J. Walter Thompson Company. Wallace W. Elton papers, 1909-1990

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J. Walter Thompson Company
9 Linear Feet
6,750 Items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The papers of Wallace W. Elton span the years 1909 to 1990, although the bulk of the material dates from the 1940s to the 1960s. They consist of correspondence, memoranda, financial records, advertisements, military records, reports, photographs, drawings and other artwork, diaries, scrapbooks, memorabilia, printed material, and clippings. The collection documents the career of Elton; advertising history, especially agency management and the role of the creative director; and the automobile industry, especially advertising campaigns. Clients of the J. Walter Thompson Company represented in the collection include Chesebrough-Pond's, Ford Motor Company, and Pan American World Airways.

Aspects of Elton's education, his service in the United States Navy, his career, and professional projects and associations, including the International Executive Service Corps, are documented in the Personal Series. An alumnus of Brown University, Elton was active in the affairs of the university from about 1967 to 1985. The Personal Series includes correspondence with Brown University's president and others. The series includes advertisement proofs from NW Ayer & Son, where Elton directed the art and layout work for the Atlantic Refining Company, the Ford Motor Company, and other accounts. After resigning from the J. Walter Thompson Company, he became a Vice President for the International Executive Service Corps [IESC], a non-profit group formed to help improve the performance of private enterprises in developing countries. Detailed diaries recorded during Elton's IESC travel describe his work for the organization and include original illustrations. There are also newspaper accounts of IESC activities.

The bulk of the Personal Series documents Elton's executive roles in the J. Walter Thompson Company's corporate administration and the creative departments. Company policies, administrative issues including change in the organization, recruitment, and marketing plans are documented. In personal notes, Elton recorded his private observations about the management of the company and client relations. His interest in the history of the company continued after his retirement and is demonstrated in his participation in Retired Directors Reunions and contributions to the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives Fund. Materials that document Elton's work with J. Walter Thompson Company clients or campaigns are in the Clients Series and the Advertisements Series. While the former focuses on administrative issues in the creative process and the later series focuses on the advertisements and other graphic materials, there is considerable overlap between these two series.

The Clients Series documents communications with clients; the development and production of advertisements and campaign implementation; campaign presentations; and marketing schemes. Call reports record meetings or other communications with clients and are scattered throughout the files. The collateral material, which includes brochures, package and label designs, and other point-of-sale materials, were parts of advertising campaigns created to supplement display advertisements in magazines and newspapers and outdoor advertising. They were given directly to consumers or distributed by the clients.

The Ford Motor Company is the subject of the bulk of the Client Series. Since the Detroit Office of the J. Walter Thompson Company is responsible for the Ford account, a substantial amount of correspondence and memoranda from this office is in the series. It documents the interplay between the creative team in the New York office and account management in the Detroit office, and thereby demonstrates features of J. Walter Thompson Company corporate organization. Correspondence and memoranda from Norman H. Strouse document his management of the Ford Motor Company account in Chicago. Some campaigns were developed as lengthy projects, for example "Project X," an around-the-world tour for the 1958 Ford, and entailed extensive planning and time to accomplish. The Ford Motor Company files include documentation for all phases of such projects, including security measures to preserve the secrecy of the project during the planning phases. "Project M" developed around the concept of using Princess Grace [Grace Kelly] and the palace at Monaco to introduce the 1963 1/2 model year cars. The J. Walter Thompson Company negotiated an agreement between the Ford Motor Company and United Feature Syndicate for use of the services of Charles M. Schulz and the rights to use Schulz's Peanuts comics characters in advertising. The subsequent work executed for the Ford Motor Company's Falcon model is described in the Clients Series and the advertisements are in the Advertisements Series.

Most of the advertisements in the Advertisements Series are from Elton's personal portfolio. For many of the advertisements in the series, he was responsible for the creative idea for the ad copy. Elton sometimes depicted himself, and his wife, as characters in the advertisements. Insight into the creative process and the agency-client relationship can be studied through editorial notes attached to the advertisements or accompanying textual materials which provide information about the campaign or the artwork. A scrapbook contains photographic reproductions of older advertisements paired with tear sheets and proofs of contemporary advertisements developed by J. Walter Thompson Company. Ford Motor Company automobile models were advertised during the year preceding their introduction on the market and, although the publication dates are printed on most of the advertisements, the model year is not always obvious. Several Chrysler Corporation (competitive) advertisements are interfiled with the Ford materials. Norman Rockwell was the artist for some of the Pan American World Airways advertisements. The history of outdoor advertising can be studied from materials in the Personal Series, Advertisements Series, and Pictures Series.

Some of the portraits of Wallace W. Elton in the Pictures Series are by photographer Yousuf Karsh. J. Walter Thompson Company executives and staff are depicted at meetings and social events. Henry Ford and Edsel Ford and various models of Ford Motor Company cars, trucks and tractors are also depicted. In addition to photographs in the Pictures Series, there are photographs of Wallace Elton and International Executive Service Corps activities in the Personal Series.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1907, Dec. 15
Born, Dorchester, Mass.
Received a Ph.D. from Brown University; editor of The Brown Jug
Assistant Art Director, NW Ayer & Son advertising agency, Philadelphia, Pa.
Married Mary Helen Birchard
Senior Art Director, J. Walter Thompson Company and Lennen and Mitchell agencies, New York
Lt. Commander, United States Naval Reserve
1945, Dec.
Director, Art Department, (rehired) J. Walter Thompson Company
Elected Vice President, J. Walter Thompson Company
Copy Supervisor, Elected Vice President, J. Walter Thompson Company
Creative Group Head, J. Walter Thompson Company
Elected to the Board of Directors, J. Walter Thompson Company
Member of the Executive Committee, J. Walter Thompson Company
Elected Executive Vice-President, J. Walter Thompson Company
Elected Senior Vice-President, J. Walter Thompson Company
International Executive Service Corps advertising and marketing advisor in Taiwan; leave of absence from J. Walter Thompson Company
Retired from the J. Walter Thompson Company; Vice President, International Executive Service Corps (1966-1987)
Brown University, Regional Director of Associated Alumni; Alumni Trustee; Regional Vice President of Associated Alumni
Married Jane Vrooman Rice
Inducted into Art Directors Hall of Fame
1991, Feb.
Died, Coral Gables, Fla.

Wallace W. Elton was a member of the following advertising and art organizations: the National Society of Art Directors, the New York Art Director's Club, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Eastern Region Chairman.

Acquisition information:
The Wallace W. Elton Papers were transferred to the Special Collections Library by the J. Walter Thompson Company in 1987. An addition to the papers was donated by Jane Elton (Mrs. Wallace Elton) in 1991. Processing of this collection was supported in part by gifts from the J. Walter Thompson Company Fund and the John and Kelly Hartman Foundation.
Processing information:

Encoded by Alvin Pollock

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Access to some portions of the Wallace W. Elton Papers is restricted.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. There may be a 48-hour delay in obtaining these materials.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives have not been transferred to Duke University. For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item]. J. Walter Thompson Company. Wallace W. Elton Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.