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The Branding of America
Kellogg's Toasted Corn Flakes advertisement: Good Morning!
[Detail] Good Morning!.
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"What recommends commerce to me is its enterprise and bravery." ~ Henry David Thoreau

"The successful person makes a habit of doing what the failing person doesn't do." ~ Thomas Edison

"The best ad is a good product." ~ Alan H. Meyer

online resources
Especially for Teachers...

Advertisements - (Prints and Photographs) View a selection of images depicting advertisements from the online version of Pictorial Americana.

Advertising and Propaganda - (Special Presentation) This section of the American Women Gateway offers search tips for finding advertising related posters and graphic ephemera in the Prints and Photographs collections.

Advertising Timeline - (Special Presentation) This timeline includes selected events in business technology, media, marketing, and advertising from 1850-1920.

American Women: Advertising and Propaganda - (Special Presentation) This selection of the American Women gateway highlights advertising and propaganda holdings of the Prints and Photographs Division.

BEOnline: Advertising and Marketing - (Internet Resource) Link to advertising and marketing resources recommended by Business Reference Services.

Beverage Industry: Celebrating 50 Years of Service - (Special Presentation) What's your drink? Enjoy this summary of the beverage industry from the 1940s to the 1990s.

Blacks in Advertising - (Cybercast) Marilyn Kern-Foxworth, Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism at Texas A&M University, discusses myths and stereotypes in "Blacks in Advertising Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."

Branding of America - (Collaborative Project) In this collaborative online project featuring primary sources depicting famous American brand names, students are invited to submit products from their own communities.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers - (Digital Collection) Search and read newspaper pages from 1900-1910 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Browse papers for advertisements.

Closer Look at the Stars and Stripes, A - (Special Presentation) Learn about the purpose, organization and content of this eight-page weekly newspaper published for Army forces in France from February 8, 1918, to June 13, 1919. Make sure to browse the advertising section of this presentation.

Commercials - (Internet Resources) Scroll to the end of this Motion Picture and Television Reading Room online for internet sites offering online access to television commercial footage.

Current Business News Via Wire Service - (Internet Resources) Link to these Library of Congress recommended sites for information about current business topics.

Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920 - (Special Presentation) Learn about and link to the 11 categories in this collection: ephemera, broadsides, cookbooks, advertising publications, J.Walter Thompson ads, Kodakiana, Lux, R.C.Maxwell, Pond’s scrapbooks and tobacco advertising.

Guide to Business History Resources - (Internet Resources) This online guide suggests both bibliographic and internet resources to help students research the history of a company.

Highlights in the History of Coca-Cola Television Advertising - (Special Presentation) From animated bottles to polar bears - come see what The Coca-Cola Company has produced for its television audience over the years.

Household Appliances - (Prints and Photographs) View a selection of images depicting advertisements for household appliances from the online version of Pictorial Americana.

Introduction to Prosperity and Thrift - (Special Presentation) This presentation highlights the main themes of the Prosperity and Thrift collection. Of special interest is the Merchandising and Advertising section.

Library of Congress Ad Highlights - (Wise Guide) View television and print highlights from the Library of Congress advertising campaign created in partnership with the Advertising Council.

Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2004 - (Internet Resource) This online exhibition features more than 250 television commercials from election years 1952-2004.

Northern Valley Archives: Developing Web-Based Activities from the American Memory Collection - (The Source) This article offers teacher created ideas for primary source lessons on the topics of Civil War, Industrial Revolution, Japanese Internment, the Progressive Era and Slave Narratives.

Television Advertising: A Brief History - (Special Presentation) With its roots in radio, television impacts how products are advertised to consumers. Come see and say, And now a word from our sponsors...

Things to Know About Trademarks - (Document) Compare the guidelines in this 1911 advertising publication to trademark law today.

  Especially for your Students...

American Treasures: Advertising Pictures - (Exhibition) View early poster advertisements depicting motion picture technology.

American Treasures: Brand-Name Product Advertising - (Exhibition) During the last two decades of the nineteenth century there was a great change in how food products were distributed and advertised.

American Treasures: Clarence H. White School of Photography - (Exhibition) Wynn Richards contracted with the National Cotton Council and began its first national fashion advertising campaign in 1943.

American Treasures: Doublemint Gum - (Exhibition) Wrigley's Doublemint gum was first produced in 1914. Throughout its long history, twins have been used to advertise the product.

American Treasures: Walk Softly - (Exhibition) This letter contains what is thought to be the first recorded use of the phrase “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick,” which was later to become a trademark description of Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy.

Capturing the Memories - (America's Library) Enjoy this short story from America's Library about the introduction of the Kodak camera into American culture.

Explore the States Treasure Hunt - (America's Library) Go on a treasure hunt with your students and explore the America's Library features of the 50 United States. Find products treasured by various communities around the country.

His Master’s Voice - (Wise Guide) Learn the story behind the Victor record trademark – "His Master’s Voice."

Invention of the Ice Cream Cone, The - (America’s Library) Enjoy this America's Library short story on the invention of this sweet treat.

Jump Back in Time: Coolidge and the Consumer - (America’s Library) Calvin Coolidge becomes president. View an early 1900s Warner’s corset ad.

Jump Back in Time: The First Coca-Cola Served - (America’s Library) On May 8, 1886, Dr. Pemberton sold his first Coca-Cola at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta.

Name That Brand! - (Wise Guide) Read this article about name brands.

Today in History (July 5) P.T. Barnum - (Today in History) On this day in 1810 circus entrepreneur, Phineas Taylor Barnum, was born. Even though he did not invent the three ring circus, his name is still associated with the spectacle he called "the greatest show on earth."

Today in History (March 26) In Vogue - (Today in History) On this date, publisher Conde Nast was born. Read how his class targeted publications influenced the fashion industry.

Today in History (May 2) Good Housekeeping - (Today in History) This date marks the debut of the first issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, which later became known for its "Seal of Approval" award to selected consumer products.

United States Patent and Trademark Office Kid’s Pages - (Internet Resources) Students will learn about patents and trademarks at this educational government site! Make sure to check out the official USPTO site too!

lesson plans

Use these lesson plans (created by educators for educators) to explore advertising in America with your students in your classroom:

Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal - (Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8) Students trace Marco Paul’s 1840s journey through the Erie Canal. This lesson inlcudes a variety of Erie Canal related ads.

Thank you, Mr. Edison - (Grades 7-12) Students investigate electrification as both a technological and social process. Lesson 3 focuses on merchandising and advertising.

America at the Centennial - (Grades 9-12) Students analyze items and images of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 and question what these things said about America.

All History is Local - (Grades 9-12) Creating an archive of primary source materials constitutes the principal activity of a year-long American Studies class focusing on historiography and the use of primary sources. Students collect primary source materials from their local communities and analyze the interplay between American and local/personal history.

Doing the Decades - (Grades 6-12) Students create multimedia projects based on their investigation of social and economic themes between 1890-1940. Students may choose to create a newspaper from their decade, including advertisements relevant to the time and place.


Is there a title (or two) that you always read to (or with) your students when teaching about advertising? Are there invaluable reference books that you use when working with this theme? Staff from The Library of Congress have generously donated favorite titles for the advertising theme. We hope you will contribute your favorite titles to our growing bibliography!

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collection connections

Create your own collaborative lesson plans using material related to this month's theme assembled from The Learning Page Collection Connections:

Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920, The - (Summary Only) Emergence of Advertising in America presents over 9,000 images documenting the development of advertising in the United States.

Baseball Cards, 1887-1914 - (Summary and Teaching Resources) Were these cards educational for children, or simply an advertising tactic of the tobacco corporations?

Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements: Highlights from the Motion Picture Archives at the Library of Congress - (Summary Only) Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements presents a variety of television advertisements, never-broadcast outtakes, and experimental footage reflecting the historical development of television advertising for a major commercial product.

Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929 - (Summary and Teaching Resources) Be sure to search on the keyword - "advertising" - in this collection to find a number of ads and pamphlets from this era.

American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera, An - (Summary and Teaching Resources) This collection provides a unique view of American History using items such as posters, business cards, flyers, catalogs, advertisements and leaflets.

By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 - (Summary and Teaching Resources) This collection offers a a variety of posters created by Federal Projects that advertise products and happenings during this timeframe.

Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959 - (Summary and Teaching Resources) This collection contains photos and graphic materials that were used in advertising and present the ideals they convey.

Stars and Stripes: The American Soldiers' Newspaper of World War I, 1918-1919 - (Summary and Teaching Resources) Browse through individual issues to view World War I era advertisements intended to appeal primarily to a male audience.

Washington During the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865 - (Summary and Teaching Resources) This collection documents life in Civil War era Washington, D.C. as seen through the eyes of Horatio Taft.

search terms

These terms may be useful when searching for items related to this theme in the American Memory collections.

Advertising General stores Patents
Advertisements Grocery stores Shopping
Billboards Insert cards Signs (Notices)
Broadsides Logos Slogans
Business cards Names of companies Trade cards
Department stores Names of inventions Window displays
Dry goods Names of products  
Emblems Outdoor advertising  

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Last updated 12/23/2003