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Guide to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Poster Designs, circa 1930-1940s and undated

Collection Overview

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America Poster Designs are comprised of black and white poster designs (for billboard or other transit advertising), some printed on cards and some photographed and mounted in volumes, that document the advertising design holdings of several outdoor advertising companies from 1934 through the 1940s and possibly later. The majority of the designs in the collection are stock posters in preliminary sketch form with simple lines, but the collection also includes finished designs with brief information on exhibition and award status. Stock designs were created without actual brand names so more than one advertiser could use them by simply inserting their own brand name or product into the ad. The designs include work created or acquired by the Donaldson Lithographing Co., Foster and Kleiser, General Outdoor Advertising Co., and the AD-VER-TIS-ER, Inc.

These designs provide a snapshot of American consumerism during the interwar years by demonstrating how advertising professionals in the 1930s and 1940s represented products in order to entice shoppers. As well, the designs document the production of commercial art during this time period, in both the artistic process of creating ad artwork for billboards or other transit advertising space, as well as in the relationship between ad agency and client. Proven designs were available to the ad agency as sales tools to prospective clients, and these stock images could be reused, so there was less need to customize advertising campaigns for individual clients. The designs are organized into two series: Printed Poster Designs and Stock Poster Photograph Volumes.

The Printed Poster Designs Series consists of a card file of designs including some more polished billboard images, all arranged into product or service categories. The Stock Poster Photograph Volumes Series consists of twelve volumes of designs, also organized by product or service type.

Closely related collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library include the Outdoor Advertising Slide Library; the John E. Brennan Outdoor Advertising Survey Reports; the John Paver Papers; the John Browning Papers; the Duplex Advertising Co. Records; the War Effort Mobilization Campaigns Collection; the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Records; the Garrett Orr Papers; the R.C. Maxwell Company Records; the Howard Scott Papers; and the Strobridge Lithographing Company Photographs.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Collection Details

Collection Number
Outdoor Advertising Association of America Poster Designs
circa 1930-1940s and undated
Outdoor Advertising Association of America
3 Linear Feet, 729 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Outdoor Advertising Association of America Poster Designs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

1. Printed Poster Designs Series, 1934-1940

Consists mainly of black and white printed cards of billboard advertising designs. Most images are in a preliminary stage of design completion, and many are stock designs with no actual brand names appearing. Some, however, are more polished, containing added information about placement in competitions (e.g., Annual Exhibition of Outdoor Advertising Art), the artist, and the outdoor advertising company that presumably produced the design. Foster and Kleiser and General Outdoor Advertising Co. are the two firms most often mentioned on cards. The company “Sales Promotional Service” is also found. This company may have distributed stock design cards to subscribers, probably outdoor advertising companies, to solicit use of its artwork. The cards were thus used as sales tools--some are printed on the reverse with information directed to clients including pricing. Some General Outdoor Advertising Co. cards appear to have designs stamped in blue ink. This particular group of cards was used in recordkeeping; they contain information about particular clients that used the design such as client name, pricing, contract length, salesman, and type of display.

Organized by product or service type categories. Some categories overlap, and so certain topics appear in more than one category. A few numbered categories contain no cards/designs.

#1-A: Flowers and florists
Box 1
#2-A: Entertainment, Sports, and Recreation

Includes advertising designs for festivals, rodeos, ice shows, county fairs, wrestling events, boxing, hotels and dancing, live orchestra performances, bowling, show clubs, amusement parks, and dance events.

Actual advertisers featured in designs include the San Mateo County Fiesta and Rodeo, Skinnay Ennis and His Orchestra, Freddy Martin and His Orchestra, and Cypress Gardens ( “America's Tropical Wonderland” ).

Box 1
#2-B: Nightclub / Live Performance
Box 1
#3-A: Public Service, Recreation, and Travel

Includes advertising designs for labor unions and other non-profits, public safety organizations, resorts, and theme parks.

Actual advertisers featured in designs include the National Association of Manufacturers, Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and the Atlantic City Department of Public Safety.

Box 1
#3-B: Education and Banking

Includes advertising designs for colleges, business schools, continuing education (night school), and banks.

Actual advertisers featured in designs include Bryant and Stratton College.

Box 1
#4-A: Automobiles and Auto Service

Includes advertising designs for car dealers and car service providers.

Actual advertisers/brands featured in designs include Chevrolet and Oliver-Cadillac.

Box 1
#4-B: Gasoline and Motor Oil

Includes advertising designs for gasoline, gas stations, and motor oil.

Actual advertisers/brands featured in designs include Standard Red Crown gasoline, Essolene motor fuel, and Amoco.

Box 1
#4-C: Automobiles

Includes advertising designs for new and used cars. Actual advertisers/brands featured in designs include Ford, Plymouth (1940), and Packard.

Box 1
#4-D: Tires Sales and Service
Box 1
#4-E: Truck Drivers [Union? Truck Service?]
Box 1
#5-A: Construction and Building Materials

Includes advertising designs for storm windows, doors, lumber, roofing, other building materials, and the companies that supply them.

Box 1
#5-B: Home Ownership [Financial Services?]
Box 1
#5-C: Paints and Paint Dealers

Includes advertising designs for paint, paint dealers, varnish, glass, interior decoration, and wallpaper. Most of the cards in this section carry not only an ink representation of the advertisement design but also client/account information from the offices of General Outdoor Advertising Co. This includes branch office, date, client, contract length, and type of display.

Actual advertisers/brands featured in the designs include Remien and Kuhnert, M.O. Huck Paint Co., McMurty Mfg. Co., Vane-Calvert Paint Co., Lowe Bros. Paint Store, and D.P.W. Company.

Box 1
#5-D: [Empty]
Box 1
#6-A: Auto and Home Financing

Includes advertising designs for auto and home loan financing. Some ads feature the FHA seal.

Box 1
#7-A: Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services
Box 1
#7-B: [Empty]
Box 1
#8-A: Shoes and Shoe Repair
Box 1
#8-B: Men's Apparel (incl. Hats), Tailoring, and Department Stores
Box 1
#8-C: [Empty]
Box 1
#8-D: Women's Apparel
Box 1
#8-E: [Empty]
Box 1
#9-A: Banks, Savings and Loans, and Finance Companies
Box 1
#9-B: Banks, Savings and Loans, and Finance Companies
Box 1
#10-A: Baked Goods and Dairy Products
Box 1
#10-B: Coffee and Chocolate Drink
Box 1
#10-C: Confectionery (candy, candy shops, and gum)

Actual advertisers/brands featured in designs include Wrigley's Double Mint Gum, and Mavrakos Candies.

Box 1
#10-D: Dairy Products

Includes advertising designs for milk, cheese, cream, butter, and ice cream.

Actual advertisers/brands featured in designs include Carnation, Capitol Dairies, Jersey Farms, Harding's, Pevely, and Anthony's.

Box 1
#10-E: Dessert and Apples
Box 1
#10-F: Groceries, Meat, Lard, and Other Food Items

Includes advertising designs for lard, bacon, sausages, cold cuts, ham, picnic foods, bread, and pet food.

Actual advertisers/brands featured in designs include Peter Eckrich and Sons, Fischer's, Bohemian Loaf, and Abraham Bros.

Box 1
#10-G: Beverages

Includes advertising designs for bottled drinks. Coca-Cola is featured in two ads.

Box 1
#10-H: Food Items

Includes advertising designs for ketchup, chile [chili?], and olive oil.

Actual advertisers/brands featured in designs include Heinz and G. Simi.

Box 1
#10-I: Beer

Includes advertising designs for beer or other beverages.

Jax Beer is featured in multiple designs.

Box 1
#10-J: [Empty]
Box 1
#10-K: Food Items, Pet Food, and Supermarkets

AandP Super Markets are featured in one ad.

Box 1
#11-A: Funeral Services
Box 1
#12-A: Medicines
Box 1
#13-A: Coal and Home Heating

West Kentucky Coal Co. is featured in one ad.

Box 1
#13-B: Home Furnishings

Includes advertising designs for furniture, furniture stores, appliances, awnings, and upholstery.

Actual advertisers/brands featured in designs include General Electric.

Box 1
#13-C: Hardware and Electric Fans

The “Sears” name is mentioned in one ad.

Box 1
#13-D: Exterminators
Box 1
#14-A: Hotels and Resorts

Includes advertising designs for hotels, resorts, inns, and vacation cabins.

Actual advertisers featured in designs include the Edgewater Beach Hotel and the Blackstone (Omaha).

Box 1
#14-B: Restaurants

Advertisers featured in designs include the Pig'N Whistle, and Pixley and Ehlers.

Box 1
#15-A: Insurance and Insurance Companies
Box 1
#16-A: Jewelry, Jewelers, and Watches
Box 1
#17-A: [Empty]
Box 1
#17-B: Radios and Radio Stations

Includes an ad for Zenith Radios (1939).

Box 1
#18-A: Newspapers
Box 1
#19-A: [Empty]
Box 1
#20-A: [Empty]
Box 1
#20-B: Department Stores and Sales

Includes ads for Blatt's Department Store in Atlantic City and Marshall Field and Company.

Box 1
#20-C: Clothing Store

Includes an ad for Turk's Dress and Sportswear in Burlington, Vt.

Box 1
#21-A: Photographer Studios and Photographs
Box 1
#21-B: [Empty]
Box 1
#21-C: Leather and Luggage Stores
Box 1
#22-A: [Empty]
Box 1
#23-A: Beauty and Hair Salon
Box 1
#24-A: [Empty]
Box 1
#24-B: [Empty]
Box 1
#24-C: [Empty]
Box 1
#24-D: Fur Shops and Storage
Box 1
#24-E: Travel Destination

Includes an ad for Florida's Scenic Highway/Silver Springs, Fla.

Box 1
#25-A: Public Utilities and Appliance Stores
Box 1
#26-A: [Empty]
Box 1
#27-A: [Empty]
Box 1
#28-A: Christmas
Box 1

2. Stock Poster Photograph Volumes Series, circa 1930 and undated

Comprised of volumes originating from the AD-VER-TIS-ER, Inc. ( Fort Wayne, Ind.). One volume was produced by the Donaldson Lithographing Company of Newport, Ky. Each volume contains pages on which a particular numbered design (about 8" x 3.5") is pasted, probably bound and displayed for use with prospective clients. The designs tend to be more complete than line drawings but none include particular names or brands. Arranged by product or service.

Bank Designs, undated
Box 2
Building and Loan Designs, undated
Box 2
Dry Cleaner Designs, circa 1930 and undated
(2 books)

The design book produced by the Donaldson Lithographing Co. dates to circa 1930.

Box 2
Furniture and Insurance Designs, undated
Box 3
Jewelry and Optical Designs, undated
Box 3
Laundry Designs, undated
Box 3
Loan Designs, undated

Advertising for financial institutions, car dealers, or other types of lenders.

Box 3
Lumber Manual, undated
Box 4
Milk and Bakery Designs, undated
Box 4
“Nellie” the Cow, undated

Dairy industry spokes-character.

Box 4
Miscellaneous Designs, undated
Box 4

Historical Note

No Subnote Content

Biographical/Historical note

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) compiled and held the materials that became this collection of poster designs (formerly known as the Outdoor Advertising Sketch Library), but the card file and volumes in this collection most likely originated within the outdoor advertising companies represented, such as General Outdoor Advertising Co. and Foster and Kleiser. OAAA is the primary professional and trade association representing the outdoor advertising industry and was founded to promote outdoor advertising interests in the United States. OAAA members own and operate billboards, street furniture, transit, or other outdoor advertising displays. Members also include service providers to the industry, users of the outdoor medium, and others supporting its goals.

Significant Dates in Outdoor Advertising History

Date Event(s)
1891 OAAA was founded as the Associated Bill Posters' Association of the US and Canada (ABPA)
1901 Outdoor advertising company Foster and Kleiser opened for business in Portland and Seattle; the company later was known as Patrick Media, then Eller, then Clear Channel
1906 ABPA changed its name to Associated Bill Posters and Distributors of the United States and Canada
1912 Association changed its name to the Poster Advertising Association, Inc. (PAA)
1920 The Art Directors Club was organized, establishing standards for commercial arts through competitions and the identification of categories of commercial art
1925 PAA and the Painted Outdoor Advertising Association merged to become OAAA
The Fulton Group and the Cusack Co. combined to become the General Outdoor Advertising Company
1930 First National Contest and Exhibit of Outdoor Advertising Art was held under the auspices of the Outdoor Advertising Department of the Advertising Council of the Chicago Association of Commerce
1962 The first modern “multivision” painted bulletin displayed in Sacramento, Calif.; triangular sections permitted display of three different designs on a single unit
1990s Painted boards were replaced by computer-generated formats
Digital technology affected creation of advertising designs and display

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


The Outdoor Advertising Association of America Poster Designs were transferred to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1998.

Processing Information

Processed by Lisa C. Chandek-Stark

Completed September 2002

Encoded by Lisa C. Chandek-Stark, Ramona Jauneika-Devine, and Ruth E. Bryan

Processing of this collection was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.