The genius copywriter that taught Kurt Vonnegut to put his money where his mouth is.

Written by Cole Schafer


Unless you’ve read the intro to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions”, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in a microwave that you have any idea who Phoebe Hurty is.

Whose Phoebe Hurty?

Hurty wrote copy for the William H. Block Company, a department store headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana that shuttered its doors in 1987.

While I certainly can’t say that Hurty was one of the better copywriters to ever live, I can say that she wrote one of the better ad headlines I’ve ever read.

Once upon a time, she was writing advertising for an end-of-the-summer sale William H. Block was running on straw hats.

Here was her headline…

“For prices like this, you can run them through your horse and put them on your roses.”

That’s fucking brilliant.

Hurty hired a sixteen-year-old Vonnegut to write ads for teenage clothes that William H. Block was selling.

She had but one rule…

He had to wear the clothes he praised.

(While I don’t believe Hurty studied under Ogilvy, this was a belief and a practice the advertising legend held close to his heart –– he was his client’s most loyal customer.)

Vonnegut would go on to open and run a car lot in adulthood where he drove the cars he sold. But, he’d eventually discover that he was a far better novelist than he was an adman.

By Cole Schafer.

P.S. For more on folks in business putting their money where their mouth is, read up on David Abbott and Trent Kimball.