Guide to the J. Walter Thompson Company. World War II Advertising Collection, 1940-1948 and undated

Collection Overview

The J. Walter Thompson Company World War II Advertising Collection documents the war-related activities of the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) advertising agency during 1940-1948, including a few post-war assessments. In particular, it shows JWT’s contributions to the war effort by its in-house documentation and work on government, civilian, and war-supporting charitable organization accounts. Materials include lists, memos, press releases, correspondence, notes, and advertisement tearsheets and proofs. Many of the materials in this collection are products of campaigns conducted under the auspices of the War Advertising Council, as well as those sponsored by civilian clients. These advertisements and pamphlets supported food rationing, fuel and rubber conservation, the purchase of War Bonds, the United Services Organization (USO), military recruitment, and women's employment in war-related jobs. Other advertisements arose from JWT's work in 1941 and 1942 for the Navy Relief Society. Items produced by the JWT London Office supported British War Relief (Ministry of Food, 1940-1941) and the Food Facts series (recipes and cooking tips for foods available despite rationing).

The collection includes corporate-sponsored advertisements relating to the war effort. Companies represented include: the American Association of Playing Card Manufacturers (recreation for convalescent service-men, in cooperation with the Red Cross); Anthracite Industries, Inc. (fuel conservation); Eastman Kodak Company (U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps); and the Institute of Life Insurance (ads to fight inflation produced in cooperation with the Office of Economic Stabilization, and a “Keep Well” campaign). Other advertisements were backed by Lambert Pharmacal Co. (women's employment); Libbey Glass Company (recruitment of women Marines and nurses' aides); National Retail Dry Goods Association (nurse recruitment); Owens Illinois-Glass Company (paper salvage); Petroleum Industry War Council (campaigns for saving tires, rubber, and gasoline); Shell Oil Company and other petroleum and rubber companies (salvage of scarce materials); and Textron (nurse recruitment).

Related materials may be found elsewhere in the J. Walter Thompson Co. Archives, including the papers of JWT executives such as Samuel W. Meek, Walter O'Meara, Helen Lansdowne Resor, Stanley Burnet Resor, Ruth F. Waldo and James Webb Young. Similar materials may also be found in the R.C. Maxwell Company Outdoor Advertising Archives; the War Effort Mobilization Campaigns Poster Collection; and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Collection Details

Collection Number
J. Walter Thompson Company. World War II Advertising collection
1940-1948 and undated
J. Walter Thompson Company
1.8 Linear Feet, 150 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], J. Walter Thompson Company. World War II Advertising Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Campaigns for Government Policies and Agencies, Other Than War Bonds, 1941-1945
(2 folders)
Box 1
Civilian Clients' Advertising, Other Than War Bonds, 1941-1945
Box 1
Correspondence, 1942 Feb.1-1943 Apr. 28
Box 1
JWT Personnel in the Government or Volunteer Services, 1941-1945
Box 1
Lists of War Campaigns Prepared, 1944 Mar. 28-1948 June 3 and undated
Box 1
London Office Campaign, Food Facts, 1940-1945
Box 1
War Bond Advertising, Proofs and Lists, 1943-1945
Box 1
Government Policies and Agencies Campaigns, 1941-1945
(2 folders)
Oversize-box 1
Recruiting Women for War-Related Work, 1944 and undated
Oversize-box 1
Religious and Charitable Organizations, 1942 and undated
Oversize-box 1
War Bond Advertisements, 1943-1945
Oversize-box 1
Oversize Proofs and Tear Sheets of Advertisements, 1941-1945 and undated
Oversize-folder 1

Historical Note

In April 1941 Stanley B. Resor, then president of the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT), outlined the advertising industry's role in the coming conflict. In an article published in New York City Sunday newspapers, he spoke of advertising agencies' two goals: to keep consumers purchasing goods in order to help offset war expenses, and to relate the “truths” behind the government's policies and programs.

The J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) contributed to the war effort during World War II in two ways: by creating ads supporting government policies, and by granting its employees time off for their own war work. JWT's government accounts included the War Manpower Commission, handled by Helen Lansdowne Resor and James Webb Young; the Naval Aviation Cadet program, handled by Sam Meek; Woman Power, handled by William E. Berchtold; and the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, developed by Ruth Waldo and handled by Thayer Jaccaci. In each of these accounts, as in most campaigns formulated for the government, sponsors in private industry were sought. For instance, advertisements for the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps were sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Company. In addition to the sponsorship of government advertising programs, clients adjusted their own campaigns to reflect America's war-time conditions. Advertising campaigns were also formulated for religious and charitable organizations. Both the British War Relief Society and the Navy Relief Society benefitted from the advertising expertise of J. Walter Thompson Company personnel. International offices of the Company became involved in a number of ways. The London Office, for example, prepared a conservation program for the Ministry of Food, while the Australian Office implemented an Australian-American goodwill campaign.

Company personnel were granted leaves of absence or time for civilian work of importance to the war. Among these were James Webb Young, chair of the War Advertising Council, tyhe predecessor to the Advertising Council; Samuel W. Meek, consultant to the Navy Department; and Walter O'Meara, Deputy Administrator for Information, Office of Price Administration. Those who remained in the office devoted some of their time and talent to aiding such organizations as the Camp Shows for Service Men, the Citizen United for Democracy, and the National War Fund.

Related Material

Additional information about J. Walter Thompson Company's war efforts may be found in various collections of the J. Walter Company Archives: the Writings and Speeches Collection, especially the folders on Arno Johnson, 1944-1946, and Stanley B. Resor, 1940-1957; in the Domestic Advertisements Collection, various clients, 1940-1945; the Newsletter Collection, especially the JWT (Service) Newsletter, 1942-1945, and the J. Walter Thompson Company News, 1945; in A Primer for Postwar Prosperity and associated correspondence; and in A Review of Recent Advertising Aiding the War Effort by the Clients of J. Walter Thompson Company, circa 1945.

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


The J. Walter Thompson Cmpany. World War II Advertising Collection was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift from the J. Walter Thompson Co. in 1987.

Processing Information

Processed by Elizabeth Dunn, Katherine Ross

Completed July 30, 1997

Encoded by Richard Collier

Processing of this collection was supported in part by gifts from the J. Walter Thompson Company Fund and the John and Kelly Hartman Foundation.