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About Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is a product testing and consumer advocacy nonprofit organization based in Yonkers, N.Y., founded in 1936 as Consumers Union.  It is the publisher of the leading consumer magazine in the U.S. along with several Buying Guides and consumer information guides that cover a range of topics including health care, family planning, travel, and prescription and OTC drugs.

In the 1920s, the leading consumer advocacy group was Consumers Research, Inc.  A labor dispute and strike in 1935 led a group of Consumers Research management and scientists to side with the strikers.  In 1936 that group broke away from Consumers Research to form Consumers Union.  In 1962, CU was one of five consumer advocacy organizations to establish the International Organization of Consumer's Unions (renamed Consumers International in the 1990s), originally intended to be a vehicle for sharing testing data and methods.  IOCU's scope expanded to cover a range development issues among newly independent and non-aligned countries, and partnered with the United Nations on a number of issues relating to health, infant wellness, food security, pesticides, and sustainability.  Eventually, IOCU gained full consultant status with the UN.  In 2018, CU reorganized into the Consumers Union Action Fund, a lobbying organization, and Consumer Reports, a nonprofit product testing and consumer education organization.

About the Archive

From its inception, Consumers Union maintained a reference library as well as a collection of its own publications.  In 1971, the idea of forming an archive of the records and papers of key figures in the history of the consumer rights and cooperative movements was formed.  The following year federal funding was acquired and the Center for the Study of the Consumer Movement was established.  The Center primarily collected materials from outside the organization, although some papers from the Union's founders and early leadership were collected.  The Center continued operations until it lost funding during the 1982 recession.  The idea of an archive re-emerged in 1985 during planning for CU's 50th anniversary.  A consultant report recommended that the CU archive focus on collecting its own documentary history.

Around 2014, Consumers Union decided to close its onsite archive, and the Rubenstein Library entered into negotiations to have it transferred to Duke where it would join other collections in the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History related to consumerism and be made available to a broad community of researchers.  Multiple site visits over the next four years culminated in bringing the archive to Duke University in 2019.

The archive comprises approximately 1,300 linear feet of manuscript materials organized into 64 individual collection; 500 linear feet of monographs and serial publications; and 48 pieces of test equipment.  To date 50+ collections have been fully processed and made available to researchers.