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Journalism & Mass Communications: Advertisements as Primary Sources

This guide provides resources for research in Journalism & Mass Communications.

Advertisements as Primary Sources

You may need to employ several strategies to find ads.

Browse or search Google Books Magazines 

Advertisements are included in a few library databases of primary source material,

Early American Imprints, Series I:  Evans, 1639-1800  

New York Times [Historical]

The Listener Historical Archive

New Amsterdam News 1922-1993 

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers 1836-1922

The Times (London) Digital Archive 1785-1985


The Ad*Access project (Duke University) presents images and database information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955.  The AdViews project links to over 1,000 digitized television commercials mostly from the 1950s and 1960s.


The American Memory project from the Library of Congress has six comprehensive collections of historic advertisements which contain hundreds of advertisements including posters created by the WPA. 

The Ad Council’s Historic Campaigns provides images and information on many of the Ad Council’s more famous campaigns including Rosie  the Riveter, Smokie the Bear, etc.
The Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2008  is composed of video collections of political campaigns starting in 1952.

Sears Roebuck and Sears Christmas catalogs are on microfilm.

We may have books which include reprints of certain types of advertisements. Use the word advertising instead of advertisements in your keyword search. It might be hard to know without looking at the actual book whether it will be helpful or not.  Some examples:

 The American automobile : Advertising from the Antique and Classic Eras
The Best in Retail Ads
 Soda Pop; the History, Advertising, Art, and Memorabilia of Soft Drinks in America

Some of the older American magazines in our collection with rich ad content include the following. Click on the link to check the library catalog for the complete information on what years we have and location (regular call number, microfilm or in the Annex).

AP2.A3G664 and microform

Good Housekeeping 1916-


The American Magazine 1906-

AP2.C65 and microfilm

Collier's 1904-


Esquire   1956-


Harpers Bazaar 1942-


Ladies Home Journal 1888-


Life (the original publication) 1936-


Look 1937-


Mademoiselle 1940-


McCall's 1951-, plus a few earlier issues. 


New Yorker 1930-, microfilm


Newsweek 1933- microfilm


Saturday Evening Post 1927-, plus some earlier issues


Time 1923- and microfilm


Vanity Fair 1915-1936


Vogue 1955-


Woman's Home Companion 1945-1957, plus a few earlier  issues

Annex HQ750.A2P33

Parent's Magazine 1947-


Better Homes and Gardens 1928-

Special Collections

St. Nicholas (also available on microfilm as part of the American periodical series 1850-1900)

Refer to the Magazines and Periodicals section of this guide. Maybe you'll have to identify magazines published during a certain time period that would likely have the types of ads you are seeking. That type of search is not easily done in the library catalog.