Advertising History in the United States: A Bibliographic Reference

The study of advertising history and the associated consumer culture is one of the newer fields in mass communications research.  With some notable exceptions, historians have been slow to recognize the importance of this seemingly superficial element of American culture.  However, many scholars now see advertising, and the larger consumer culture of which it is a key element, as important areas of study.  Research in advertising and consumer culture offers insight into business history, race and gender studies, popular culture, journalism history, art, psychology, and many other fields. Old advertisements in and of themselves are fascinating to look at and scholars can use them to make sense of earlier conceptions of fashion and cultural ideals.  Advertising is not to be understood as a mirror of American culture that the historian can employ to recreate and exact image of the past, but the study of advertisements and consumption does offer many clues about how American saw themselves, or how they wanted to imagine themselves, through different time periods.  It offers clues about economic conditions, gender roles, race relations, technological development, and the role of capitalist production and distribution in American history.  

This website is a bibliographic reference for research in the history of advertising and consumer culture as it has developed in the United States from the colonial period through at least the 1970s.  It provides citations for many of the more useful resources across a wide range categories that relate generally to advertising and consumer culture.  An increasing number of the entries include a brief annotation.  Additional citations and annotations are posted on a regular basis.  The goal is to provide a helpful reference for students and scholars in who are doing research in one or more of these areas.  A handful of the entries include a short annotation and I hope to add more of these over time. Please contact the editor with any suggestions.

Updated July 21, 2024

General Texts and Reference BooksAdvertising Before the Civil WarAdvertising 1865-1920s
Advertising 1920s-1980sBiographies and MemoirsDevelopment of National Markets
Social Class and Consumer CultureRace/Ethnicity and Consumer CultureGender and Consumer Culture
Outdoor AdvertisingAgency HistoriesConsumer Movements and Critics of Advertising
Selling TechnologyInstitutional and Goodwill AdvertisingArt, Layout, and Design
Public Service Advertising and PropagandaDepartment Stores, Retail, Mail Order, and the Display of GoodsConsumer Culture in Rural America
Advertising Food, Medicine, and Health Care ProductsSelling Leisure, Cosmetics, Fashion, Travel, and EntertainmentPsychology, and Market Research in Advertising
Product Design and PackagingBroadcast AdvertisingProfessionalization, Regulation, and Reform in the Industry

Copyright Robert A. Rabe (2024)