Guide to the J. Walter Thompson Company. Treasurer's Office Records, 1928-1952
Treasurer's Office Records span the years from 1928-1952, although the bulk of the material dates from 1928 to the 1940s. The collection documents the financial operations of JWT offices around the world and to a lesser extent in the United States. The materials consist of correspondence, financial records, and legal documents relating to the activities of JWT's Treasurer's Office. Correspondents include Earle Clark (Treasurer, 1921-39), Donald C. Foote, (Assistant Treasurer in charge of accounting and budgeting in JWT's international operations, 1937-52), Luther O. Lemon (Assistant Treasurer and Comptroller, 1937-46; Treasurer, 1946-57), and Sam Meek (Vice President in charge of International Operations 1930-64); senior staff members in domestic and international offices; JWT's legal counsel; and representatives from numerous financial institutions. Multinational clients represented in the International Offices Series are the Eastman Kodak Company, the Kellogg Company, the Gillette Company, RCA, and Reader's Digest. International offices well-documented include those in Antwerp, Berlin, Bombay, Bucharest, London, and Mexico City. Records for many of JWT's offices are not included in the Treasurer's Office Records, which indicates that the files in their present form may be incomplete.
The Domestic Offices Series focuses particularly on the New York, Detroit, and San Francisco offices. In addition to documenting routine matters relating to budgets, billing, and salaries, the records include material relating to the regulation of testimonial advertising by the Federal Trade Commission in 1929-1930.
The International Offices Series documents the complex relationship between the New York office and the several foreign offices of the company, especially offices in Antwerp, Berlin, Bombay, Bucharest, London, and Mexico City. A primary focus of the series is the legal and financial difficulties JWT faced as it attempted to expand abroad during a time of rising nationalism in many of the countries in which the company had offices. The impact of World War II on JWT especially the Bombay and Paris offices is documented, as well as the impact of the 1947 partition of India on JWT operations in India. The files also document JWT's efforts in the 1930s to develop radio advertising in Mexico, Belgium, and England. The series is divided into the following subseries: JWT International Corporation, Antwerp Office, Berlin Office, Bombay Office, Bucharest Office, London Office, and Mexico City Office.
- Collection Number
- J. Walter Thompson Company. Treasurer's Office records
- J. Walter Thompson Company
- 4 Linear Feet, circa 3,000 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Chiefly contains the correspondence of JWT Treasurer's Office staff (especially Earle Clark and Luther O. Lemon) with company personnel in other domestic offices, legal counsel, and banking representatives. The series also includes legal documents, memoranda, financial reports, and board meeting minutes. The contents are arranged in alphabetical order by subject, with the subjects falling into three broad categories: files relating to the JWT Advertising Corporation, files relating to JWT domestic offices other than the New York Office, and files relating to general financial matters.
The JWT Advertising Corporation was a subsidiary of the JWT Company established in 1931 at One Wall Street, New York City, New York, at least partly to facilitate the company's work for clients located in Manhattan's financial district. These files include corporate documents such as minutes, office leases, profit and loss sheets, billings, and tax returns.
Treasurer's Office files for offices outside New York relate chiefly to San Francisco and Detroit, with the bulk addressing routine questions relating to office expenditures, overhead charges, and billing procedures. These files also contain a memorandum from W. F. Howard to Norman H. Strouse (8-31-49, in “Detroit Office” folder) presenting a detailed case for the installation of air conditioning in the Detroit offices. Records for the payment of several thousands of dollars in club fees for Detroit's managerial staff can be found in the Detroit Office file in the years 1947-1948. Several letters discuss how to handle requests for charitable contributions (Luther O. Lemon to Thelma Hardy, 6-13-49, and Luther O. Lemon to Fred Fidler, 6-17-49, both in the San Francisco Office file; W. F. Howard to Henry C. Flower, 5-25-50, and Norman F. Strouse to Luther O. Lemon, 10-17-50, both in the Detroit Office file; see also “Subscriptions” and “Veterans Guidance in Advertising” ).
Files relating to general financial matters contain documents on a wide variety of topics of interest to the Treasurer's Office. Several folders, for example, are devoted to limiting particular kinds of corporate expenses, such as telegrams and telephone calls. One folder contains information on the New York Disability Benefits Law of 1949 and the company's efforts to comply with the new regulations, while another folder contains documents discussing the Federal Trade Commission's restrictions on the use of testimonials, or “personality advertising.” Yet another folder, titled “Unions,” contains a published report from the New York Department of Labor ( 1942) determining a minimum recommended salary for women employees, along with an itemized budget that supports the Department's recommendations.
Chiefly contains correspondence between JWT officers in New York (especially Donald C. Foote and Earle Clark in the Treasurer's Office; and Sam Meek, Vice President in charge of International Operations, 1930-1964) and the managers of the international offices. The series also includes legal documents, board meeting minutes, and financial reports (such as operating budgets, balance sheets, tax assessments, and cash account audits).
Three broad areas of concern dominate the files: finance, law, and personnel. Financial issues include overdue accounts, currency exchange rates, overhead charges, stock reclassifications, commission rates, conflicts of interest, profits and losses, and tardy expense and revenue reports.
Most legal questions revolve around the incorporation of the parent company, JWT International, and the effort to obtain national charters for the various overseas offices--a move calculated to accommodate local clients' growing preference for doing business with an agency chartered locally. In the cases of the Bucharest and Berlin offices, the local agency was sold to national members of the staff because it was impossible to obtain a national charter without JWT directors in New York losing their controlling interest in the local company. The JWT office managers also reported on tax laws, import restrictions and political changes that might affect advertising revenues.
In the area of personnel, a large portion of correspondence deals with salary and profit-sharing arrangements for high-ranking members of the managerial staff. Also included are disputes regarding expense accounts, Christmas bonuses, transfer requests, home leave, and life insurance. Aside from revealing employee judgments about the fairness of certain company policies, these exchanges also document managers' dissatisfactions with working among people of other ethnic backgrounds and the hardships of life in an alien society (e.g., separation from family, decreased earnings due to unstable currencies, and exposure to tropical illnesses).
The subseries are arranged in alphabetical order by the cities in which JWT's international offices were located--with the exception of the first subseries, JWT International Corporation, which contains documents relating to the founding of the subsidiary that comprised all foreign operations.
Most documents in the JWT International Corporation Subseries date from 1928-1931, and they relate to the formation of a separate company called JWT International. These items appear to make up Treasurer Earle Clark's personal files, complete with handwritten notes and calculations for a variety of possible terms of incorporation and stock classifications. These files contain several drafts of the Articles of Incorporation and By-laws of the new corporation; correspondence with JWT's New York legal counsel, Breed, Abbot and Morgan; and further correspondence with the various heads of JWT's foreign offices. A 1928 summary of JWT's financial status is also included in the files, apparently because it served as part of the basis for early deliberations about the creation of JWT International.
A few documents in the International Corporation files date much later, from 1945 to 1946. They include itemized lists of billings and profits for foreign offices over the previous ten to fifteen years.
The principal correspondents in Antwerp were Edward E. Pratt, L.R. Deke Coleman, J. H. Cerny, and Rene -P. Jeanneret. The Antwerp file also contains correspondence between Donald Foote and managers of offices in Paris, Amsterdam, and the Hague. Several issues addressed in the correspondence indicate the challenges JWT faced in their overseas operations. For example, an exchange between Donald Foote and J. H. Cerny discusses the financial issues involved in expanding into radio advertising in Antwerp ( 12-5-34, 1-4-35). Also, Jeanneret commented to Foote ( 6-25-35) about the objections Catholic papers raised against advertisements--particularly one that depicted women models wearing pants and exposing navel and thighs. During World War II, Jeanneret and Coleman reported to Sam Meek on conditions in occupied France ( 7-19-40 and 9-10-40).
Fritz Solm served as head of Berlin operations, and the Berlin office files record the communications among Solm (in Berlin), L. R. Coleman and Henry C. Flower (in Paris), Paul Leverkuehn (Berlin legal counsel), Donald Foote (in New York) and F. C. Wallace (representative of Guaranty Trust Company in New York). In 1934 Solm agreed to purchase control of the Berlin office, and the bulk of the material concerns that agreement. Delays in the payment process prompted L.R. “Deke” Coleman to make some colorful and disparaging remarks about his dealings with Germans (in letters to Foote, 11-7-38 and 11-24-38). The same letters contain vague references to blackmail in Solm's dealings with German tax authorities, and to Solm's fears that unspecified activities in the New York office could land him in prison.
The Bombay office was established in 1929 and this subseries documents its operations beginning that year under Frank R. J. Gerard. From 1930 to 1949, Edward J. Pete Fielden served as senior manager of the Bombay operations, along with its branch offices in Calcutta and New Delhi. Fielden's most prominent assistants were Denys Scott in Bombay and Peter Petroushka de Peterson in Calcutta.
JWT's operations in India were profitable throughout World War II, but not without many hardships, including Japanese air raids, the threat of conscription of key personnel, and low morale due to the postponement of home leave. The political instability surrounding India's post-war partitioning also created unfavorable working conditions for JWT's employees in India. Several of Fielden's letters to New York deal at length with the impact of domestic and international politics upon both advertising interests, and the staff's health and safety ( 10-28-38, 8-2-40, 10-1-40, 1-7-43, 6-11-46, 9-2-47, 4-4-49, 5-4-49, 6-6-49).
In their salary negotiations, Denys Scott (letter, 6-8-48) and Peter de Peterson (letters, 11-17-40, 2-23-42, 10-15-43) outlined the obstacles European staff members confronted in maintaining a “European lifestyle” in India. Also, in a dispute about his expense account, Peterson alluded to certain entertainment expenses--which he felt obliged to incur for his guests--related to an arrangement for several young women to attend a business dinner (letter to Fielden, 12-16-48). And in reinstating life insurance for the Indian personnel, management encountered resentment from employees who were unwilling to designate themselves by race as either “White” or “Negro,” as the American forms required (Denys Scott to Foote, 9-18-48).
The correspondence chiefly concerns JWT's sale of its Bucharest office to local manager, Hratchia Paniguian. JWT's insistence upon payment in United States dollars complicated the transaction because it entailed the violation of Romanian law concerning currency exchange. Also, one of Paniguian's employees, Andre B. Kalman, was forced to leave Romania because of growing anti-Jewish sentiment, and JWT helped to arrange his safe passage (L.R. Coleman's letter to Foote 1-4-38, and the file titled “International Travel,” 1940-1941).
The senior staff of the London office consisted of Rae H. Smith, Ed Gordon, L.R. Starkey, and Andrew Sinclair. Because London was JWT's first international office, the company used its arrangements with London to help establish policies for all its overseas operations. Negotiations about profit-sharing and salaries are therefore well-documented.
Several other features make the London Office Files distinctive. They include documents regarding the 1946 suicide of the senior manager of the office, Rae Smith, and the company's efforts to purchase his estate's extensive stock-holdings in JWT. One file, labeled “Kodak, 1934-1935,” contains a 17-page memo written by a Kodak employee to his superior, attempting to refute allegations that JWT violated the terms of its contract with Kodak. Another file, titled “Recordings in Hollywood, 1937-1938,” relates to legal problems JWT faced in using radio programs and advertisements recorded in the United States for its London operations. Scattered throughout the London Office Files are at least ten letters written by JWT President Stanley Resor--most of them concerning the letter of terms for advertising clients and profit-sharing policies with key London personnel.
These files record the opening of the Mexico City office in 1943 under the management of John Kuneau. After three consecutive years of financial losses, he was replaced by Donaldson Thorburn. Kuneau's letters to New York include frequent discussions of international clients such as Gillette, Kellogg's, RCA, and Reader's Digest. Two letters to Foote ( 1-29-44 and 5-10-45) provide profiles of the members of the Mexico City staff, along with comments about economic conditions, client accounts, and advertising strategies (with special attention to radio programs and contests). A letter from Don E. Widlundth to Donaldson Thorburn ( 5-2-46) discusses an experimental run of six one-minute Reader's Digest films. A small glimpse into JWT's corporate culture may be gained from a handwritten letter by a Mrs. Bill Taylor to Sam Meek ( 11-22-47), detailing the hardships her family faced when her husband unexpectedly lost his job in Mexico City. Her outcry prompted JWT to send the family four hundred dollars as compensation for some of their expenses.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Clark, Earle
- Eastman Kodak Company
- Foote, Donald C.
- Gillette Company
- J. Walter Thompson Company
- J. Walter Thompson Company
- John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
- Kellogg Company
- Lemon, Luther O.
- Meek, Samuel W. (Samuel Williams), 1895-
- Reader's Digest Association
- RCA Corporation
J. Walter Thompson Company. Treasurer's Office Records were transferred to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library from the J. Walter Thompson Company in 1987. Processing of this collection was supported in part by gifts from the J. Walter Thompson Company Fund and the John and Kelly Hartman Foundation.
Processed by: Dave Daily
Completed December 1994
Encoded by Katherine Rose