Collections Crossover: Advertising
Collections Crossover: Advertising

The great motor manufacturing pioneer Henry Ford once said, 'Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.' Ford knew a thing or two about advertising and he was not alone. Throughout the nineteenth century, as industrialisation expanded, urban centres grew and population boomed, an emergent middle class became the target market for a deluge of manufactured goods from beauty creams to baking powder. Advertisements to entice the consumer became an integral part of everyday life, as the creative talent behind posters, trade cards, leaflets, magazines and newspapers vied for the public's attention. By the end of the nineteenth century, such was the vivid variety of graphic artistry on poster hoardings, they were known as 'the poor man's picture gallery'. Time and technology have moved on but advertising remains a touchstone of society's tastes, economy and culture at any given period. It is also undoubtedly one of the best ways to explore the lives of past generations.

This is one of those subjects on which we have literally tens of thousands of images, so we felt a newsletter offering some navigation would be helpful. Let's start with magazines which are a bountiful source of advertisements, especially good quality weekly illustrated titles such as The Illustrated London News, The Sphere or The Graphic, which were aimed at the prosperous middle class. John Frost Newspapers is also rich in advertisements, from both British and American publications. You can see examples from both here.

Moving on to posters, Onslow's is a respected auction house for vintage posters and offers some of the very finest. This they have in common with one of our newer contributors, Twentieth Century Posters. Their advertising posters are powerhouses of design, colour and style.

Some of our more eclectic contributors such as Maurice Collins (the subject of last week's Collection of the Week), Terry Parker, Retrograph and Land of Lost Content sweep through various decades to bring the strange, quaint, nostalgic and retro. Whether you are searching for self-pouring teapots, flamboyant toilets, a complete set of new teeth or Jolly's Duchess Pills ('for pale faces') you are sure to find something to delight here. We are also thrilled to have a number of images from the doyen of historic advertising and marketing, Robert Opie, collector extraordinaire and founder of London's Museum of Brands and Packaging. View a selection here.

Adverts in varying forms pop up in many other collections, but we should mention those in our own archive, a number of which are rare and unique. Here are just some of the images you'll find if you spend a few hours here, peering in box files marked 'trade cards' or flicking through our selection of early books on advertising and marketing.

Besides the advertisements themselves, we have some excellent material on the advertising industry and its influence, much of it from the Peter & Dawn Cope Collection and the CLM Archive, ranging from agencies and printers to key ad men and artists of the past such as Ashley Havinden, William Crawford, Jules Cheret and Tom Purvis. Add to this examples of advertising ephemera aimed at children, hoardings, bill posters, sandwich men, buildings and even fancy dress costumes based on famous brands, and it's clear the influence of advertising spread far and wide.

If you have a promotion notion that we can help to illustrate, drop us a line. We're in the market to help with research, quotes or any questions you might have about using the library. Call us on 020 8318 0034 or email

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd.  59 Tranquil Vale  Blackheath  London  SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.
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