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Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University
Updated: 2 hours 12 min ago

Midwifing the Rise of Consumerism in Post-War France

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 20:02

Post contributed by Claire Payton, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History intern and Ph.D. candidate, Duke University Department of History

At the end of World War II, the meaning of family changed in profound ways. In Europe and North America, young couples set about starting new families. Their enthusiasm for procreation generated the demographic explosion known as the “baby boom.” Those who could afford it filled their homes with refrigerators, television sets, and baby toys, midwifing another major post-war transformation: the rise of consumerism.

Riding these twin dynamics, an upstart Parisian advertising firm was able to build up a small French company into a famous international brand. Publicis was a small ad firm founded in 1926 by Marcel Blustein-Blanchet, the son of Jewish immigrants. Blustein-Blanchet managed to flee when the Nazis occupied France in 1940. Publicis was shuttered and the office and equipment were seized by the government. But when the war ended he returned and, in 1946, reopened Publicis. One of the first new clients he signed while rebuilding from scratch was a small new company that specialized in maternity clothes called Prénatal.

Founded by Jean-Maire Mazart in 1947, Prénatal seized upon the social transformations of the era. With the help of Publicis, the company targeted young pregnant women who were looking to overcome the war through the power of consumerism. Mazart’s idea, inspired by the United States, was to provide women with high-end clothes in different sizes depending on how far along they were in their pregnancy. The idea was an immediate hit in France, and Prénatal expanded quickly. It diversified its products to include baby items so that loyal clients could continue to have things to buy things even after pregnancy was over and motherhood began. Within two decades, there were two hundred Prénatal storefronts in France, with more around Europe and overseas.

One of the ways Publicis drummed up excitement for its clients was to design large displays at major marketing events. These photos show its Prénatal installation at a 1950s Foire de Paris (Paris Fair) which was held in the luminous Parisian marketplace, Les Halles. The photos are part of a new acquisition at the Hartman Center, a Collection of French Advertising Display Binders that feature photos of Publicis advertisements, installations, and displays from the 1950s. The Publicis-Prénatal strategy is evident in the slogan painted on the walls: “Tout pour la future maman…Tout pour le nouveau ne” (Everything for the mom-to-be…Everything for the newborn). The design of the Prénatal display showcased the message that ideal mid-century motherhood–glamorous, clean, elegant–was available with the signing of a check.

By the late 1960s, the message pedaled by Prénatal and Publicis had lost some of its charm. The very people who might have worn Prénatal clothes as infants grew up to challenge post-war ideas of consumerism and the heteronormative nuclear family that the company’s products celebrated. With the increasing availability of contraceptives in the late 1960s, women could aspire to more than a fashionable and well-heeled pregnancy. Mazart sold the company in 1972; it closed its last doors in 1997. More able than its client to adapt to changing cultural norms, Publicis today is one of the world’s leading multinational advertising and public relations agencies.

The post Midwifing the Rise of Consumerism in Post-War France appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

New Acquisition about The Most Famous Reindeer of All

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 19:34

Post contributed by Claire Payton, John W.  Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History intern and Ph.D. candidate, Duke University Department of History

Just in time for the holiday season, the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History in the David M. Rubenstein Library has acquired a copy of the 1939 booklet that introduced Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer into the world.

Rudolph was invented by a Robert L. May, a 35-year old copywriter, for a promotional campaign at the Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago. May was inspired to pen the story of the humble, resilient, reindeer to cheer his daughter Barbara, whose mother was dying from cancer. Drawing from the “Ugly Duckling” story and his own memories of being ostracized as a child, May wrote a tale of an odd-looking deer whose unusual bright-red nose saves the day after Santa asks him to light the way on a particularly cloudy and foggy Christmas Eve. In the end, Rudolph is feted and admired by reindeer-peers who previously had bullied him. May collaborated with Denver Gillen, a colleague from Montgomery Ward’s art department, to create drawings to accompany the story. Their booklet, which first appeared in November 1939, became a hit, with nearly 2.5 million copies printed and distributed.

Production of the pamphlet ceased during WWII. Montgomery Ward resumed the marketing campaign in 1946, printing another 3.6 million copies. But in January 1947, for reasons that remain unclear, department story executives turned over copyright on the Rudolph story to May. This was a boon to the May family, which was reeling from medical bills accrued during the illness and death of May’s wife.

Luckily, the delightful story continued to enchant. In 1948, Rudolph became the hero of a short animated Christmas film. The following year, May’s brother-in-law, a songwriter named Johnny Marks, composed a jingle based on the reindeer’s adventure. The song was picked up by country-singer Gene Autry, whose version would become a smash-hit, selling more than 25 million copies worldwide. This song became the basis of a 1964 stop-motion animated film by Rankin/ Bass Productions based on Rudolph’s story.  The film became a classic holiday special that continues to air today. Rudolph not only saved Christmas, he also saved the May family from bankruptcy.

This unassuming 78-year-old booklet introduced an unlikely hero who transformed the life of an Illinois family and the culture of Christmas around the world.

The post New Acquisition about The Most Famous Reindeer of All appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Uncola: Seven-Up, Counterculture and the Making of an American Brand

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 21:21

Post contributed by Claire Payton, John W.  Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History intern and Ph.D. candidate, Duke University Department of History

It was 1967, and people weren’t drinking Seven-Up. Well, a few were: consumers mostly thought of the bubbly beverage as a mixer or a tonic to calm an upset stomach. But executives at the St. Louis-based Seven-Up Company were anxious to tap into a wider market. The company wanted to rebrand its product as a common soft-drink like the more well-known cola beverages, Pepsi or Coca-Cola. It enlisted a marketing team from the Chicago office of the J. Walter Thompson ad agency to help them. Out of this collaboration came one of the most famous advertising campaigns of the 20th century.

The late 1960s were a difficult time in America. The Vietnam War and the fight for civil rights divided the country.  Disillusioned young people were building a robust oppositional counter-culture that rejected war, racial segregation, and violence. The summer of 1967 became known as the “Summer of Love,” a period when hippies gathered in San Francisco and cities around the country in the hopes of igniting “a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.”

Seizing on this oppositional energy, the JWT team designed a campaign that framed 7-Up as the ultimate oppositional drink: the “Uncola.” Rather than trying to play up the similarities the soda shared with its competitors, the new ads focused on its differences. In the company newsletter, the team explained “Seven-Up advertising tells people that, of the three top-selling soft drink brands, 7-Up, the Uncola, is the only one with distinctly different qualities.”

The “Uncola” struck a chord with the younger generation as the first ads appeared in 1968. They focused on puns based around “un” part of the new slogan. By portraying Coke and Pepsi as “the Establishment,” JWT effectively situated 7-Up as an alternative brand for alternative people.

The following year JWT created a contest inviting artists to submit wildly imaginative designs for 7-Up ads. The submissions were presented to the client, who chose the final images. The winner received a $2000 reward and the opportunity to work with JWT to make final versions. From this contest, JWT and the Seven-Up company built a campaign of colorful road-side billboards with psychedelic graphics. Art by young graphic designers including Pat Dypold, Ed Georges, and Milton Glaser dotted highways across the country in 1969.

A 1973 article from Southern Advertising described the success of the billboard campaign: “To zero in on the college and younger age groups, [Seven-Up executive] Roesch has developed a different approach to the use of the outdoor medium. The agency’s media department uses outdoor as a means of zeroing in on a specific target . . . instead of as a mass media that doesn’t discriminate.  The boards are located accordingly, and the art used is slated to the specific likes of the age groups. The result has been demand for Seven-Up posters to be used as room decorations, party decorations, all without any promotion by the company.”

The campaign complemented its print ads and billboards with television spots. The most memorable ads from this campaign featured Trinidadian dancer and actor Geoffrey Holder explaining the difference between ugly, dry, kola nuts and the tangy, juicy lemon and limes that flavor 7-Up. The ad broke racial barriers within the Seven-Up Company, which until then had never used black actors in its television ads.

The Uncola campaign continued into the 1970s. As times changed, the campaign tried to stay in dialog with oppositional culture by incorporating new visual mediums such as grafitti. JWT argued that “In 1968, the rebellious approach of youth was a workable parallel for the rebellious approach of Seven-Up. Today, in the Seventies, the attack remains viable.” However, 7-Up’s hard-won market share declined over the course of the decade, losing ground to the growing popularity of another lemon-lime soda, Sprite.

Perhaps the soda became a victim of its own success. The Uncola campaign had so effectively linked to the youth of the 1960s that by the 1990s, it was considered ”what old people drink,” in the words of one financial analyst, “and that’s not what you want in a soft drink.” In 1998, the company finally dropped the Uncola slogan and reinvented its formula. Since then the company has since tried several different campaigns to redefine its identity without success. Regardless, the Uncola campaign will remain a mainstay of the consumer culture of 20th century America and a sign of the times in which it was created.

 

The post Uncola: Seven-Up, Counterculture and the Making of an American Brand appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

‘We Try Harder’ and Other Famous Ad Campaigns by Paula Green

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 15:01

Post contributed by Cameron Byerly, a rising junior at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.  He helped process the Paula Green papers through St. John’s Hodson Internship Program during Summer 2017.

Photograph of Paula Green from the Paula Green papers at the Rubenstein Library.

It’s not the size of the budget
It’s the ferocity of the idea
–Paula GRRRRReen

Paula Green’s papers amounted to nearly 100 boxes of print documents, photographs and audiovisual materials, which is intimidating for a first archival processing project.

My relief was immediate when I discovered these boxes contained dozens of awards, fascinating drafts and edits to ads, pleasant correspondence, articles explaining an honest and steadfast worldview, and above all, a character who I came to deeply respect the voice and intents of through a long and successful career.

Union Label song created by Paula Green and Malcolm Dodds in 1975 for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

The central theme I would use to describe Paula Green’s work is ‘cause-driven’. Paula’s speeches and correspondence make it clear she chose clients she personally believed in, including the local jobs offered by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), and the work she did to fight breast cancer with the U.S. government’s Public Health Service and the American Cancer Society. Perhaps her largest success was her part in creating the “Look for the Union Label” song for the ILGWU in the 70’s. The song’s importance became more tangible to me when reading President Jimmy Carter’s quote “Sometimes I have a hard time deciding which I like best, ‘Hail to the Chief’ or ‘Look for the Union Label,’” and the subsequent parodies from newspaper comics, South Park and Saturday Night Live. The song represented an enormous collective effort of the American fight for local jobs. As I pieced together Paula’s insistence on visiting local factories, employing real workers for TV spots, and saying “please buy from us” rather than “don’t buy from foreigners,” I realized that she applied her own moral standard to the work she believed in.

Paula Green created the now famous “We Try Harder” campaign for Avis in 1962.

The second notable theme in Paula Green’s work is intelligence. Her early success at Doyle Dane Bernbach with the ‘We’re No. 2’ advertising campaign for Avis car rental allowed her the economic power to create her own advertising agency in 1975, and demonstrated her intelligence in engaging with the audience. I consider how well her methods would work in today’s more image-driven and crowded advertising landscape. Records of her work include hundreds of edits of reasoned arguments and recipes used to include in her marketing of food products. She often argued against a more deceptive world of associating lifestyles with products, and instead cleanly focused on the merits of her products. Her copywriting involved well-written sentences to back up her buzz-words and intelligent methodology in expressing her ideas. 

A cookbook as part of an advertising campaign created by Paula Green for Goya in the 1980s.

Paula Green had many clients like Subaru and Goya food, and she played an integral role in helping their products hit mainstream American audiences. She was an agency-leading woman in an industry dominated by men, and was even an invited guest at the White House for Jimmy Carter’s executive order to help female-run businesses. Her “Don’t be afraid, it’s what you don’t know that can hurt you” campaign for the American Cancer Society encouraged women to conduct breast self-examinations at a time when regulations made it difficult to even correctly describe the process. Paula Green’s influence was felt by nearly every media-consuming adult in America during her work years, and continues to resonate today.

I enjoyed the process of sorting through her life’s work and making an organized whole collection. The collection demonstrates what an ad agency does, how Paula Green employed intelligence and morality into her work, and what it means to say a large amount in few words, from correspondence to new clients to her famous ads.

Paula Green began working with the American Cancer society in 1969 to create breast cancer self-examination ads.

 

Paula Green’s papers are held at the David M. Rubenstein Library as part of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, & Marketing History.

The post ‘We Try Harder’ and Other Famous Ad Campaigns by Paula Green appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

October 31st: Screamfest V

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 13:00

Post contributed by Sierra Moore, Library Assistant for Research Services

Date: Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Time: 1:30-3:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Contact: Rubenstein Library front desk, 919-660-5822

As all Hallows’ Eve draws near there are a multitude of reasons why you might traipse through all places dark, gloomy, and strange. Here at the Rubenstein Library your travels will be far less perilous. Nonetheless, we have compiled samples from collections containing chilling texts and photographs certain to both entertain, enchant, and imbibe the type of intrigue you seek. Here is a brief preview of what we have in store:

An early version of our very own Blue Devil mascot lingers before the Chapel.

A copy of Stephen King’s IT, ca. 1986.

From our Postcard Collection, a selection of Halloween postcards.

Black and white images of puppets from Puppets and the Puppet Theater.

Please join us on Tuesday, October 31st from 1:30-3:30 PM for a most festive open house certain to rouse the spirits!

The post October 31st: Screamfest V appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Story+ Students Create “Race & Ethnicity in Advertising” Website

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 17:36
Pantyhose advertisement from the Jean Kilbourne Papers.

Post contributed by Jessica Chen. Jessica is a Duke undergraduate and  was a participant in the Story+ program during Summer 2017.

This summer marked the first incarnation of Story+, a program for humanities research and dynamic storytelling sponsored by Duke University’s Franklin Humanities Institute. Each project team consisted of a few Duke undergraduates, one graduate student mentor, and a “client” such as the NC Justice Center, the Duke Classics Lab, and the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History. As an art history major interested in archival work, I applied (and was hired) for a position with the Hartman Center’s “Race and Ethnicity in Advertising” project. The other students on the project included Lizzie Butcher, Cyan DeVeaux and our mentor, Meghan O’Neil.

Perfume advertisement from the Jean Kilbourne Papers.

Our assignment was to create a digital resource for students and researchers that would serve as a portal for the Hartman Center’s resources related to underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the United States. At first I wasn’t sure what ‘humanities research’ really entailed. I also didn’t know what the Hartman Center was, and I was confused as to why the Rubenstein Library wasn’t a normal, circulating library. Luckily, Hartman Center staff gave us an overview of the Center’s collections and the process of requesting and reserving materials for research. In the reading room, we looked at collections that featured different perspectives in the advertising industry: personal and professional documents of people of color who worked in advertising, marketing research reports analyzing and interpreting minority groups as consumer segments, and depictions of race and ethnicity in print advertising. We met with Hartman Center staff to present both our research findings and our website design ideas. We also were trained in how to build a website using Omeka.

Besides links to the various pertinent collections and a gallery of images, our website includes exhibits that each of us created with material from the Hartman Center, allowing us to pursue our individual interests in more depth. Our exhibits varied widely in topic. Lizzie Butcher’s exhibit described the “Black is Beautiful” movement in the 1960s and its effect on print advertisements, while Cyan DeVeaux’s exhibit depicted the development of professionals of color working in advertising. My exhibit, which illustrated the evolution of marketing research focused on minorities, taught me how to piece a narrative together by showcasing items from the Hartman Center’s collections and incorporating secondary sources to provide the historical context.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Story+ program and this project, I learned how to conduct archival research, work in a highly interdisciplinary team, and create a website with assorted features – skills I had always wanted to develop, but didn’t have the opportunity to do so before this summer. I look forward to doing more humanities research in the future and spending more time in the Rubenstein Library, as well!

Check out the Hartman Center’s new Race & Ethnicity in Advertising website!

The post Story+ Students Create “Race & Ethnicity in Advertising” Website appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

New Acquisitions – African American history marketing and promotional posters, 1967-1984.

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 14:00

Post contributed by Jacqueline Reid Wachholz, Director, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

In response to the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century, many advertisers began to see the African American market in a new, and profitable, light. Advertising campaigns were developed over the next few decades celebrating African and African American heritage as a method of advertising products to this demographic. The Rubenstein Library’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History and John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture jointly acquired this collection of 48 items showcasing black Americans through advertisements and political campaigns aimed at African Americans from the 1970s through the 1990s. Collected by a former public relations associated with the NAACP, this collection represents some NAACP marketing work and advertising images depicting notable African Americans and significant moments in African American history. These posters include biographical sketches of African American writers, scientists, professional athletes, soldiers, civil rights workers, entertainers, and other historical figures. Included are also a number of posters produced by and for the NAACP that the organization’s campaigns to reduce poverty and school dropout rates and increase voter registration and membership in the NAACP. Notable advertising campaigns include Budweiser’s “Great Kings of Africa” Series, Pepsi Cola’s “The Black Presence” Series, and the CIBA-GEIGY Corporation’s “Exceptional Black Scientists” Series.

Great Kings of Africa. A marketing campaign started in 1975 by the Anheuser-Busch Corporation designed to appeal to an African American audience while at the same time promoting African History. During its over 25-year campaign and with a total of 30 different images, it has been either celebrated as a means of showcasing and promoting African history or criticized for, as Rev Michael Pfleger of South Side Chicago’s St. Sabina Catholic Church puts it “one more attempt by the alcohol and tobacco industries to buy a reputation in the African-American community.” The campaign consisted of a series of paintings done by African-American artists commissioned by Anheuser-Busch that were accompanied by a short history of the subject being portrayed

Exceptional Black Scientists, CIBA-GEIGY, 1980-1984: These posters are meant to celebrate current scientific leaders of African American descent and inspire minority students to pursue careers in science. Each individual selected had recently made a substantial scientific discovery in their respective field. The posters are derived from portraits done by noted black artist and illustrator Ernest Chrichlow. This series was advertised directly to teachers, and was meant to be placed in the classroom, science fairs, or community centers.

Black Presences, PepsiCo, circa 1980s: A series of posters, that celebrated the African American ‘presence’ in America’s history and culture. Each poster features a portrait of the individual selected, a short biography, and is entitled by the category of culture (arts, sports, history, etc.) that the individual belongs to.

 

These posters are available to researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

The post New Acquisitions – African American history marketing and promotional posters, 1967-1984. appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 19:34

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

Brimming with wanderlust, Lillian Boxfish traveled to Manhattan to start her career as a “daring and unmarried” woman in 1926. And so opens the first chapter of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

This fascinating premise is inspired by the life of Margaret Fishback, a poet and pioneer in the advertising industry whose papers are part of the Hartman Center Collections. Kathleen Rooney, the author, uncovered the intriguing history of Fishback in the spring of 2007. With the support of a Hartman Center travel grant, Rooney looked through hundreds of documents, piecing together Fishback’s life story. Fishback was raised in Washington D.C., earned her bachelors from Goucher College in 1921, and became a divisional copywriter for Macy’s in 1926. She was immensely successful and employed her playful and witty language in diverse advertising campaigns. Her early career success was recognized by local newspapers, one of them describing her as “the highest paid advertising woman in the world.” She went on to work at several other advertising agencies including Cecil & Presbrey, Warwick & Legler, Young & Rubicam, and Doyle Dane Bernbach whose clients ranged from Chef-Boyardee to Simmons Beauty Rest. All the while, she built her poetry career, publishing several books, the most widely received One to a Customer: Collected Poems of Margaret Fishback (1947).

Margaret Fishback during her time at Doyle Dane Bernbach, c. 1950-1964, photograph by G. Maillard Kesslere, Margaret Fishback Papers, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Inspired by the remarkable career of Margaret Fishback, the story of Lillian Boxfish provides a mesmerizing glimpse into the personal life and inner most thoughts of a career-oriented, gregarious woman living and working in one of America’s most dynamic cities. The main character is an octogenarian residing in Murray Hill. She has an effortless routine, stopping by local establishments and regularly visiting old friends in the neighborhood. Rooney plays with time like she plays with language, seamlessly weaving flashbacks of Lillian’s young adult life in New York with the octogenarian’s meanderings.

Early on, we learn that Lillian grew up in Washington D.C. in a family that valued poise and polish over her natural adventurousness and inquisitive mind. Her mother strongly disapproved of these latter characteristics, hoping that Lillian would marry and pursue the domestic arts with great fervor. Instead, Lillian modeled her dreams after the life of her unconventional aunt, Sadie Boxfish. It was her aunt who introduced Lillian to poetry, which became one of her passions, through a series of postcards written about a fictional adventurist named Phoebe Snow.

Lillian’s mother seethed with disapproval whenever a new postcard arrived, painted with vibrant, playful words.

Miss Phoebe Snow has stopped to show
Her ticket at the gate, you know.
The Guard, polite, declares it right.
Of course—it’s Road of Anthracite

As Lillian recalls, “In [my mother’s] contralto above my ear I could hear, in her neat bosom behind my head I could feel, her disapproval: not of Phoebe, but of Sadie.” Although strong, her mother’s opinions were not strong enough to keep Lillian in D.C. and so the novel recounts a young woman’s quest of self discovery and professional success at a time when the diadem of the Chrysler Building first sparkled on the New York skyline.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is a refreshing and poetic novel. The prose is captivating, the characters are compelling, and the topics are relevant, ranging from discussion over equal pay to sexual liberation. A thrillingly progressive character for her time, Lillian Boxfish is delightfully portrayed in this historically-inspired novel by Kathleen Rooney. As the academic years comes to a close, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk should make your short list for summer reading.

The post Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Kerry Cake and Sadie Seal (1971) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 13:50

Post contributed by Erin RyanDrill Intern for the Duke University Archives. 

When I first signed up to do a Rubenstein Test Kitchen blog post, my plan was to do something from an early-to-mid 20th-century vegetarian cookbook in our collections. I’ve been a vegetarian since the mid-’90s.

But then, as I was browsing our library catalog, I came across 401 Party and Holiday Ideas from ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America, 1971) in our Nicole Di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks. I was intrigued; my grandfather—my dad’s father—worked for ALCOA for about 35 years, until his retirement in the early ’80s.

Pretty soon, I was hooked.

This amazing book features the creations of one Conny von Hagen, who worked as a designer for ALCOA, still one of the largest producers of aluminum.

Conny was also behind 1959’s Alcoa’s Book Of Decorations: A Year-Round Treasury of Easy-to-do Decorations for Holidays and Special Occasions. According to the timeline on their website, ALCOA introduced aluminum foil to the U.S. in 1910—you can see some “Alcoa Wrap” next to Conny in the picture below. This introductory page also explains that her designs appeared on TV, in newspapers and in magazines.

401 Party and Holiday Ideas from ALCOA has ideas for 24 separate occasions, from Christmas and Hanukkah to “Teen-Age Party” and Election Day.

For this post, I decided to make (1) a food recipe; (2) a foil creation.

The food: Kerry Cake

I made Irish Apple Cake, or Kerry Cake, from the “Saint Patrick’s Day” chapter of 401 Party and Holiday Ideas. Criteria: It had to be vegetarian, and it had to be easy (I was pressed for time). I also wanted to serve it at my Easter family gathering. I didn’t like any of the Easter recipes, though. So a quick look through the rest of the book, and I settled on this:

My ancestry is mostly Irish, but I did not know anything about Kerry Cake until I read here that it is a traditional Irish apple bread that was baked in an iron cooking pot called a bastible, hung over the fire.

But this 1971 recipe just called for an 8-inch cake pan in a regular oven, and that’s what I used. I was making this in my mom’s kitchen, so I got to use the sifter that had belonged to her mom. Mom told me we had relatives from County Kerry, too.

I’m a pretty laissez-faire cook, in general. So I didn’t mind that the recipe didn’t specify what kind of apples to use, how big to cut the pieces, etc. I went for Granny Smith. They were pretty huge apples, so Mom and I decided I should just use two, to equal the “three medium” the recipe called for.

In all, it took me about 50 minutes to grate the lemon rind, cut up the apple, and put the batter together. I greased the pan with butter, baked it exactly according to instructions (30 minutes at 375), and it came out perfectly.

I whipped some heavy cream and served this cake at our Easter dinner. I was afraid it would be bland without spices, or that the lemon would taste strange. But it was delicious. Moist, not too sweet, and the lemon was exactly the right amount to accentuate the apples and butter. There were six adults at dinner, including a guest from Colombia, and everybody loved the Kerry Cake. Almost the whole cake was gone by the end of the night.

The foil creation: Sadie Seal

So many ideas here! It was tough to choose, but I settled on Sadie Seal, one of the circus animals on offer in the Kids’ Korner section.

In her introduction, Conny said to use things that were lying around the house to construct our decorations, so I rounded up a bunch of felt, foam balls, pompoms, and other supplies I had left over from a Halloween costume I never made. I already had a roll of heavy-duty foil in my cabinet. The instructions were not very detailed, as you can see from the photos below, but I did my best.


Making the “mouth” was not easy. Once I cut off the extra foil, I was left with a hard, solid lump of metal that was sharp and nearly impossible to shape.

No guidance either on how to make the flippers. My first attempt gave her absurdly long arms; then I shortened them so much they didn’t touch the floor; and then went with my imperfect third try. I pinned the flippers on the body, cut some eyes out of black felt and pinned those on too. I couldn’t find any ribbon for her neck …  so … voila!

I was disappointed at first. It took me about 40 minutes to make this odd little bird-like creature and she didn’t look like the picture at all. But … I took her home on Easter weekend to show her to my gathered family. Once she had ridden with me in the car for 2.5 hours, looking at me with her little felt eyes, I felt like we’d bonded. Plus, everybody thought she was cute. (Mom thought she looked like a turtle.)

*I promise: all extra foil scraps from this project were duly recycled! But I’m not recycling Sadie any time soon. I’m pretty fond of her now. She’s staying on my desk.

The post Kerry Cake and Sadie Seal (1971) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Talking to Customers Through the Screen Door: JWT, Lux soap, and the surprising ecological expertise of 1920s American consumers

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 14:00

Post written by Spring Greeney, a doctoral candidate in the History Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a recepient of a Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History Alvin A. Achenbaum Travel Grant.

Since at least the late 1930s, advertising firms have soliciting consumer feedback using what marketing guru Ernest Dichter termed the “focus group:” a laboratory-like controlled environment in which users test a single product while observed or interviewed by product developers. The focus group’s more place-based antecedent, the test kitchen, relies on a similarly anodyne concept of space: gleaming appliances, linoleum flooring, and replicability are the test kitchen’s distinguishing features.

But what more place-attentive research strategies did an advertising giant like J. Walter Thompson Company employ to solicit consumer perspective? To put a finer point on it: prior to the mid-century consolidation of a truly mass market in the U.S., how did a company like JWT account for local heterogeneity—differences in climate, topography, demographics, or consumption habits—when attempting to transform regionally popular products into truly national brands?

In its century-long relationship with JWT, the Lever Brothers soap company serves as an excellent case with which to answer questions about the environmental history of marketing. A British soap manufacturing company begun in 1885, Lever Brothers’ president William Leverhulme had begun as a wholesale butter grocer, a fact that kept the man attentive to the fundamentally ecological roots of his company’s product line. After purchased soap manufacturing plants in Boston and Philadelphia in 1897 and 1899, respectively, Leverhulme set his sights on selling Lever-branded soaps in the expanding U.S. consumer market.

Such sales would not be realized. U.S. sales stagnated following the 1907 roll-out of Lux Soap Flakes and Rinso Laundry Powder in northeastern grocery stores. Consumers remained unmoved by advertising appeals boasting that “This Wonderful New Product Won’t Shrink Woolens!” with the only uptick in sluggish sales confined to March and April. Boxes of Rinso laundry powder, similarly, lingered on drugstore shelves.

Why were American consumers so uninterested? Convinced of the attributes of advertising, the head of the U.S. division of Lever Brothers signed a contract with JWT in 1916 to answer precisely this question.

With focus groups still two decades away, JWT account managers adopted a simple boots-on-the-ground research strategy. In conversations had over fence posts and through screen doors, JWT employees talked with potential customers everywhere from “small towns and Farms in Iowa and South Dakota” to apartment complexes in Chicago, Louisville, New York. 399 interviews in 1918; 328 in 1919; 1741 in 1921.

Interview log from JWT’s interviews with consumers about Lux soap.

The results were astounding. “Resistances from the customer were mainly … the limitations of the appeal—Lux for washing woolens,” reported one executive, observing that many American buyers of Lux wore silk or synthetics rather than woolen undergarments. “Women liked Lux for easy suds, satisfactory cleansing of dishes and easier on hands,” reported another, with wonder that a product intended for washing flannels was ending up in the kitchen sink. Added another, betraying some defensiveness while bolstering the firm’s claims to effective person-to-person research, “These facts show a continuous contact with the Lux situation.”

Consumers, for their part, were full of ecologically specific requests and recommendations. In New England, buyers explained that they only used Lux during the months of spring cleaning, March and April, to soak winter odors out of woolen blankets and sweaters headed to the attic. The year-round Lux sales pitch (“Won’t shrink woolens!”) had been culturally and seasonally off-key. Or consider this revelation about water chemistry. In regions of the country where hard water was common because of calcium- or magnesium-rich bedrock, Rinso was unpopular because it reacted with dissolved calcium to form a “soap curd” on the top of the wash water. The same problem was cropping up in cities like Boston and New York, where the advent of indoor plumbing had subverted the 19th-century practice of collecting rainwater—always soft—for washing clothes.

Lever Brother products changed in accordance with consumer feedback. As early as 1917, ad copy of Lux began boasting, “Won’t turn silks yellow! Won’t injure even chiffons!” and the box featured reminders that the soap could be used to wash dishes. Lever commercial chemists, meanwhile, increased the fat content of the laundry powder to allow its claim as “the granulated hard-water soap.” The shipping department, meanwhile, acknowledged heterogeneity on the national marketing map: “We are now shipping into the so-called hard water districts Rinso containing 45% fatty acids and the present plans are to bring this percentage up to 48%.” More fatty soap, even if more expensive, would allow uniform product performance across region, regardless of ecological distinction.

Consumer insights such as these, collected via “old-fashioned” direct interviews and telephone calls, remind us that JWT’s early research strategies solicited crucial information for securing Lever Brothers’ financial success in the U.S. JWT’s papers with Lever Brothers also remind us, in echoes, that consumers themselves were active workers and shapers of their local environments. As workers, not just buyers, homemakers were placed in direct contact with messy nature appearing in gritty wash water, uncooperative soaps, delicate fibers, and the weight of wet wool. When and how such consumer identities become politicized, as in the case of the 1970s Lake Erie water pollution contests, is intimately tied to the half-century development of Lever Brothers itself.

 

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Pioneering African-American Women in the Advertising Business, Biographies of MAD Black Women

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 20:47

Date: Wednesday February 22
Time: 3:30 to 4:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
Optional Facebook RSVP

Dr. Judy Foster Davis of Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business will present on her research into the history of African-American women who have worked in the advertising industry. She has recently published a new book on this topic,  Pioneering African-American Women in the Advertising Business, Biographies of MAD Black WOMENHer research focuses on marketing communications strategies and policies in corporate and entrepreneurial settings and historical and multicultural marketing topics. This event is part of the Hartman Center’s 25th Anniversary lecture series focusing on women in advertising and is co-sponsored by the Baldwin Scholars and African & African American Studies.

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Patsy Breaks into Advertising: Women’s Recruitment on Madison Avenue

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 16:53

You might be surprised to learn that advertising agencies have a long history of recruiting female employees. Compared to other corporate fields, ad agencies developed fairly progressive attitudes towards women’s employment as early as the late nineteenth century. At that time, women wrote advice manuals for those seeking to build professional careers. One such book, Occupations for Women (1897), contains an entire chapter on advertising. That chapter notes: “A business field which women are exploring with success is that of advertising […] So clever have women proven themselves in this special line, that hardly a manufacturer having goods toward which he wishes to attract attention, fails to avail himself of their availability.” Encouraged by the descriptions in these manuals, women entered into clerical work at ad agencies. Some of them earned promotions, becoming copywriters or market researchers, among other advanced positions. Irene Sickel Sims was one such pioneering woman who we’ve already profiled in The Devil’s Tale. She worked as an assistant advertising manager and chief of copy for the retail advertising bureau of Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago in the 1910s and 1920s.

Agencies understood that female advertisers and diverse perspectives were key for successfully marketing to women consumers who made the vast majority of household purchases. According to a 1917 “house ad” created by the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT), the company had recently “developed a staff of women” to target the large demographic of female buyers. The ad goes on to note that “over a period of years, this staff has illustrated that women, thoroughly trained in advertising, working with men, can establish facts which cannot be even approximated by men working alone.” Those women recruits, hailing from some of the most prestigious universities in the country, created highly successful advertising campaigns for JWT clients. Although some women were able to enter into the field of advertising in roles beyond that of a typist or executive assistant, the majority of employees in executive roles remained white men. It was not until the post-WWII period that significant numbers of women and people of color began taking on positions as ad executives.

Author photo in Patsy Breaks into Advertising. (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946). 

In the post-WWII period, women published fictionalized works encouraging girls to consider advertising as a potential career. E. Evalyn Grumbine, for example, wrote two novels that tell the story of a young woman who achieves career success in the field: Patsy Succeeds in Advertising (1944) and Patsy Breaks into Advertising (1946). In writing Patsy’s character, Grumbine drew upon her own professional experiences as the advertising director and assistant publisher of Child Life Magazine.

Grumbine’s aim was to provide young women with a realistic portrayal of the professional and personal life of a career woman. In Patsy Breaks into Advertising, for example, the main character’s professional journey is marred by setbacks. Over the course of her burgeoning career, she deals with missed job opportunities, personality conflicts with work colleagues, and an inability to meet deadlines. Yet, she shows resilience and learns key skills like how to handle copy and cuts for production that enable her to eventually earn a position as an advertising manager. Patsy Breaks into Advertising, therefore, is much more than a career guide, it is also a commentary on the American work ethic at that time.

Front Cover, Patsy Breaks into Advertising (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946). 

Advertising was one of many professional fields that juvenile literature highlighted in order to encourage industriousness in young women. Other fictional characters included librarians, realtors, nurses, doctors, and stewardesses. The Rubenstein has numerous books in our collections that illuminate societal views on career advancement for young women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Back cover listing other career books offered by Dodd, Mead & Company, Patsy Breaks into Advertising (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946). 

You can learn more about JWT, career books, and the role of women in advertising via the “Agencies Prefer Men!” The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, open through March 17, 2017 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

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From Hawaiian Pie to Mustard Meringue: The Role of Test Kitchens in Modern Advertising

Mon, 12/19/2016 - 20:57

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

One of the Duke Libraries’ most popular blog series is the Rubenstein Test Kitchen. For this series, we invite library staff and affiliated scholars to recreate historic recipes, some of which delight and some of which cause fright (wiggly meat jell-o, believe it or not, isn’t as appealing as it once was to the American consumer). Our contributors exercise a fair amount of creativity and patience as they replicate decades- or even centuries-old recipes. Their trials and tribulations at the stovetop are indicative of the culinary skills and know-how that can be lost in translation. For example, many historic gumbo recipes begin with the phrase, “First you make a roux,” but do not provide instructions for how to actually make the roux. The creators of those recipes assumed that readers would have mastered the challenging technique of slowly toasting flour in fat, which, in the 1800s was common knowledge. Many Americans today, however, would not know how to start a roux or even know that it is a traditional base for sauces and soups. Recipe writing and replication are no easy tasks.

Reflecting on our popular posts, a question came to mind: where did test kitchens originate? After co-curating our most recent exhibit, “Agencies Prefer Men!” The Women of Madison Avenue, I learned that the early history of test kitchens is actually tied to advertising agencies.

J. Walter Thompson’s Chicago office test kitchen, 1919. JWT Archives, Iconographic Collection.

In 1919, the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) was the first advertising agency to invest in an on-site home economics service and test kitchen. The initial purpose of the kitchen, according to the JWT News Bulletin, was simple: “to invent and test recipes” in order to instruct women “how to get the best results with the greatest economy.” The kitchen was located in the Chicago office, which catered to important clients in the food industry, including Libby, Kraft, and Quaker.

As the test kitchen matured, its goals diversified to fit the demands of JWT clients. Researchers in the test kitchen, for example, worked to discover new uses for client products so as to increase sales opportunities in new fields. The test kitchen also had an important relationship with the art department at JWT. Researchers prepared dishes and brought them to the art team to be photographed for print advertisements. Those early experiments regularly failed because the food quickly lost its luster and thus looked unappetizing in photos. After an hour or so, for example, flaky biscuits and airy souffle no longer looked fresh. In order to remedy this issue, JWT employed home economics experts and renovated the test kitchen space, turning it into an “art gallery” for prepared foods. JWT understood the importance of the adage, “we eat with our eyes first.” The efforts of JWT paid off. As recounted in the News Bulletin, “The piping hot biscuits of the copy were made ten times as attractive by the delicate flakiness of the samples in the illustration.”

In this laboratory, test kitchen staff also created recipes to include in print advertisements. For example, they would have tested Libby’s products like Hawaiian Sliced Pineapple and Pineapple Juice before the agency designed advertisements for publication in magazines like The Ladies’ Home Journal

Libby’s advertisement, 1947. JWT Archives, Domestic Advertisements.

In time, the test kitchens of JWT not only functioned as places to present foods more effectively in advertising, but also as places that defined the trajectory of American cooking. As reported in the September 1958 JWT newsletter, the Home Economics Center was “an endless source of food ideas of all kinds.” As a promotion for their client, French’s mustard, JWT created a new recipe for meatloaf that featured a tangy mustard meringue on top of a mustard-laced loaf. The researchers also created a recipe for a heartier pizza crust made with French’s mustard. These innovative uses for ordinary products helped boost sales for many of JWT’s clients, bolstering the company’s reputation as one of the most dynamic and influential advertising agencies in the world.

J. Walter Thompson’s Chicago Office Test Kitchen featuring Mabel Anderson (left), the head of the Home Economics Division, and Mildred Stull (right), 1958. JWT Archives, Iconographic Collection.

As we ready ourselves for the next round of Rubenstein Test Kitchen posts, I hope that our contributors think back on the paramount role that test kitchen researchers played in the making of the modern American palate, including the fascinating recipes preserved in our archives.

You can learn more about the JWT test kitchen researchers and their contemporaries in advertising via the “Agencies Prefer Men!” The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, open through March 17, 2017 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Have You Driven a Ford Advertisement Lately?

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 21:53

Post contributed by Josh Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History.

One of the heaviest circulating collections in the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History is the Domestic Advertisements collection in the J. Walter Thompson Co. (JWT) advertising agency archives.  The collection documents the print advertisements designed for magazines and newspapers for the agency’s clients in the United States.  One of the most popular clients represented in the collection is the Ford Motor Company.

https://repository.duke.edu/dc/jwtfordmotorads/jwtad010020030

JWT and the Ford Motor Company have a long standing agency/client relationship, one still active today.  The agency officially added Ford to its roster of clients in 1943 and launched the now iconic “There’s a Ford in Your Future,” campaign the following year.  In the ensuing decades, JWT helped Ford launch many new automobile models including the Thunderbird, Mustang, Pinto, Taurus, Explorer, Ranger, and Escort.  The agency crafted several well-known Ford campaigns including the first advertising “roadblock” announcing the launch of the Mustang in 1964; “Have You Driven a Ford Lately?”; the Falcon campaign incorporating Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters; and “No Boundaries.”

https://repository.duke.edu/dc/jwtfordmotorads/jwtad250050020

Thanks to the work of the Duke University Libraries’ Technical Services, Conservation Department, Digital Production Center, and Enterprise Services, nearly 12,000 Ford Motor Co. advertisements documenting JWT’s seven decades of creative work for Ford Motor Company are now available to students, scholars, and gearheads in our new digital collection.

https://repository.duke.edu/dc/jwtfordmotorads/jwtad300030050

In addition to advertisements for cars, trucks, vans and SUVs, the collection also includes ads for the company’s farm implement division, Ford Farm, Ford Motorsports, taxi cabs, school buses, and police vehicles.  Advertisements for the Ford line of genuine replacement parts, Motorcraft, Ford automotive services, promotional literature, outdoor advertising, and insertion schedules are also among the materials represented in the collection.  All ads are keyword searchable and browsable by model, vehicle category, and multiple subjects and ad formats.

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Rena Bartos and “The Moving Target” in Modern Advertising

Mon, 11/21/2016 - 19:17

As one of the first female advertising executives in the country, Rena Bartos dramatically changed the way advertising envisioned women, both in the board room and in their marketing products.

Rena Bartos, c. 1970s, JWT Archives, Iconographic Collection, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

While at JWT, Bartos created a pioneering concept in marketing called “The Moving Target,” which treated women as diverse consumers, rather than a monolithic group. She argued that in the 1970s, women’s attitudes and lifestyles were changing and accordingly so were their consumer habits. According to Bartos, the 1970s were different from previous decades because men and women increasingly purchased consumer goods together. She named that historical period, “the era of partnership,” highlighting the more egalitarian division of labor among men and women both at home and at the workplace and its impact on consumerism.

The Moving Target. J. Walter Thompson Company, 1974. JWT Archives, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

In order to understand the shifting desires of women consumers, Bartos took into account the influence of women’s careers on their consumer habits. Responding to inquiries about whether or not “working” and “non-working” women shared similar needs, she argued that in order to make a fair comparison between the two groups, one must take into account their life situations including whether or not they were married or if they had children. Defined by more than just their career paths, women’s consumer needs were complex and constantly shifting, indicative of Bartos’ Moving Target concept.

Spiegel advertisement, Vogue, 1980, Jean Kilbourne Papers, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

As pointed out in The Moving Target (1974), there was a growing trend in advertising “toward depicting the woman who is happily fulfilled in traditional areas–as wife and mother–and how, in addition, holds a job she likes.” The 1980 Spiegel advertisement above is indicative of that trend. The ad quotes a working mom: “I’ve successfully managed one aviation company, two children and three languages.” According to Bartos, the majority of advertisements, however, continued to depict women as either housewives or as anxious working women, “scurrying home from the office to take her house-wifely tasks anxiously in hand.” Her work, therefore, came at a crucial time in advertising, encouraging the industry to embrace the reality of a multi-dimensional American experience.

Enjoli advertisement, Vogue, 1978, Jean Kilbourne Papers, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Bartos’ contributions to marketing and advertising stretched far beyond her time at JWT. Following her successes there, she created her own consulting firm, the Rena Bartos Company. In addition to her pioneering work as a consultant, she also served as the President of the Advertising Women of New York, was the first woman elected chair of the Advertising Research Foundation Board of Directors and was the first woman invited to be a member of the Copy Research Council. The Advertising Research Foundation honored her many contributions to the field by awarding her the Lifetime Achievement Great Mind Award in 2012 at the age of 94.

You can learn more about Bartos and her contemporaries via the Agencies Prefer Men! The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, open through March 17, 2017 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

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Exhibit Opening and Lecture with Helayne Spivak: “Have We Come A Long Way, Baby?”

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 15:26

Date: Tuesday, November 15th
Time: 6:15 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (room 153) of the Rubenstein Library

Join the Hartman Center in celebrating its 25th Anniversary with its second event in the anniversary lecture series focusing on Women in Advertising.  Helayne Spivak, Director of the Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University, will speak about the status, achievements, and challenges women face in the advertising industry today as well as reflect on her own career and women mentors she has had.

Across the hall in the Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room, the Hartman Center will unveil its new exhibit, “Agencies Prefer Men!”: The Women of Madison Avenue. This exhibit uses material from the Hartman Center’s collection to share the long and sometimes hidden history of women in advertising, tracing the career opportunities open to women as they progress from clerical staff to copywriting, art and market research and on to the highest positions in ad agencies as creative directors and CEOs.  The exhibit will run through March 10, 2017.

Light refreshments will be served.

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Applications Now Accepted for the 2017-2018 Travel Grant Program

Tue, 10/25/2016 - 13:00

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2017-2018 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, and the Human Rights Archive (new this year!) will each award up to $1,000 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein also offers the Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship, a $1500 award for researchers whose work would benefit from use of the Jantz Collections.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, NC, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2017. Recipients will be announced in March 2016.

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The Occasionally Recorded Happenings in the Business and Social Life of Irene Sickel Sims, 1916-1917

Mon, 10/24/2016 - 17:13

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

In the AMC hit television series Mad Men, Peggy Olson begins her career in advertising as an executive assistant whose skills and conviction enable her to become the first woman copywriter at the firm. Throughout the series, she is portrayed as a burgeoning second-wave feminist whose work ethic and determination enable her to succeed in a male-dominated industry. Although fictional, Olson’s story reflects the experiences of real women who worked on Madison Avenue in the post-WWII period. These mid-century professionals were but one generation of pathbreaking women in advertising. Unbeknownst to many viewers, women had their start in advertising long before Beatlemania hit the U.S. or the mini-skirt was in vogue. In fact, their integral contributions date back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In Frances E. Willard’s Occupations for Women (1897), the author dedicates an entire chapter to the integral role of women in advertising. Willard notes that women

are becoming advertising agents, taking the position in establishments in charge of the advertising department, and above all, are finding large remuneration in writing special advertisements for manufacturing firms […] So clever have women proven themselves in this special line, that hardly a manufacturer having goods toward which he wishes to attract attention, fails to avail himself of their ability. (149)

Irene Sickel Sims was one such pioneering woman. She worked as an assistant advertising manager and chief of copy for the retail advertising bureau of Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago. She kept a diary (1916-1917), the front page of which is inscribed with her playful handwriting, “This Then Commences the Occasionally Recorded Happenings in the Business and Social Life of Irene Sickel Sims.” The diary, written 100 years ago, details her work relationships and her day-to-day activities at the bureau, which ranged from business lunches to professional conferences. Many of her entries detail her professional relationships with men, marked by daily encounters, some of which she found frustrating and some of which inspired and motivated her.

Marshall Field’s Chicago Store, c. 1907, Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. https://www.loc.gov/item/det1994015806/PP/.

As she built her reputation in the company, her colleagues regularly sought out her expertise. In August of 1916, for example, a young male co-worker came to her for help with ad revisions. She recorded the interaction in her diary:

R.V.T wrote me Saturday: “Mrs. Sims: You know so well the ways of grammar and the by-paths the trails of rhetoric. Won’t you answer this for a poor section top?” appending a criticism received on one of their signs. I decided then I’d rather have a note like that – I’d rather have all the young men in the dept. coming to me for adv. counsel and criticism than have the best of surreptition loves.

For Sims, experiencing success at work was more exciting than the thrills associated with a secret love affair popularized in literature in film at that time. She found pleasure in her career and thrived off of her abilities to mentor her colleagues, male and female alike. Sims was so successful at Marshall Field’s that other companies regularly recruited her, enticing her to join their advertising departments with formidable offers.

Irene Sickel Sims Diary, 1916-1917, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Sims was one of many pathbreaking women to enter into the field of advertising in roles beyond that of a typist or executive assistant. Yet, the majority of employees in executive roles remained white men. It was not until the post-WWII period that significant numbers of women and people of color began taking on positions as ad executives.

You can learn more about Sims and her contemporaries via the Agencies Prefer Men! The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, opening November 15, 2016 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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