Outdoor Advertising Association of America Poster Designs, circa 1930-1940s and undated

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Outdoor Advertising Association of America
3 Linear Feet
729 Items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America Poster Designs are comprised of black and white poster designs (for billboard or other transit advertising), some printed on cards and some photographed and mounted in volumes, that document the advertising design holdings of several outdoor advertising companies from 1934 through the 1940s and possibly later. The majority of the designs in the collection are stock posters in preliminary sketch form with simple lines, but the collection also includes finished designs with brief information on exhibition and award status. Stock designs were created without actual brand names so more than one advertiser could use them by simply inserting their own brand name or product into the ad. The designs include work created or acquired by the Donaldson Lithographing Co., Foster and Kleiser, General Outdoor Advertising Co., and the AD-VER-TIS-ER, Inc.

These designs provide a snapshot of American consumerism during the interwar years by demonstrating how advertising professionals in the 1930s and 1940s represented products in order to entice shoppers. As well, the designs document the production of commercial art during this time period, in both the artistic process of creating ad artwork for billboards or other transit advertising space, as well as in the relationship between ad agency and client. Proven designs were available to the ad agency as sales tools to prospective clients, and these stock images could be reused, so there was less need to customize advertising campaigns for individual clients. The designs are organized into two series: Printed Poster Designs and Stock Poster Photograph Volumes.

The Printed Poster Designs Series consists of a card file of designs including some more polished billboard images, all arranged into product or service categories. The Stock Poster Photograph Volumes Series consists of twelve volumes of designs, also organized by product or service type.

Closely related collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library include the Outdoor Advertising Slide Library; the John E. Brennan Outdoor Advertising Survey Reports; the John Paver Papers; the John Browning Papers; the Duplex Advertising Co. Records; the War Effort Mobilization Campaigns Collection; the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Records; the Garrett Orr Papers; the R.C. Maxwell Company Records; the Howard Scott Papers; and the Strobridge Lithographing Company Photographs.

Biographical / historical:

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) compiled and held the materials that became this collection of poster designs (formerly known as the Outdoor Advertising Sketch Library), but the card file and volumes in this collection most likely originated within the outdoor advertising companies represented, such as General Outdoor Advertising Co. and Foster and Kleiser. OAAA is the primary professional and trade association representing the outdoor advertising industry and was founded to promote outdoor advertising interests in the United States. OAAA members own and operate billboards, street furniture, transit, or other outdoor advertising displays. Members also include service providers to the industry, users of the outdoor medium, and others supporting its goals.

Significant Dates in Outdoor Advertising History
Date Event
OAAA was founded as the Associated Bill Posters' Association of the US and Canada (ABPA)
Outdoor advertising company Foster and Kleiser opened for business in Portland and Seattle; the company later was known as Patrick Media, then Eller, then Clear Channel
ABPA changed its name to Associated Bill Posters and Distributors of the United States and Canada
Association changed its name to the Poster Advertising Association, Inc. (PAA)
The Art Directors Club was organized, establishing standards for commercial arts through competitions and the identification of categories of commercial art
PAA and the Painted Outdoor Advertising Association merged to become OAAA
The Fulton Group and the Cusack Co. combined to become the General Outdoor Advertising Company
First National Contest and Exhibit of Outdoor Advertising Art was held under the auspices of the Outdoor Advertising Department of the Advertising Council of the Chicago Association of Commerce
The first modern "multivision" painted bulletin displayed in Sacramento, Calif.; triangular sections permitted display of three different designs on a single unit
Painted boards were replaced by computer-generated formats
Digital technology affected creation of advertising designs and display
Acquisition information:
The Outdoor Advertising Association of America Poster Designs were transferred to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1998.
Processing information:

Processed by Lisa C. Chandek-Stark

Completed September 2002

Encoded by Lisa C. Chandek-Stark, Ramona Jauneika-Devine, and Ruth E. Bryan

Processing of this collection was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Outdoor Advertising Association of America Poster Designs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.