Guide to the African Americans in Film Collection of Press Books, Campaign Books, Advertising Manuals, and Ephemera, 1919-2000
The 197 films represented by this collection of movie promotional and advertising materials cover a variety of types of motion pictures, from obscure all-black cast silent films by the Norman Film Manufacturing Company, to movies with supporting and starring roles for African Americans and modern all-black cast films. The collection includes representative coverage of legendary film artists such as Dorothy Dandridge and Sidney Poitier, and more comprehensive coverage of the classic era of Blaxploitation films, the 1970s.
The collection contains over 250 separate press books, campaign books, advertising manuals, supplements and other ephemeral promotional booklets, broadsides or single sheet publications, and posters designed for the use of theater distributors, dating from the independent Black films of the 1920s to 2000. The collection also includes some souvenir program booklets sold at theaters, and two published hardcover books.
Press books are no longer made. They were often extremely elaborate and profusely illustrated, containing many diverse articles about the film, the stars and the filmmakers, as well as ad mattes for proposed publicity campaigns, detailed plot synopses, cast and crew credits, etc. Also featured are small versions of posters available to local theaters. The ad campaigns alone provide a great deal of information about how the actors, directors, and films were promoted in the press and in theater displays. Virtually everything contained in this collection is ephemeral in nature. Even the more recent press kits were never publicly distributed or sold, and are also scarce, possibly unique.
Unless otherwise noted, all the promotional pieces in this collection are of U.S. origin. There are a few items from Great Britain, Denmark, Japan, Germany, and France.
Additional information appears in many but not all of the inventory entries. Some entries include a designation for the type of material, e.g., press book, advertising supplement, promotional booklet, theater program, press book insert, etc. while some entries include a copyright date for the material (especially when this date differs from the film's date). Many entries include the names of one or more of the African-American actors, actresses, singers, directors, screenplay authors or producers involved with the film; however, such lists are selective, not comprehensive. A substantial number of the entries in the inventory also include descriptive comments by the dealer, George Robert Minkoff Inc., and quotes or references selected by the dealer from the following sources: Bogle = Bogle, Donald. Blacks in American films and television: an encyclopedia. Bogle II = Bogle, Donald. Toms, coons, mulattoes, mammies, and bucks: an interpretive history of Blacks in American films.
- Collection Number
- African Americans in Film Collection of Press Books, Campaign Books, Advertising Manuals, and Ephemera
- 7 Linear Feet, 248 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The inventory, as well as the physical arrangement of the collection, is alphabetical by film title, with numerical titles first and all initial articles ignored. Each inventory entry includes the film title (as it appears in the promotional material), the date of the film (according to the entry in the Internet Movie Database), the size designation (12mo, 4to, 8vo or Folio), and the number of pages and/or leaves of the promotional material.
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How to Cite
[Identification of item], African Americans in Film: Collection of Press Books, Campaign Books, Advertising Manuals, and Ephemera, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Publicity specifically designed for Black audiences.
Moms Mabley. Stepin Fetchit. Bogle, p. 12: “Mabley's a legend long past her prime but a legend captured on celluloid nonetheless.”
Bill Duke as a sinister pimp, a few years before he commenced his career as a director.
Harry Belafonte produced and starred in this adaptation of Bernard Malamud.
Sent out by Disney and containing an article about Danny Glover and the film.
Spike Lee directed this film about a frustrated African American TV writer who proposes a blackface minstrel show in protest, but it becomes a hit, to his chagrin. Starring Damon Wayans, Savion Glover, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tommy Davidson.
Clint Eastwood directed this biography of the legendary Charlie Parker, who was portrayed by Forest Whitaker.
Jim Kelly. Scatman Crothers. Bogle, p. 22: “Fighting the mob to save a Black self-defense school in Watts...Sometimes technically inept, sometimes embarrassingly written, sometimes just plain foolish, Black Belt Jones is also sometimes surprising fun: it's popcorn, comic-strip entertainment that moves swiftly.”
Ossie Davis (director). Leslie Uggams. Ruby Dee. Bogle, p. 23-4: “Seldom has this kind of drama about the problems and predicaments peculiar to Black women...reached American films.”
Black-cast drama about oil-drilling from the Norman Film Manufacturing Company.
Rodeo documentary, with guest appearances by Muhammad Ali and Woody Strode.
Synopses in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian.
Lena Horne's debut film and a very rare specimen of Black independent filmmaking. Bogle, p. 76: “Lena, as a wide-eyed and rather pepped-up young singer, displayed a natural, fresh quality rarely seen in many of her later Hollywood films when she often came across as an overly controlled ice maiden. Lena's co-star is former bandleader Ralph Cooper, who was also one of the founders of Million Dollar Productions, a company that made all-Black films in the 1930s and early 1940s.”
Film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo about a slave revolt on a Caribbean island early in the 19th century. Bogle, p. 141.
Ossie Davis portrays a Southern Roman Catholic priest whose church has been burned by the KKK.
Poster is in color and shows actor Harry Belafonte, standing, kissing the feet of actress Dorothy Dandridge, who is sitting on the edge of a table. Visible graphic dimensions: 10.75x13.75 inches. In 14x18 inch black frame with mat.
Poster is in color and shows Dorothy Dandridge sitting in a vehicle and singing, foreground, with actor Harry Belafonte alongside, driving. Visible graphic dimensions: 10.75x13.75 inches. In 14x18 inch black frame with mat.
Raymond St. Jacques. The brain of a white district attorney is transplanted into the body of a Black man.
Richard Roundtree in a Blaxploitation western.
American release of the French film Les Tripes Au Soleil, a film whose setting is unclear (it seems to be a French film set in the Old West), with the cast equally divided between Black and white actors.
James Earl Jones. Diahann Carroll. Bogle, p. 54-56: “A 1970s new-style Black romantic comedy/drama that is occasionally too calculating, often synthetic and rather hokey, but mostly entertaining and diverting.”
Tamara Dobson. Bogle, p. 57: “Glamorous, statuesque, sophisticated, and surprisingly sweet-tempered and unassuming, Dobson is a delectable comic-strip heroine come true.”
Tamara Dobson. Bogle, p. 58: “Example of the kind of Black macho mama movie that proved popular with audiences of the mid-1970s.”
Pam Grier. Bogle, p. 58: “simple-minded, violent, bloody, and a technical mess, this is the film nonetheless that made Pam Grier a B-movie star.”
Alice Walker adaptation.
Godfrey Cambridge. Raymond St. Jacques. This is a sequel to Cotton Comes to Harlem, adapted, like its precursor, from Chester Himes.
From the Norman Film Manufacturing Company: “Baffling Western Mystery Photo-Play. Supported by Bill Pickett, World's Champion Wild West Performer, the one-legged Marvel, Steve Reynolds, and 30 Colored Cowboys. Produced in the All-Colored City of Boley, Okla. An Epic of Wild Life and Smoking Revolvers. All-Colored Cast.” Contains an article by star Anita Bush, Introduction of Negro Drama in New York.
Jim Brown in one of his early starring roles in this action film.
Dorothy Dandridge. Bogle, p. 72: “Her role is an unusual one for a Black actress. Simply stated, she plays the only woman aboard a shipload of hearty, lusty, red-blooded males.”
Sidney Poitier in what was almost certainly his breakthrough role in this saga of interracial bonding. Bogle, p. 73-4: “Definitely broke new ground and it firmly established Poitier as a major American film star.”
Al Freeman, Jr. Bogle, p. 393: “Freeman's performances well capture the mood and perspective of the 1960s activists and students: he's bright, committed, straightforward, a tad idealistic, but also almost sadly realistic.”
Samuel L. Jackson.
Sidney Poitier. Bogle, p. 76: “A routine Western with two surprises. First, Poitier shows up, decked out in fancy duds, playing a dandified cowboy, a horse dealer. Second, Poitier's color and his situation (a Black man in the Old West) have nothing to do with the movie's plot line.”
Action film with female stars, one African-American, one Caucasian, and one Asian.
Sidney Poitier. Ruby Dee. Bogle, p. 77: “With this taut, well-crafted, although misleading drama (a true liberal fantasy, if ever there was one), Poitier finally emerged as a star with one of his strongest yet oversimplified roles.”
Billie Dee Williams playing the kind of movie militant that H. Rap Brown said, “Can't do wrong right.”
Ja'net DuBois. Virginia Capers. Sonny Jim Gaines. Bogle, p. 83: “One of the 1970s early new-style Black comedies, spotlighting the era's Black consciousness. Its theme: liberation.”
A Black-cast aviation drama from the Norman Film Manufacturing Company.
Sidney Poitier starred in this film; screenplay from an original story by Poitier. Bogle, p. 83-4: “The gentle tone and fantasy-laden atmosphere (it's like a standard, well-made movie romance of the 1950s with all loose ends neatly tied up at the end) did not sit well with an audience anxious for grittier and more realistic Black films.”
Pam Grier. Bogle II, p. 252: “Trash that Grier's movies were, her grit saved them.”
Country and western musical film, racially integrated by the presence of singer Charley Pride.
Diane Sands. Script by Maya Angelou. Bogle, p. 89: “Startling but uneven and rather frustrating drama focusing on a Black American pop star adrift while on tour in Stockholm...Touches on ground ripe for exploration: the Black star who is excepted not only to be an entertainer but also a spokeswoman for the problems and demands of the Black community.”
Denzel Washington. Morgan Freeman. Andre Braugher. Sumptuously illustrated book on the film, printed in a small edition for circulation to major theater chains. Bogle II, p. 309: “The story of the 54th Regiment, the first Black infantry in the North during the Civil War. It also bore the mark of well-intentioned filmmakers who still felt the need for built-in safeguards and points of identification for a white audience.”
Four broadsides used in the movie. Includes: "Proclamation... April 10, 1863" (2 copies); "The Enemy is Approaching;" and "Regulations for Camp Readville."
Directed by Oscar Micheaux. From the story Naomi, Negress. Poster, circa 1938, is in color and shows a seated man on left, bending over a distressed woman lying sick in bed. Visible graphic dimensions: 10.75x13.75 inches. In 14x18 inch black frame with mat.
Eight lobby cards used to advertise the movie in theater lobbies, along with the paper bag for the cards.
Paul Winfield. Bogle, p. 96: “[Winfield] portrays a Vietnam veteran returning home to New York to a dead wife, the victim of a drug overdose. Enlisting the aid of three other Viet vets, he becomes a vigilante, determined to rub out the dope dealers.”
Bogle, p. 96: “In a strange way, this is one of Jim Brown's most effective roles. He understands the plight of a Black man ill-at-ease in a high-powered world that sees him as a symbol of former glory--sadly, a symbol that can be bought.”
James Earl Jones. Bogle, p. 97: “Jones played the larger-than-life, self-destructive boxer Jack Johnson, who bows to no man or woman.”
Cicely Tyson in a Carson McCullers adaptation.
Detective film, starred Bill Cosby with his costar from the I Spy television series of the 1960s, Robert Culp.
Billie Dee Williams. Richard Pryor. Bogle, p. 106-7.
Bernie Casey. Bogle, p. 107: “Very much reflects some of the social/political nihilism that set in during this period of Vietnam and later Watergate.”
Issued in conjunction with the film's winning two Oscars.
Halle Berry in a made-for-Home Box Office bio of the legendary Dandridge.
Diana Ross. Billy Dee Williams. Richard Pryor. Bogle II, p. 245-6: “The movie was vastly entertaining and emerged as the screen's first full-fledged Black romantic melodrama. It did indeed treat its central character with respect.”
Screenplay: William Gunn. Pearl Bailey. Diana Sands. Louis Gossett Jr. Bogle, p. 120-130: “A little known, satiric comedy/drama. The unusual, perceptive screenplay is by Black writer Bill Gunn. Mistily realistic and gritty for its time, The Landlord focused on a wealthy young white lad, who buys a tenement building in the ghetto. One of the residents is a lovely, jittery young Black woman with whom he becomes romantically involved, although she's already married. When the woman's Black husband (Lou Gossett) learns of this relationship, his entire world seems to collapse right before him--and right before our eyes too. Gunn's script endowed the husband with a poignant dignity and a keen intelligence, and the explosion was so corrosively logical, yet so unexpected in its intensity, that it indeed inspired awe, pity, and fear.”
Robert Hooks in a Tennesse Williams adaptation of The Seven Descents of Myrtle.
Director and producer: Gordon Parks. Bogle II, p. 226: “When Warner Brothers signed him to adapt his book for the screen, Parks became the first Black man to direct a major American movie. He resensitized his audiences so that they experienced again the pain of being told to leave a restaurant because of their color. His film remains a lyrical and eloquent statement of the Black experience in America.”
Ella Fitzgerald's first dramatic role, that of a nightclub singer in a Skid Row bar.
This press book insert was “especially prepared for placement in Negro newspapers.”
Yaphet Kotto. Bogle II, p. 233: “Black audiences tended to ignore the film's nominal stars (Roscoe Lee Browne as a bourgeois tom, Lola Falana as his 'slutty' wife) in favor of the militant character played by Kotto, who, at the film's climax, threw a tough old Southern racist into a hay cropper.” Interestingly, this press book had a separate advertising campaign specifically designated “for Negro newspapers.” [See previous entry]
All original materials from Lifeboat are extremely uncommon. Canada Lee co-starred in this Hitchcock film from a script by John Steinbeck. Lee's performance is often cited by historians as an early case of a Black actor playing a non-stereotypical role in a major Hollywood film. Bogle II, p. 139: “A Black steward, pensive and inarticulate, represents America's vast second-class citizenry. The role was played with somber dignity and intelligence by Canada Lee, the Broadway actor previously acclaimed for his work in the Orson Welles production of Native Son.”
Sidney Poitier won Best Actor Oscar for his work in this film. Bogle, p. 135: “Offered Poitier an opportunity to flex his muscles and be the ingratiating and dependable character he was so good at portraying.”
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Willie Best. Robinson, the legendary dancer, appeared in not many films, and it is extremely difficult to find promotional materials on any of them. This Shirley Temple edition of the children's book The Littlest Rebel by Edward Peple (New York: Random House, 1959) has extensive illustrations of Robinson and other actors from the 1935 Shirley Temple film. [Physically removed from collection, cataloged individually and shelved at call no.: E #21351]
Arguably the most peculiar role in Sidney Poitier's screen career, as a villainous Moor. Bogle II, p. 182: “Poitier kidnaps a beautiful white woman [but] has been made to take a year's vow of celibacy. Therefore his sexual impulses remain safely suppressed.”
Sidney Poitier. Bogle, p. 130-40: “A group of Black militants, led by Poitier, out to commit a big payroll heist in order to get money for the family of a group of imprisoned 'brothers'...[Poitier] had attempted an image change, one more in keeping with the social temper of the time.”
Advertising flyer for four Norman Film Manufacturing Company Black-cast films suggested as a quadruple bill: The Love Bug ( 1919), The Crimson Skull( 1921), The Green-Eyed Monster ( 1919) and The Bull-Dogger ( 1921).
Brock Peters. Bogle II, p. 207: “Even when cast as the homosexual West Indian Johnny in the British film The L-Shaped Room, [Peters'] characterizations had raw edge and bitter power.”
Dorothy Dandridge in a British film. Bogle, p. 143-4: “There is an unconscious documentary taking place within the movie: we become caught up in the personal tensions or drives of the actress herself rather than those of the character she is playing.”
Feature-length documentary about the life of Malcolm X, given a very limited release by Warner Brothers, all materials from this film are extremely hard to find.
The epic biography of Malcolm by Spike Lee. Deluxe special illustrated promotional book on the film, printed in small edition, profusely and richly illustrated.
James Earl Jones. “The first Black President of the United States. First they swore him in. Then they swore to get him.”
Ken Norton. Brenda Sykes. Bogle, p. 147: “A pulpy, lurid antebellum potboiler that turns the fantasy world of a romanticized film like Gone with the Wind inside out.”
Sidney Poitier. Eartha Kitt. Juano Hernandez. One of Poitier's early starring roles, and one of Kitt's few major screen roles. Bogle II, p. 180 and 188.
An extraordinary group of promotional pieces, done in the silent era of the 1920s, by an enterprising company entirely devoted to Black-cast films. These Norman pieces give invaluable insight into the earliest decade of Black film making in this country. [See separate entries for: Black Gold ( 1927), Crimson Skull ( 1921), Flying Ace ( 1926), Love Bug, The ( 1919), Regeneration ( 1923)]
Sidney Poitier. Diahann Carroll. Bogle, p. 161-2: “Two expatriate jazz musicians, one white (Newman), the other Black (Poitier), each living in Paris, meet two vacationing American women (Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll). One pertinent issue arises: should Poitier's character remain in Paris (where it appears he does not have to contend with racial biases) or should he return to the States to fight his battles there?”
Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge star in this folk opera by George Gershwin with lyrics by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. The profusely illustrated 36-page volume The Samuel Goldwyn Motion Picture Production of Porgy and Bess (New York: Random House, 1959) includes cast bios. [Physically removed from collection, cataloged individually and shelved at call no.: E q#2175]
Rare early Blaxploitation film, this one set in 1835 New Orleans.
“Romance in Southern Seas featuring Stella Mayo, Sensational Colored Screen Beauty. All-Colored Cast,” contains a detailed list of proposed upcoming production and text emphasizing that Norman is the only “Company making Colored Pictures that owns and operates its own studio and laboratory.”
Jim Brown. Bogle II, p. 220: “Jim Brown suggested violence and power, a dash and daring never before exhibited by a Black man [in a film]...He was big. He was Black. He was outspoken. He was baaaadddd.”
Sammy Davis Jr. in one of the famous “Rat Pack” films with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, et al. Bogle II, p. 214-5: “On the surface the clan pictures were egalitarian affairs; underneath they rotted from white patronizing and hypocrisy.”
B-movie rock musical showcased calypso group the Five Stars.
Eartha Kitt. Nat King Cole. Ruby Dee. Ella Fitzgerald. Cab Calloway. Pearl Bailey. Mahalia Jackson. Theatre program from Germany, with an elegant photomontage of images from the film. Bogle, p. 204: “The life of Black composer W.C. Handy, Hollywood style.”
Rare film about Afro-British life, a mystery about a young woman attempting to “pass.”
Jesse Jackson. Sammy Davis Jr. The Chi-Lites. Nancy Wilson. The Temptations. Concert film from the 1972 Operation PUSH exposition in Chicago, interspersed with documentary footage of the period. Bogle, pp. 182-3.
One of the legendary films which launched the Blaxploitation film cycle of the 1970s. Bogle, p. 185: “[Director Gordon] Parks' strong identification with Shaft as a slick, pretty, sexy, dude gives the picture unexpected heat and zip.”
Richard Roundtree. Second and last sequel of this popular series.
Director Gordon Parks and Richard Roundtree teamed up again for this first sequel. Bogle, p. 186.
The first of a very successful series of comedies pairing Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.
Lou Gossett, Jr. Bogle, p. 191: “A pre-Civil War con man comes up with an ingenious con game: he repeatedly sells his Black partner (Gossett) in one slave town to one simpleton slave owner after another. After each sale, Gossett quickly escapes, teaming up with [James] Garner for yet another sale.”
Jim Brown. Brock Peters. Bogle, p. 192: “Gaudy sequel to the gaudy original [ Slaughter, 1972]...As in the first, Brown's a sepia Superman, again almost single-handedly taking on the mob.”
Dionne Warwick. Ossie Davis. “Official entry 1969 Cannes Film Festival.” Bogle, p. 192: “Ponderous high times in the Old South. This was an early attempt to reach the, then new, evolving Black movie audience.”
Very early entry in the Blaxploitation cycle starring athlete Rafer Johnson. Bogle, p. 242.
Roberta Flack. Wilson Pickett. Voices of East Harlem. Bogle, p. 199: “A return-to-the-motherland kind of documentary, focusing on an all-night 15-hour soul concert performed in Ghana during a week-long celebration of that nation's independence.”
Irene Cara. Lonette McKee. Bogle, p. 201: “One of Black America's first cult films. The movie follows the rise and fall of three Harlem sisters who, guided by two boyfriends, form a singing group in the late 1950s.”
Famous wartime musical which made use of an astonishing virtual who's who of top African-American talents. Lena Horne. Fats Waller. The Nicholas Brothers. Cab Calloway. Bill Robinson. All promotional materials from this film are extremely scarce. This is a nicely illustrated souvenir program from Denmark.
Ron O'Neal. Bogle, p. 208: “A very successful, controversial film centering on a Harlem cocaine dealer [O'Neal], who wants out of the drug business. The basic plot was to be repeated in scores of other blaxploitation films.”
Melvin Van Peebles (director). [This is an extremely rare press book, all original materials from this film seem to have vanished a long time ago.] Bogle, p. 210-211: “It may be difficult for a contemporary audience to understand the extreme impact of this historic, legendary movie...But before its appearance, Black characters, in sentimental films that sought to promote the idea that things could work out between Black and white, were always tame and manageable without any sexual or political defiance. Sweetback, however, not only took the wraps off a Black man's sexuality...but was also an open declaration of war on white America.”
Jackie Wilson. Chubby Checker.
Earth, Wind, and Fire.
Sidney Poitier. Sequel to In the Heat of the Night ( 1967)
Action film starring Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly. Directed by Gordon Parks, Jr.
Jim Brown. [A small area of blank margin to one leaf is missing, with no content affected]. Bogle, p. 217: “Film marks the Jim Brown movie hero's full ascension into the ranks of the American establishment.”
Brock Peters. Reissue on a double bill with, of all the possible unlikely choices, a Doris Day comedy.
Sidney Poitier. Bogle, p. 218: “Strangely enough, in an era of political unrest among the young of America, this tame, lightweight apolitical fantasy seemed to enchant audiences of all ages--and colors--and soon it was evident as well that the most popular star in America was Sidney Poitier. In other films, Poitier had proven himself as an actor. Now he was proven box office.”
“Multiple-run and hold over advertising press book insert.”
Christopher St. John (also producer, writer, and director). Early entry in the Blaxploitation cycle. Bogle II, p. 241.
Roscoe Lee Browne in Hitchcock suspense film.
Isaac Hayes. Special promotional piece in the form of a newsletter, International Bail Bond News.
Special press book for a double-bill release with Foxy Brown (1974).
Hal Frederick. Esther Anderson. Unusual but sensationally-treated story of mixed race couples.
Ruby Dee. Roscoe Lee Browne. Bogle, p. 224: “The first American film to spotlight Black 'revolutionaries' and the separatist movement of the 1960s.”
Sidney Poitier. Bogle, p. 226-7: “Part Love Story...part Roman Holiday...it was too bourgeois for some tastes and often too tame and wholesome for its own good. Yet when shown on television today, it runs more smoothly and proves itself rather likable: one of the very few romantic films with Black stars.”
The venerable actor Rex Ingram played the role of Umbopa. Bogle II, p. 70: “Ingram was frequently compared to Paul Robeson. Both men presented immensely dignified and self-contained Black male characters. Yet there were differences. Although Ingram was not as good an actor as Robeson, nor as heroic a presence, he was able to express the one thing Robeson lacked: a gentleness, an overriding interest and sympathy in all of mankind.”
Legendary rock musical showcases Sly and the Family Stone, Richie Havens, and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.
Harry Belafonte. Science-fiction film in which Belafonte is one of only three survivors of a nuclear holocaust, produced by Belafonte. Bogle II, p. 191.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture
- Norman Film Manufacturing Company
- African Americans in the motion picture industry
- African American motion picture producers and directors
- African American motion picture actors and actresses
- African American women in motion pictures
- Advertising -- Motion pictures
- African Americans in motion pictures
- Blaxploitation films
- Motion pictures -- Marketing
- Motion picture industry -- United States
- Motion pictures -- United States
- Motion pictures -- Distribution
- Race relations in motion pictures
The African Americans in Film: Collection of Press Books, Campaign Books, Advertising Manuals, and Ephemera was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2001, 2009, 2010, and 2014.
Processed by Rubenstein Library staff
Completed September 26, 2002
Encoded by Joshua A. Kaiser
Updated by Alice Poffinberger, and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, August and December 2010, and May 2014.