American Advertising History:

A Bibliographic Reference

    The study of advertising history is one of the newer fields in mass communications research.  With some notable exceptions, historians have been slow to recognize the importance of this seemingly superficial element of American culture.  However, many scholars now see advertising, and the larger consumer culture of which it is a key element, as important areas of study.  Research in advertising and consumer culture offers insight into business history, race and gender studies, popular culture, journalism history, art, psychology, and many other fields. Old advertisements in and of themselves are fascinating to look at and scholars can use them to make sense of earlier conceptions of fashion and cultural ideals.  Advertising is not to be understood as a mirror of American culture that the historian can employ to recreate and exact image of the past, but the study of advertisements and consumption does offer many clues about how American saw themselves, or how they wanted to imagine themselves, through different time periods.  It offers clues about economic conditions, gender roles, race relations, technological development, and the role of capitalist production and distribution in American history.  

    This website is a bibliographic reference for research in the history of advertising and consumer culture as it has developed in the United States from the colonial period through at least the 1970s.  It provides citations for many of the more useful resources across a wide range categories that relate generally to advertising and consumer culture.  Note that this bibliography is currently concerned almost entirely with print advertising.  An increasing number of the entries include a brief annotation.  Additional citations and annotations are posted on a regular basis.  The goal is to provide a helpful reference for students and scholars in who are doing research in one or more of these areas.  Please contact the editor with any suggestions.

Updated 6 May 2019


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General Texts and Reference Books

Advertising Before the Civil War

Advertising 1865-1920

Advertising 1920-1980s

Biographies and Memoirs

Development of National Markets

Class and Consumer Culture

Race/Ethnicity and Consumer Culture

Gender and Consumer Culture

Outdoor Advertising

Agency History

Consumer Movements and Critics
of Advertising

Selling Technology

Institutional and Goodwill Advertising

Art, Layout, and Design

Propaganda and Public Service Advertising

Department Stores, Retail, Mail Order, and the Display of Goods

Rural Consumption

Advertising Food, Medicine, and Health Care Products

Selling Leisure, Fashion, Travel, and Entertainment

Psychology and Motivation Research in Advertising

Product Design and Packaging

Broadcast Advertising

Professionalization, Regulation, and Reform in the Industry