About Ad*Access

The Ad*Access Project, funded by the Duke Endowment "Library 2000" Fund, presents images and database information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. Ad*Access concentrates on five main subject areas: Radio, Television, Transportation, Beauty and Hygiene, and World War II, providing a coherent view of a number of major campaigns and companies through images preserved in one particular advertising collection available at Duke University. The advertisements are from the J. Walter Thompson Company Competitive Advertisements Collection of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History in Duke University's David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Research Guide

Please consult our Research Guide for Ad*Access.

Preferred Citation

Ad*Access - Ad #R0108
John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library


Research, Teaching, Private Study, General Interest User Information:

The advertisements on this web site have been made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. For these purposes under Fair Use, you may reproduce (print, make photocopies, or download) materials from this web site without prior permission, on the condition that you provide proper attribution of the source in all copies. Although we don't require you to contact us in advance for these purposes, we do appreciate hearing from teachers, students, and researchers who are using our resources in interesting ways. (more...)

This site includes historical materials that may contain negative stereotypes or language reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record.

Why Advertising?

Ad*Access is a pilot project to make a selection of historical advertisements available for study and research. The project draws on part of a large collection of magazine and newspaper ads within the Duke library's J. Walter Thompson Company Archives. The project includes over 7,000 ads, mainly from U.S. publications dating between 1911 and 1955. The 7,000 ads included in Ad*Access are only a tiny subset of all the advertisements printed during the time period in question. Rather than include just a few ads on many topics, we elected to digitize and make available hundreds or thousands of ads that relate to one of five main categories. This enables researchers and students to have enough material to draw on to begin to understand that advertising for a certain product or time period. The categories we selected are: Beauty and Hygiene, Transportation, Radio, Television, and World WarII. Each of these categories is one we know attracts a lot of research interest, and most of them also reflect major developments in American society, culture, business, and technology.

But still: why advertising? Many commentators have noted that advertising is such a pervasive feature of American life that the 20th century can not be fully understood without studying it. Despite its perceived importance-love it or hate it-advertising has not been as thoroughly documented as other aspects of business. Not all companies that advertise hold on to their past work. Few ad agencies retain comprehensive files of their output. And relatively few libraries, museums, or archives make an effort specifically to document the industry.

Keep your Beauty on duty!


The Ad*Access Project, generously funded by the Duke Endowment "Library 2000" fund, is the result of teamwork and coordination between two centers at the Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript & Special Collections Library, now the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The advertising materials are part of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History; the staff of the Hartman Center provided selection, subject and processing information. The Digital Scriptorium staff dealt with the digitization of the ads, file management, image and data conversion, and placement on the web.

Staff Members:

Digital Scriptorium Staff:

  • Lynn Eaton: Ad*Access Project Manager

    Overall project management including workflow and scanning, interface design and Web site creation, quality control of images and data, and student management.

  • Stephen Miller: Project Manager for Historic American Sheet Music

    Assisted the Ad*Access Project with EAD Encoding, Perl scripting and image conversion.

  • Steve Hensen: Ad*Access Project Director
  • Paolo Mangiafico: Director of the Digital Scriptorium

Hartman Center Staff

  • Ellen Gartrell: Former Director of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
  • Ginny Daley: Hartman Center Technical Services Archivist
  • Jacqueline Reid: Hartman Center Reference Archivist
  • Katherine Rose: former Hartman Center staff member

Special thanks to all of the Duke University students who worked on the Ad*Access Project:

  • Julia Bardzil
  • Lydia Boyd
  • Kirsten Braaten
  • Teresa Chung
  • Ryan Denniston
  • Justin Essig
  • Erin Graham
  • Anjali Harsh
  • Jamie Kelley
  • Brian Leach
  • Rachel Medlock
  • Cat Saleeby
  • Brad Siegele
  • Puja Singh
  • James Sizemore
  • Heather Swagart
  • Michael White
  • Josh Wilson
  • Kelly Woo
  • Amy Yuen