Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why does the site cover only outdoor advertising images?
  2. Will there be more advertisements added to this site?
  3. Why are there no images along with the billboard descriptions? Am I able to print an image from this site?
  4. 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?
  5. I want to use an advertisement from this site. What do I do next?
  6. Where can I find information about outdoor advertising companies noted in the descriptions? Where can I find information about the companies and products that are included in this site?
  7. Does the Hartman Center have other advertisements that are not available on the web?
  8. How can I find out about other advertisement collections at the Hartman Center that are not up on the web?
  9. How can I find other historical advertisement collections on the web?
  10. How can I find out about advertisement collections in other libraries?
  11. I found a mistake in the descriptive information for a billboard. How can I let you know?
  12. 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?
  13. What should I do if I havecomments about the ROAD project or more questions that are not answered here?

1. Why does the site cover only outdoor advertising images?

The ROAD: Resource of Outdoor Advertising Descriptions project is a limited one, a pilot effort to make a large group of historic outdoor advertisements available to the public. We decided to use selected collections from the NEH Outdoor Advertising grant-funded project.  Within the database is descriptive information about each image  so that researchers would be able to locate outdoor advertisements pertinent to their topic. These items have not been available for research until this time, as they were not processed or described before the project began. As there are a large number of other Hartman Center advertising collections on-line, the ROAD project was deemed an obvious addition to these resources. Although ROAD does not include the images of the billboard advertisements themselves, the descriptions provide similar access as do the other Hartman Center electronic databases.

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

There are no current plans to add additional advertisements to this site. The ROAD project was part of an NEH grant which generously funded the organization and description of a variety of outdoor advertising collections. There may be opportunities in the future to add advertising image descriptions to this site, but as of December 2004 there were no specific projects selected for inclusion in ROAD.

There are, however, three additional advertising database projects on-line. These include: Ad*Access (images and descriptive information for 7,000 print advertisements dated between 1911-1955); EAA: The Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850-1920 (images and descriptive information of advertising items and publications illustrating the rise of consumer culture and the birth of a professionalized advertising industry); and, MMA: Medicine and Madison Avenue (images and descriptive information of over 600 health-related advertisements printed between 1911 and 1958, as well as 35 selected historical documents).

If you have more questions about the Hartman Center on-line collections, please contact the Hartman Center Reference Staff.

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3. Why are there no images along with the billboard descriptions? Am I able to print an image from this site?

There are no images along with the descriptions due to the parameters of time and money. The descriptions in this database were an added functionality to the original NEH grant which covered the physical organization and description only of ten outdoor advertising collections. Experience from the earlier advertising database projects informed the staff that in order to provide access that would benefit researchers in locating advertisements, time permitted intellectual access only to the advertisements. For the staff to have provided images of every advertisement, much more time and money would have been required to scan each item as well as to locate copyright owners of every outdoor advertising image.

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4. How can I get a physical image (e.g. slide, file 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.

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5. I want to use an advertisement from this site. What do I do next?

Once you have identified an image(s) that you would like to use, through consultation with the Reference Archivist, you may need to obtain copyright permission from the company whose product is in the advertisement. 

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.

Once permission is obtained from the company, please contact the Reference Archivist and the process of creation and transfer of the image will proceed. There is a fee for reproduction of an image.

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6. Where can I find information about outdoor advertising companies noted in the descriptions? Where can I find information about the companies and products that are included in this site?

There is a basic amount of information about the outdoor advertising companies noted within ROAD that may be found in the description of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives.

General background information on many companies (including outdoor advertising 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. 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.

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7. Does the Hartman Center have other advertisements that are not available on the web?

The Hartman Center on-line advertising projects include only a small portion of the thousands of print and slide advertisements in a variety of collections which are part of the Hartman Center's collections. The largest amount of advertisements are found in the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives.

There are several other important sources of printed advertisements at the Hartman Center. There are large files of ads for many of the clients of J. Walter Thompson Company. The archives of another major advertising agency, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (DMB&B), also contain extensive print ads for such clients as Procter & Gamble, General Foods, and Best Foods beginning in 1930. See FAQ #8 for more detailed information. For additional questions please contact our reference staff at Hartman-Center@duke.edu.

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

The Hartman Center has some collections that include printed advertisements from the late 19th and early 20th century and vast resources for the second half of the 20th century.

JWT's "Competitive Advertisement Collection," from which advertisements for the Ad*Access project were drawn, continues past 1955, and contains thousands of ads for each year up to the year 1997. 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.

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 other collections that include items or information about advertising. Contact the Hartman Center for additional reference assistance.

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.

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

There are other advertisement collections 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.

The Library of Congress contains various collections on their American Memory site, including the Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements.

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10. 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.

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11. I found a mistake in the descriptive information for a billboard. How can I let you know?

Please contact the Hartman Center Reference Archivist through email Hartman-Center@duke.edu) or phone (919-660-5827) and let us know what the error is. Please include the advertisement number (listed as the database number).

You will note that the entries in the database do not link to a responding image of the advertisement described. There are no images available directly through the ROAD on-line database. For more information about obtaining physical images of advertisements described in this project, please see FAQ #4. As with all the ads in ROAD, any use other than study or general interest requires that you, the user, seek copyright permission.

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12. 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?

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.

Advertising history is viewed by the Hartman Center as much more 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 Donate to the Hartman Center.

If you have advertisements or any sort of advertising historical material that you are considering donating to a library, you are welcome to contact the Director of the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at Duke University. 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.

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13. What should I do if I have comments about ROAD or more questions that are not answered here?

For specific questions about the advertisements in this database, please review the FAQs listed above. If you still have a question, please contact the Hartman Center Reference staff (Hartman-Center@duke.edu).

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