused McCann was on becoming the leading worldwide agency network as part of its founding vision.

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