Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements, 1910-1954 and undated 9 Linear Feet — 7166 Items
The Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements span the years 1910 through 1954, documenting much of the company's printed poster advertising work from that era. All images are black and white. The core of the collection, the Image Files Series, consists of around 1000 8x10 photographs ("A" images) of advertising designs, and a similar number of smaller printed cards (approx. 5x7 to 5x8, "B" images) of outdoor advertisement designs. The images are accompanied by three different Access Files to be used to browse the collection. These files are in the form of image photocopies ("job tickets") and catalog cards. Most images are of poster (billboard or transit card) designs, but there are also some photographs of tabletop display advertising, window cards and other point-of-purchase displays. The collection documents advertising during a time when transportation was changing in America, and the automobile was gaining in popularity. Billboards began to replace smaller posters, accommodating a more mobile public. It was then that Strobridge turned from its emphasis on circus and theater posters (not represented in the collection) to billboard ads for mass-produced products. Many different products are featured, but perhaps the two most prominent and well-represented campaigns are those for Camel cigarettes and Palmolive soaps. The images form a valuable reference collection of advertising designs, relevant for researchers from a variety of disciplines including commercial artwork, advertising history and design, and popular culture.
The collection documents outdoor advertising design during the first part of the twentieth century for what were mostly national brands. Numerous examples are from the era of hand-drawn and painted designs, often signed by artists including Norman Rockwell, Howard Scott, and Dr. Seuss (see his designs for the product Flit). Rarely, an artist is listed on the back of the image. Later designs from the 1940s and 1950s include photographic images, often peppered with celebrity likenesses including John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, and Charlton Heston. Many of the celebrity advertisements promoted tobacco products. Some designs are clearly war-era, such as advertisements depicting a 1943 female factory worker, or one from Schlitz (1942) mentioning war bonds.
The first series, the Access Files, can be used to browse the collection and narrow a search for an individual advertisement before moving on to the Image Files themselves. Items in the Image Files are labeled with an "A" or a "B" indication. The "A" group holds the larger 8x10 photographs and the "B" group contains smaller images (primarily 5x7 and 5x8) printed on cards. There is some duplication between the "A" and "B" groups. The "A" images contain advertisements from the 1910s through the 1950s, and the "B" advertisements were created mainly in the 1920s and 1930s. All point-of-purchase advertising is in the "A" group. There is often indication of the size poster the design was made into (e.g. 24-sheet), a design or perhaps job number (e.g. Camel No. 93), and a title (e.g. "Perfect" for a Camel advertisement with the text "Perfect Taste"). Most designs are presumed to have been created and published by Strobridge, but there are some images stamped "W. J. Rankin Corp." Some images show billboards as they were posted; some of these show the nameplate of the outdoor advertising company that owned the billboard structures.
The name of the collection is seen on folders and sometimes elsewhere as the "Strobridge Lithography Company," but the materials themselves as well as other documentation reveal the name to be "Strobridge Lithographing Company" at the time when most of this collection was created. Almost all advertisements are in English, presumably for posting in the U.S., but a few, such as Spur cigarette advertisements, are in Spanish.
Related collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library include a number of other outdoor advertising collections, such as the Outdoor Advertising Slide Library, the John Paver Papers, the John Browning Papers, the Duplex Advertising Co. Records, the H.E. Fisk Collection of War Effort Mobilization Campaigns, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Records, the Outdoor Advertising Poster Design Collection, the Garrett Orr Papers, the R.C. Maxwell Company Records, the Howard Scott Papers, and the John E. Brennan Outdoor Advertising Survey Reports. There are also numerous published items from the era of this collection which provide even more context for the designs.