Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why does the site cover only 1911 - 1955? And why does it include only five product categories instead of ads for all sorts of things?

  2. What is this "Competitive Advertisements Collection?"

  3. Will there be more advertisements added to this site?

  4. Why am I having trouble getting a clear image when I try to enlarge the thumbnail? Can I print a clear image from this site?

  5. How can I get a non-electronic copy (e.g. slide, color photocopy) of an advertisement from this site, or a copy of an advertisement that is in the Hartman Center's collection but not on the Web?

  6. I want to publish an advertisement from this site. There is no company contact information listed on the Copyright page. What do I do next?

  7. Where can I find information about the companies and products that are included in this site?

  8. Does the Hartman Center have other advertisements from the 1911-1955 time period that are not available on the web?

  9. How can I find out about other advertisement collections at the Hartman Center that are not up on the web?

  10. How can I find other historical advertisement collections on the web?

  11. How can I find out about advertisement collections in other libraries?

  12. I found a mistake in an advertisement image or information.How can I let you know?

  13. I have some old advertisements - are they worth anything? Whom do I contact if I would like to donate ads or other advertising historical items to your collection? Will they be put up on the web site, too?

  14. Why are some of the images not displaying in my browser?

  15. What should I do if I have comments about Ad*Access or more questions that are not answered here?


1. Why does the site cover only 1911 - 1955? And why does it only include five product categories?

The Ad*Access project is a limited one, a pilot effort to make a sampling of historic print advertisements available to a broad public. We decided to use a collection of print advertisements that consists of ads printed mainly in U.S. magazines and newspapers from the 1910s to 1950s. That collection, part of the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives, is called the "Competitive Advertisements Collection (Pre-1955 Files)." It has not been available for research use because so many of the items are fragile, especially those from old newspapers. So it seemed a perfect body of material to make available electronically via Ad*Access.

Rather than create a web site with just a few examples of advertisements for all possible product categories, we decided to limit Ad*Access to five categories that we know to generate a lot of user interest. That way, researchers can find hundreds or sometimes even thousands of examples that have some thematic unity. Even though we used the so-called "Pre-1955 Files," the project includes a few ads from 1955 - 1957.

2. What is the "Competitive Advertisements Collection?"

Like many advertising agencies, the J. Walter Thompson Company had employees who clipped advertisements from magazines and newspapers and file them according to the type of product or service advertised. Then the files could be used for reference by agency staff; evidently the primary purpose was to have ready access to the current and earlier work of competing advertisers, hence the title of the collection. The clipping at JWT seems to have begun in the early 1910s and continues to this day. Although many agencies have created similar "tearsheet" files, the very large JWT "Competitive Advertisements Collection" is one of the few that has been preserved over so many decades.

The JWT "Competitive Advertisements Collection" fills many hundreds of cartons. In the earlier years (the "Pre-1955 Files" from which Ad*Access is drawn), the clipped ads were arranged by categories with subject headings such as "Yarn," "Beverages," "Radio," etc. From 1957 on, the clippings are arranged by alphanumeric codes by the PIB (Publishers Information Bureau) scheme. So, for example, in these more recent files, the category "F115" is for Gelatins and Puddings; the category "T413" is for Airlines.

Because the Competitive Advertisements Collection seems to have been created for a particular purpose, and because it was a working file from which agency staff used to be able to borrow items or whole folders, the collection is not complete. Some subject categories are much more fully represented than others. It is, nonetheless, a wonderful tool for locating specific old ads or studying trends in advertising.

If you have more questions about the Competitive Advertisements Collection, please contact the Hartman Center Reference Staff:  Hartman-Center@duke.edu.

3. Will there be more advertisements added to this site?

There are no current plans to add additional advertisements to this site. Ad*Access was generously funded by a Duke Endowment "Library 2000" grant for 1997 - 1998. With that funding now at an end, we consider the project complete. To learn more about how the content of Ad*Access was determined, see FAQ #1.

Please note, though, that in the first half of 2000, we will place another advertising project on-line. This project, "The Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850-1920," will be a complement to the Ad*Access project, covering an earlier time period. It is funded through an award from the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition. Subject areas covered will include tobacco advertising, advertising cookbooks, and billboard advertising to name a few.

4. How do I print an advertisement from this site?

Printing depends wholly upon your system and the type of software and printer you have. Best results are usually obtained by using a laser printer and the 150 dpi "large" images available on the site. Many of the 150 dpi images, however, are too large to fit on just one standard page; most of the 72dpi images will print on one page.

To print from Netscape version 3 and above, choose "Print" from the File menu at the upper left.

To print from Internet Explorer, choose "Print" from the file menu at the upper left.

Users of Internet Explorer 6 are likely to have initial difficulty getting a clear image when trying to expand some of the thumbnail images to either 72dpi or 150dpi. To resolve this problem, turn off the automatic resizing feature. From the Tools menu, select Internet Options, go to the Advanced tab, scroll down to the Multimedia section, and uncheck Enable Automatic Image Resizing. Click OK (you may also have to reload the page).

Additionally you may choose to save the image and print it from a graphics program of your choice. However, please keep in mind the requirements of our Statement on Copyright and Reproduction.

5. How can I get a non-electronic copy (e.g. slide or color photocopy) of an advertisement from this site, or a copy of an advertisement that is in the Hartman Center's collections but not on the Web?

To obtain a copy of an advertisement contact the Hartman Center Reference Staff by phone (919-660-5827), fax (919-660-5934) or e-mail Hartman-Center@duke.edu.

Please note that we charge for the cost of reproductions that we make for you. If we do extended searching on your behalf there are hourly research fees, as well, and in some cases rush charges may apply. We can supply a copy of our fee schedule on request.

6. I want to publish an advertisement from this site. There is no company contact information listed on the Copyright page. What do I do next?

When a company name is not listed on the Copyright Information page, this DOES NOT necessarily mean that copyright and trademark restrictions do not apply. The list on our Copyright Information page includes those companies we succeeded in contacting to obtain permission to include their ads in Ad*Access. If the company name you seek is not on the list, it means that our staff was unable to locate or contact a current copyright holder, even though someone (an individual, family, or successor company) may in fact still hold rights. Any use of the advertisement outside the bounds of fair use (see the Fair Use section of the Copyright Information page) requires that you gain copyright permission.

Below is a list of possible sources for further company research; it is not a comprehensive list and the responsibility for searching out copyright and trademark holders rests with you, the prospective user of the advertisement. Your local public or university library reference staff will be able to assist you with print sources or electronic databases. Duke University library staff can only assist you with copyright searches if you are a student, faculty, or staff member here at Duke.

Electronic Databases:

  • EDGAR Database of Corporate Information: a database of corporate filings submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. (public companies only)
  • General BusinessFile ASAP: Covers over 850 business, management, and trade journals as well as business-related articles from 3,000 other publications; also includes investment reports and over 100,000 company profiles.
  • Predicasts PROMPT (Predicasts Overview of Markets and Technology): Covers companies, the production and marketing of goods and services, business technology, and markets.
  • The United States Trademark and Patent Office: These on-line databases cover the period from 1 January 1976 to the most recent weekly issue date (usually each Tuesday).
  • Worldscope GLOBAL: Contains business and financial information on 12,000 of the world's largest companies in nearly 50 countries.

Print Sources (a small list - there are hundreds of others):

  • Daniells, Lorna M. Business Information Sources. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1993.
  • A Guide to Finding Business Information at the Library of Congress (compiled by Richard F. Sharp). Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Humanities and Social Sciences Division, 1995.
  • Lavin, Michael R. Business Information: How to find it, how to use it. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryz Press, 1992.
  • Strauss, Diane Wheeler. Handbook of Business Information: A Guide for Librarians, Students, and Researchers. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1988.

7. Where can I find information about the companies and products that are included in this site?

If you are looking for information to help you contact a company see the Copyright Information page, where we have provided whatever contact information we have.

General background information on many companies and products can be found on the World Wide Web. Search engines such as Yahoo! or Google may provide links to companies or to special interest pages dedicated to a particular company or product. This is especially true for radio and transportation companies and products. Many companies' official corporate websites include a link to the company history.

Books or articles about companies—especially the larger ones or their popular products—are sometimes also available. General reference books, and books written about a particular industry, are also a possible source for information about a product or company. Ad*Access includes a very brief history of each industry category that is part of this project (Beauty and Hygiene, Radio, Television, Transportation, and World War II). See the Browse Ad*Access page. Each Ad*Access history page includes a brief bibliography of sources consulted, though public and college libraries will have many other resources available.

8. Does the Hartman Center have other advertisements from the 1911-1955 time period that are not on the web?

The Ad*Access project includes only a small portion (about 15%) of one large collection of mainly U.S. magazine and newspaper advertisements created and maintained by the J. Walter Thompson Company for the period 1911 to 1955. The collection, part of the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives, is called the "Competitive Advertisements Collection (Pre-1955 Files)." Even though we used the so-called "Pre-1955 Files," the project does include a few ads from 1955 - 1957. At present, the original ads in the Pre-1955 Files are not open to researchers to consult in person because so many of the advertisements are in fragile condition. The Hartman Center's research staff can perform brief searches in the collection for users who have limited needs. Until we can better protect the original, fragile, and often rare items in the Pre-1955 Files, we cannot do extensive searches or allow visiting researchers to browse in these files.

There are several other important sources of 1910s-1950s printed advertisements at the Hartman Center. There are large files of ads for many of the clients of J. Walter Thompson Company in this period (e.g.,to name a few, Eastman Kodak, Lever Brothers, Chesebrough-Pond's, and Kraft). The archives of another major advertising agency, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (DMB&B), also contains extensive print ads for such clients as Procter & Gamble, General Foods, and Best Foods beginning in 1930.

Please note that the Hartman Center also has extensive files of printed advertisements for the pre-1911 and post-1957 periods. See FAQ #9 for more detailed information. For additional questions please contact our reference staff at Hartman-Center@duke.edu.

9. How can I find out about other advertisement collections at the Hartman Center that are not up on the web?

See FAQ #8 for information about additional collections in the 1911-1955 time period covered by Ad*Access.

The Hartman Center also has some collections that include printed advertisements from the late 19th and early 20th century (prior to Ad*Access coverage) and vast resources for the post-1957 period.

JWT's "Competitive Advertisement Collection," from which Ad*Access ads were drawn, continues past 1955, and contains thousands of ads for each year up to the year three years prior to the present. The ad "tearsheets" in this massive collection were clipped from mainly U.S magazines and newspapers. The ads are arranged by product category using an alphanumeric coding system that was used from 1955 on by the JWT staff who created the collection. In the broadest sense, the categories in the collection are Apparel/Fashion, Business, Drugs and Toiletries, Food, General/Miscellaneous, Household Goods, and Transportation/Travel. Each large category is subdivided in detail, e.g. B-151 is the category for banks ads, and T-413 is for airlines. All of the thousands of post-1955 files in the "Competitive Advertisement Collection" are open for research use.

The Hartman Center holds the archives of three major advertising agencies that contain extensive files of magazine and newspaper advertising that they created for their own clients. The three are: J. Walter Thompson Company (1880s-1990s), DMB&B (1930-1990s), and Wells Rich Greene (1966-1990s). In addition, the Center has several smaller collections that are valuable sources for advertising images. Among these are the Wayne P. Ellis Collection of Kodakiana and the Baden Collection of Print Advertisements. The Outdoor Advertising Archives includes thousands of images of poster and billboard advertisements from the late 19th century nearly to the present.

Many of the Hartman Center's resources are included on its collections page; others are mentioned in issues of the Center's newsletters. All the issues of the Front and Center newsletter, begun in 1994, are on the web. For the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives there is a page of Collection Guides, which provides links with graphics and text describing a selection of JWT collections.

Additionally, you may search the Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library's Archival Collection Guides for additional reference assistance. for other collections that include items or information about advertising. Contact the

Researchers are welcome to visit Duke University to use any unrestricted collections. For people who cannot come to Duke, the Hartman Center Research staff can do brief searches at no charge or more extended work on a fee-for-service basis. There are charges for photographic reproductions, as well. You may request a fee schedule.

10. How can I find other historical advertisement collections on the web?

One reason we created Ad*Access is that there are few other advertisement collections that we know of on the web. There is a contents list (no images) of the vast D'Arcy Collection at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the web. Some companies include a selection of historic advertising on their corporate websites, and some hobbyists have put up sites with ads that interest them.

11. How can I find out about advertisement collections in other libraries?

Among the largest collections of 20th century U.S. print advertisements in libraries other than Duke University are:

A list of Selected Repositories with Advertising Collections is also available.

12. I found a mistake in an advertisement image or information. How can I let you know?

Please send mail to the Hartman Center Reference Archivist (hartman-center@duke.edu) and let us know what the error is. Please include the URL, or the advertisement number.

Please note that some of the original advertisements that were scanned for Ad*Access, especially some that appeared in newspapers, are in poor condition. They may be torn or discolored by age and the effects of acid in the paper. All images are the best quality we were able to produce at the resolutions used in the project.

You will find some instances where an entry in the database does not link to an image of the advertisement described. This is the case in a few situations because the physical condition of the ad did not permit scanning and in some others when the company that owns the rights to the ads declined to participate in Ad*Access. We have left the database information in place to alert users to the existence of the ads; if you wish to see the image, please contact the Hartman Center Reference Staff. As with all the ads in Ad*Access, any use other than study or general interest requires that you, the user, seek copyright permission.

13. I have some old advertisements. Are they worth anything? Whom do I contact if I would like to donate ads or other historical advertising items to your collection? Will they be put up on the web site, too?

If you have old advertisements cut or torn from magazines and newspapers, they usually have limited monetary value. You may wish to contact a local dealer in antique paper/paper ephemera or go to a flea market vendor to learn more. If you have an unusually large or old collection that is in good condition and well organized, it may be worth more. Duke University does not appraise items or collections for their monetary value, but a dealer may be able to assist you.

Please note that we think of advertising history much more broadly than just advertisements. The Hartman Center collections are rich in documents that illustrate the business of advertising, the work of ad agencies and of talented individuals who worked in the business. For a broader idea of the types of materials that help libraries and archives preserve the story of advertising, see the Hartman Center Wants list page.

If you have advertisements or any sort of advertising historical material that you are considering donating to a library, you are welcome to contact Jacqueline Reid,  Director of the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at Duke University; she can be reached at j.reid@duke.edu. Please note that not all materials are appropriate for addition to the Hartman Center's collections. For example, we rarely acquire 3D items such as advertising collectibles. Also, like most archival repositories, we build our collections mainly by gifts rather than purchase. If what you have is not of interest here, we will try to make alternate suggestions to help you find a suitable home for what you have.

Our purpose in acquiring advertising historical collections at Duke is to increase the resources available for research and study, to promote understanding of many aspects of advertising in society. We organize and describe the collections we have, to make it possible for researchers to locate and use them. At the present time, only very limited portions of our collections appear on our web sites, and no guarantees can be made about what may be included in future projects.

14. Why are some of the images not displaying in my browser?

If you are viewing the web site using Internet Explorer version 5 for Macintosh, you are experiencing a bug in that program. IE5 for Mac has problems interpreting certain kinds of JPEG images, and unfortunately the 72dpi and thumbnail images on this site fall into that category. You should be able to view these images normally using any other browser (ie, Netscape or an earlier version of Internet Explorer) or by saving the images to disk and viewing them with another program that can display JPEG images. We expect that this bug will be fixed in the next version of Internet Explorer for Macintosh.

Users of Internet Explorer 6 are likely to have initial difficulty getting a clear image when trying to expand some of the thumbnail images to either 72dpi or 150dpi. To resolve this problem, turn off the automatic resizing feature. From the Tools menu, select Internet Options, go to the Advanced tab, scroll down to the Multimedia section, and uncheck Enable Automatic Image Resizing. Click OK (you may also have to reload the page).

15. What should I do if I have comments about Ad*Access or more questions that are not answered here?

For specific questions about the advertisements in this database, please read the About Ad*Access section of this site first. If you still have a question, please contact the Hartman Center Reference staff (Hartman-Center@duke.edu).

For technical questions, please read the Technical Information section of this site first; if your question is not answered there then contact Lynn Pritcher at lynnp@duke.edu.

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