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A Secret History of Brands (Paperback)

The Dark and Twisted Beginnings of the Brand Names We Know and Love

Social History

By Matt MacNabb
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 144
Illustrations: 40
ISBN: 9781473894174
Published: 4th September 2017
Last Released: 19th February 2018



National publicity

As featured by Mail Online: 'The dark history behind the world's most popuar brands'

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We live our lives immersed in name brand products. It's hard to drive down the street without seeing a plethora of chain restaurants, car dealerships, branded clothing they're all around us. What most of us don't know is that the origins of many of the most well-known and beloved brands in the world are shrouded in controversy, drug use and sometimes even addled with blatant racism.

A Secret History of Brands cuts through the rumours and urban legends and paints a picture of the true dark history of famous brands, like Coca-Cola, Hugo Boss, Adidas, Ford, Bayer, Chanel and BMW among others. Explore the mystery of the cocaine content of Coca-Cola, the Hitler-Henry Ford connection and why Bayer is famous for Asprin, but began their journey with Heroin, and how Kellogg's Corn Flakes were crafted to deter sexual arousal. Thoroughly researched, MacNabb details first-hand conducted interviews alongside fairly weighed research to present the decisive view of brands histories that you haven't heard of yet.

This book is a great read, a page-turner, and I suspect most readers will move on to read full accounts on some of the selected topics.

Read the complete review here.

Olga Núñez Miret, Author/translator Blog

In the series of the brands listed and described here (including Coca-cola, Kellogg's cereal, fashion/clothiers, shoes, Bayer, Winchester, and Bakelite), MacNabb speaks of the expansion of our market society and the industrial revolution, as well as brand cognisance, the invention of each product, their benefits, and shady histories (from their ingredients, factory conditions, leaders/bosses, to discrimination toward employees and market competition). This also makes me more excited for 'Winchester,' the upcoming horror/suspense film about the madness of Sarah Winchester.

GoodReads, Kristine Fisher

★★★★ When we see successful business, history tends to shove the sordid details under the rug. Fast read. Really engaging.

Read the complete review here.

Michelle McMenamin, GoodReads

As featured in

Antiques Diary, January 2018

So you think you know about our most famous brands? Think again. In this amazing, revealing book, Matt opens the lid on a Pandora's box of trade secrets - most of us will have tumbled that the original Coca-Cola had some kind of connection with cocaine - Matt gives us all of the details of that rather amazing connection, in a terrific book that will really open your eyes to the oldest brands still surviving to this day. Amazing!

Books Monthly

About Matt MacNabb

Pop culture historian Matt McNabb has spent the better part of the past twenty years researching the history of comic books, toys, film and television and their effect on our culture. He regularly features in publications such as SFX Magazine, Variety, MacLeans Magazine, Brick Journal, on CNN and BBC Radio. Author of Batman's Arsenal: An Encyclopedic Chronicle and Ghostbusters Collectables, A Secret History of Brands is Matt's third book.

Perfect Partner

A Dark History of Tea (Hardback)

A Dark History of Tea looks at our long relationship with this most revered of hot beverages. Renowned food historian Seren Charrington-Hollins digs into the history of one of the world’s oldest beverages, tracing tea's significance on the tables of the high and mighty as well as providing relief for workers who had to contend with the ardours of manual labour. This humble herbal infusion has been used in burial rituals, as a dowry payment for aristocrats; it has fuelled wars and spelled fortunes as it built empires and sipped itself into being an integral part of the cultural fabric of British…

By Seren Charrington-Hollins

Click here to buy both titles for £28.98
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