The Internet has made it possible to draw together, from numerous sources, the best (and the worst) examples from the history of advertising. While many efforts in this direction further scholarly research, they are also of interest to the amateur historian of popular culture. Our health concerns, morals, mores, stereotypes, attitudes--all are artistically reflected and frozen in time.
An interesting approach is to take a single product--such as Coca Cola--and see how the advertising focus and emphasis have changed over time. History Matters gives access to a number of sites that are entertaining and educational.
A few excellent examples from our book collection--Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements, by Dwight Garner; Great American Billboards: 100 Years of History by the Side of the Road, by Fred E. Basten; Accept No Substitutes: The History of American Advertising, by Christina Mierau; More Porcelain Enamel Advertising, by Michael Bruner; and Those Were the Good Old Days: A Happy Look at American Advertising, 1880-1950, by Edgar R. Jones.
Find this article at