Guide to the Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements, 1910-1954 and undated
Lithography company founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, in about 1847. The Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements span the years 1910 through 1954, documenting much of the company's printed poster advertising work from that era. All images are black and white. The core of the collection, the Image Files Series, consists of around 1000 8x10 photographs ("A" images) of advertising designs, and a similar number of smaller printed cards (approx. 5x7 to 5x8, "B" images) of outdoor advertisement designs. The images are accompanied by three different Access Files to be used to browse the collection. These files are in the form of image photocopies ( "job tickets" ) and catalog cards. Most images are of poster (billboard or transit card) designs, but there are also some photographs of tabletop display advertising, window cards and other point-of-purchase displays. The collection documents advertising during a time when transportation was changing in America, and the automobile was gaining in popularity. Billboards began to replace smaller posters, accommodating a more mobile public. It was then that Strobridge turned from its emphasis on circus and theater posters (not represented in the collection) to billboard ads for mass-produced products. Many different products are featured, but perhaps the two most prominent and well-represented campaigns are those for Camel cigarettes and Palmolive soaps. The images form a valuable reference collection of advertising designs, relevant for researchers from a variety of disciplines including commercial artwork, advertising history and design, and popular culture. The collection documents outdoor advertising design during the first part of the twentieth century for what were mostly national brands. Numerous examples are from the era of hand-drawn and painted designs, often signed by artists including Norman Rockwell, Howard Scott, and Dr. Seuss (see his designs for the product Flit). Rarely, an artist is listed on the back of the image. Later designs from the 1940s and 1950s include photographic images, often peppered with celebrity likenesses including John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, and Charlton Heston. Many of the celebrity advertisements promoted tobacco products. Some designs are clearly war-era, such as advertisements depicting a 1943 female factory worker, or one from Schlitz (1942) mentioning war bonds.
- Collection Number
- Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements
- 1910-1954 and undated
- Strobridge & Co. Lith
- 9 Linear Feet, 7166 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements span the years 1910 through 1954, documenting much of the company's printed poster advertising work from that era. All images are black and white. The core of the collection, the Image Files Series, consists of around 1000 8x10 photographs ("A" images) of advertising designs, and a similar number of smaller printed cards (approx. 5x7 to 5x8, "B" images) of outdoor advertisement designs. The images are accompanied by three different Access Files to be used to browse the collection. These files are in the form of image photocopies ( “job tickets” ) and catalog cards. Most images are of poster (billboard or transit card) designs, but there are also some photographs of tabletop display advertising, window cards and other point-of-purchase displays. The collection documents advertising during a time when transportation was changing in America, and the automobile was gaining in popularity. Billboards began to replace smaller posters, accommodating a more mobile public. It was then that Strobridge turned from its emphasis on circus and theater posters (not represented in the collection) to billboard ads for mass-produced products. Many different products are featured, but perhaps the two most prominent and well-represented campaigns are those for Camel cigarettes and Palmolive soaps. The images form a valuable reference collection of advertising designs, relevant for researchers from a variety of disciplines including commercial artwork, advertising history and design, and popular culture.
The collection documents outdoor advertising design during the first part of the twentieth century for what were mostly national brands. Numerous examples are from the era of hand-drawn and painted designs, often signed by artists including Norman Rockwell, Howard Scott, and Dr. Seuss (see his designs for the product Flit). Rarely, an artist is listed on the back of the image. Later designs from the 1940s and 1950s include photographic images, often peppered with celebrity likenesses including John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, and Charlton Heston. Many of the celebrity advertisements promoted tobacco products. Some designs are clearly war-era, such as advertisements depicting a 1943 female factory worker, or one from Schlitz (1942) mentioning war bonds.
The first series, the Access Files, can be used to browse the collection and narrow a search for an individual advertisement before moving on to the Image Files themselves. Items in the Image Files are labeled with an "A" or a "B" indication. The "A" group holds the larger 8x10 photographs and the "B" group contains smaller images (primarily 5x7 and 5x8) printed on cards. There is some duplication between the "A" and "B" groups. The "A" images contain advertisements from the 1910s through the 1950s, and the "B" advertisements were created mainly in the 1920s and 1930s. All point-of-purchase advertising is in the "A" group. There is often indication of the size poster the design was made into (e.g. 24-sheet), a design or perhaps job number (e.g. Camel No. 93), and a title (e.g. Perfect for a Camel advertisement with the text "Perfect Taste"). Most designs are presumed to have been created and published by Strobridge, but there are some images stamped "W. J. Rankin Corp." Some images show billboards as they were posted; some of these show the nameplate of the outdoor advertising company that owned the billboard structures.
The name of the collection is seen on folders and sometimes elsewhere as the "Strobridge Lithography Company," but the materials themselves as well as other documentation reveal the name to be "Strobridge Lithographing Company" at the time when most of this collection was created. Almost all advertisements are in English, presumably for posting in the U.S., but a few, such as Spur cigarette advertisements, are in Spanish.
Related collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library include a number of other outdoor advertising collections, such as the Outdoor Advertising Slide Library, the John Paver Papers, the John Browning Papers, the Duplex Advertising Co. Records, the H.E. Fisk Collection of War Effort Mobilization Campaigns, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Records, the Outdoor Advertising Poster Design Collection, the Garrett Orr Papers, the R.C. Maxwell Company Records, the Howard Scott Papers, and the John E. Brennan Outdoor Advertising Survey Reports. There are also numerous published items from the era of this collection which provide even more context for the designs.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. There may be a 48-hour delay in obtaining these materials.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
1. Access Files
This series contains three subseries which should assist the user in searching for individual advertisements within the Image Files. The first two Access Files subseries are photocopies (called here "job tickets") of all the images in the Image Files arranged in two different ways. The first group of job tickets is arranged as the images are, in number order. The second subseries is an exact copy of the first, but arranged by advertising topic, described below. Each file, however, does not have exactly the same number of items, and so certain series may be missing some individual numbers. The third subseries is the card file, comprised of cards with brief description and indexed terms from the advertisements. The images contain additional information recorded on the verso side.
In Order by Number
In Order by Topic
This category includes advertisements for clothing brands, boots, and watches. Clothing mainly includes overalls, union suits, swim suits, and hosiery with brand names such as Munsingwear and Admiration Costume Hosiery.
This category includes one advertisement for Efird's Department Store in Charlotte, NC, and one for the "future home of" Stewart's York Road Store and shopping center.
This category includes advertisements for live arts productions and amusements including a Porgy and Bess benefit, a Lawrence Welk production, and an amusement park.
This category includes advertising created for charitable causes such as Christmas Seals or by non-profit organizations. Government organizations are listed under Business and Technology, but government sponsorship of an advertisement was often difficult to discern. Check this category and Business and Technology for a comprehensive search of government-sponsored or government-related advertisements. Political issue advertisements may be found here and include presumably World War II era cartoons of the "Axis Ape." Some Public Service-type advertisements were placed under the sponsor's usual category, if the sponsor's name was an obvious part of the advertisement. For instance an advertisement saying "Buy War Bonds... courtesy of Coca-Cola Products" may have been placed under Beverages. At least one advertisement in this category is signed by Norman Rockwell. Themes include Christmas as well as World War I and World War II troop support. Organizations represented include the Cincinnati War Chest, Red Cross, a state fair, and churches.
This category includes advertisements for the following: the armed forces (such as recruitment posters), including one for a London battalion, building products, business to business services, government organizations, and life insurance (Lincoln National Life). Upsom Boards is one product featured as well as an industrial exposition and heating and air. Government-sponsored advertisements can be found in this category but if sponsorship was unclear, advertisements may have been put into the Public Service category.
This category includes advertisements for alcoholic beverages, especially beer and whiskey, and non-alcoholic beverages, especially coffee, tea, and some sodas. Evaporated milk is most often found in the Food category. For a comprehensive search of all beverages, also check the Food category.
This category includes advertisements for automotive parts, service, and manufacturers; motor oil; and tires. Gasoline and gas stations were placed under Travel and Transportation (T and T). Advertisements showing motor oil and gasoline (and/or car service) were put in the category of the more prominent item. A search for all gas stations should be completed in both this category and T and T. Autos frequently mentioned include Packard, Nash, Ford, Lincoln-Zephyr, Dodge, Chevrolet, and Oldsmobile. Other brands mentioned frequently within this category include Oilzum, Union Oil, Gulf, Esso, Conoco, Dunlop, and Tuxedo tires.
This category includes advertisements for airlines, gasoline, and gasoline stations. Since gas stations, but not car service, are included in this category, search both this and the Automotive category for an advertisement featuring a company that sold gas and provided auto service. The two most common brands are Esso and Gulf. Atlantic and Richfield were among others. The only airline advertisements are for American Airlines.
This category includes advertisements for candy, food, ingredients, prepared foods, and produce. Gum, pet food, and tobacco products were most often placed in Consumer Goods and Services. Drinks, including coffee and milk, can usually be found in the Beverages category. The largest subgroup within this category is baked goods including ads for matzos. Brand names include Merita, Tastykake, Hostess, Baur's Aunt Hannah's Bread, and American-Maid Bread. Other kitchen products represented include Fleischmann's Yeast, Davis and Rumford Baking Powders, Snowdrift, Pillsbury Flours, Nucoa and Jelke Margarines, and Purity and Best Foods Mayonnaises. Other food items in the collection include Kellogg's Cereals, Powerhouse and Milky Way Candy Bars, Eline's Sweet Milk Chocolate, Reymers' candies, and assorted fruits and meat products. There are also some dairy products including evaporated milk (Pet), and Tech Ice Cream.
This category includes advertisements for the following: appliances, electronics, gum, health and beauty products, household products, over-the-counter medicines, pet food and supplies, sporting goods, tobacco products, toys, and vitamins. Tobacco is the largest sub-group by far, dominated by Camel Cigarettes. Prince Albert and Lucky Strike are also common brands. The second-largest group is comprised of soap advertisements. Various types of soaps are represented including Palmolive, White King, Crystal White, Sapolio, and Peet's. Other toiletry items include Listerine Antiseptic, Palmolive Shaving Cream, and Dr. Lyon's Tooth Powder. Gums mentioned include Clark's Teaberry and Adam's Black Jack. Other products include home fuels like Berwind Briquets, Parker Pens, Grunow Radios, Frigidaire, Graybar, and Crosley appliances, animal feeds, insect repellents, and other items. Search for watches in the Apparel category. Cars, motor oil, and car-related products can be found mostly in the Automotive category. Gasoline can be found in the Travel and Transportation category.
This category includes advertisements which did not easily fit into one of the other categories, or ads in which the product was unclear. One image shows a Strobridge exhibit of many small advertisements.
Cards are in order primarily by advertisement brand name with occasional headings for product types such as "public service" and "used cars." This file is incomplete. Use the card file in conjunction with the job tickets (ordered by topic) for a comprehensive search.
2. Image Files
This series contains original photographs and printed cards of all the collection's images.
Most advertisements are poster (billboard-type) designs shown against white backgrounds. Approximate dates can be found on the backs of most photos. These dates are unconfirmed.
Elijah C. Middleton founded an engraving (steel and copperplate) establishment in Cincinnati, Ohio.
W. R. Wallace, a lithographic engraver, joined Middleton to form the partnership of Middleton and Wallace.
Hines Strobridge entered the partnership and the company became Middleton, Wallace, and Company (Lithographers). General trends in publications showed a transition from woodblock and engraving to lithography. Early prints were mainly black and white.
Martin B. Ewing entered the partnership.
Wallace left the firm, which became Middleton, Strobridge and Company.
Dominique C. Fabronius joined the partnership. "In this establishment are embraced all kinds of lithographing such as views of cities and buildings, landscapes, etc., in one or more colors-portraits, maps, bonds, certificates of stock, drafts, checks in all kinds of commercial work almost equaling the finest engraving on steel. Value of work per annum, $25,000. Hands employed 20." (from John W. Merten article, listed below)
Fabronius and Ewing left the partnership.
Middleton left the partnership. The company's lithographs could now simulate oil portraits. During the Civil War era, the firm was credited with producing the first
of Washington, Lincoln, and Grant, among others.
The name of Middleton was dropped from the firm. It became "Strobridge and Gerlach," or "Strobridge, Gerlach and Wagner." The company moved to Pike's Opera House Building.
A fire in Pike's Opera House caused the Strobridge Company to lose all possessions, including its early records.
Strobridge purchased "E. C. Middleton and Co.," publishers of oil portraits. A reorganization and incorporation took place under the name "Strobridge and Company." With the invention of power machinery and the lithographic steam press, the industry saw an era of rapid development. For the next 25 years, Strobridge would be the largest producer of circus and theatrical posters in the country.
William Sumner became president of the company.
Hines Strobridge was named as manager.
Matt Morgan presumably crafted the first large multiple-sheet poster. The first large (16-sheet) outdoor poster ( Eliza Crossing the Ice) was exhibited at Fountain Square in Cincinnati.
The firm changed its name to "The Strobridge Lithographing Company."
George Fox became president.
Development began on a large modern building on Canal St. in Cincinnati. Clifford B. Wright was named president.
Hines Strobridge took over the company presidency (no longer listed as manager). Procter and Gamble's Ivory Soap was advertised on an outdoor poster developed by the firm. ("[This] is noteworthy on several counts: first, because it marks the recognition by industry of the large outdoor poster as an effective advertising medium; second, because it is reputed to be the first time that a photograph was 'blown up' to furnish the pictorial subject of a poster." (from John W. Merten article listed below)
On December 1, a fire destroyed the Canal St. building. In July, the company moved back into the rebuilt building.
Strobridge produced theater posters (by artists Mucha and Paul Jones, among others). The firm also issued company calendars, highlighting its renowned work in color by artist Harry Birdwell and others.
Hines Strobridge died. His son Nelson Strobridge became president of the company.
Strobridge began making posters for motion pictures (e.g. for producer Pathe). Posters were now printed from zinc, not stone, and the offset press was introduced. A number of additional advancements changed the way the company functioned. The focus of the firm turned from entertainment to the commercial poster. This era marked the growth of the automotive industry and thus of commercial outdoor advertising.
William Merten was named company general superintendent.
Merten became vice president.
Merten no longer held position of general superintendent.
The firm expanded by acquiring Henderson Lithographing Co. in Norwood. Through Merten, the firm participated in the creation and direction of the Lithographic Technical Foundation.
The entire firm relocated to the Norwood plant. Nelson Strobridge became chairman of the board. William Merten became president (and was also active as director of the Lithographers' National Association). John G. Strobridge (grandson of Hines) became vice president.
H. S. Crocker, Inc. acquired Strobridge Lithographing Co. (listed as division until 1970)
NOTE: Research and text for timeline by Kristen Kramer. Source of information and direct quotations: John W. Merten, Stone by Stone along a Hundred Years with the House of Strobridge, Bulletin of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, January, 1950, 8:1.
The Strobridge Lithographing Company, especially well-known for its production of circus and theatrical posters from the late 1800s and early 1900s, also produced a variety of printed items including maps, portraits, diplomas, counter displays, and blotters. The collection at Duke University contains only printed poster advertising work created from 1910 through 1954. The firm was established in Cincinnati, but a New York address can also be seen on the backs of some images in this collection.
Other Strobridge collections - including Strobridge images in color - may be found in a variety of repositories including the following: National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C.), Cincinnati Art Museum (Ohio), Cincinnati Historical Society (Ohio), Cincinnati Museum Center (Ohio), Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (Ohio), Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village (Dearborn, Mich.), Harvard University (Boston, Mass.), New York Public Library, Illinois State University-Milner Library (Normal, Ill.), Ringling Museum (Sarasota, Fla.), Circus World Museum (Baraboo, Wisc.), and the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.) among others.
In addition to the Merten article cited above, see the following sources for additional information:
Art as Image: Prints and Promotion in Cincinnati, Ohio. Alice M. Cornell, Editor. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press in association with the University of Cincinnati Digital Press, 2001.
Alden N. Monroe, Bigtop to Bijou: The Golden Age of the Show Poster, Queen City Heritage 1984, 42:2
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
- Strobridge & Co. Lith
- Strobridge & Co. Lith
- Advertising layout and typography
- Advertising -- History
- Advertising, Outdoor -- Posters
- Advertising, Outdoor -- Design and construction
- Advertising -- Posters
- Advertising, Outdoor -- United States
- Billboards -- United States
- Commercial art -- United States
- Lithography -- 20th century -- History
- Lithography, American - 20th Century -- History
- Posters -- United States
- Posters -- Design
- Posters, American -- 20th century -- United States
- Signs and signboards
The Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements were transferred to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library by Fairleigh Dickinson University Library in 1998 and 2000.
The collection came to Duke in good order with all of the "A" images (mostly 8x10 photographs of advertisements) together and all of the "B" images (advertisements on 5x7 and 5x8 printed cards) together. The "job tickets," which are actually photocopies of all the images, have been copied again onto acid-free paper. The original set is in numerical order. The second set was put in order according to product type categories used by the outdoor advertising industry. Thus, there are three access files to all images in the collection: (1) photocopies in order by number, (2) photocopies in order by product type or service (topic), and (3) a card file with descriptive information ordered by the pictured advertisement's brand name. The card file does contain some generic product-type headings also, e.g., gas ovens. It arrived with the collection and appears to be incomplete.
The Access Files (the photocopied job tickets and card file) and Image Files (photographs and printed cards) all refer to an "A" and "B" numbering system. Each file, however, does not have exactly the same number of items, and so certain series may be missing some individual numbers. Photographic materials have been sleeved in polypropylene.
As of October 2002, the advertisements in this collection were not indexed in the library's Resource for Outdoor Advertising Description (ROAD) database.
Processed by Lisa C. Chandek-Stark and Sierra Stults; finding aid by Lisa C. Chandek-Stark and Kristen Kramer
Completed September 2002
Encoded by Lisa C. Chandek-Stark
Processing of this collection was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.