Super Bowl Sunday! (not commercial-free)

Super Bowl Sunday is a fixture in American culture. For some, it’s a day when the two top performing teams in the National Football League come together for an epic bout. For others, it promises hours of adorable puppy antics, eating plenty of buffalo – themed snacks, and getting a heavy dose of pop-culture during the halftime show. However, perhaps the biggest spectacle keeping viewers tuned in is the ongoing saga of the Budweiser Clydesdale horse and its unbearable cute puppy friend (and the other ads, too).

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Budweiser billboard, 1922. 1st and Ocean, Asbury Park, NJ

Advertising during the Super Bowl is big business, being one of the few events on American television that viewers of almost all demographics watch. According to ABC, the average thirty second commercial during the big game can cost as much as $4.5 million.

Advertising from 1850-1920 looked slightly different. Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library has made over 9,000 images about the early history of advertising in the United States available online, providing researchers and interested users an invaluable perspective on the evolution of modern American business and culture. This collection is known as The Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850 – 1920 (or EAA). Accompanying EAA is a research guide, illustrating a curated set of illustrations from eleven different categories, including advertising cookbooks, billboards and outdoor advertising, and tobacco.

Previously, we’ve written about the Ad*Access project. Materials from Ad*Access also come from Duke University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, but contain materials from 1911 to 1955 covering subject categories such as beauty & hygiene, transportation, radio, television, and World War II.

The two projects together present over 16,000 images covering a span of over a century of advertising history. Users can search for a specific advertisement, or browse by company, product, date, format, publication, subject, medium, or headline. If you appreciate Super Bowl advertising, you’ll also enjoy its print-based precursor.

 

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