BOSTON—A new exhibit, The Art of American Advertising, 1865-1910, recently opened in the north lobby of Baker Library | Bloomberg Center on the Harvard Business School campus in Boston. Organized by the Baker Library Historical Collections, it is free and open to the public as well as the HBS community.
The exhibit showcases the modern American advertising materials that burst onto the economic and cultural landscape after the Civil War. By the 1860s, the railroad industry had created a national network for the manufacture and distribution of industrial and consumer goods and, with it, the need for eye-catching, widespread advertising.
This new exhibit features works from the Library’s vast Historical Collections to portray an era when innovation in printing technologies widened the range of advertising possibilities as industries and businesses sought new methods and practices to ensure and enlarge consumer demand. It includes trade cards, trade catalogs, posters, broadsides, circulars, brochures, souvenir publications, and novelty items along with trade journals and other publications.
“The emerging advertising profession after the Civil War represents a marketing revolution in which technology, creativity, and art were marshaled together to serve commercial ends,” said Melissa Banta, curator of the exhibit. “With this extraordinary assemblage of printed materials, we can explore the role these burgeoning and extraordinarily inventive forms of advertising played in marketing mass-produced products to the evolving American consumer culture.”
According to Director of Special Collections Laura Linard, “The rise of the internet in the 1990s had an enormous impact on global business and industry, setting off an explosion of online advertisements as the American advertising industry experimented with new ways of reaching consumers and established new models of working. The late nineteenth century witnessed a comparable dramatic shift,” she observed. “Booming industrialization and growth in per capita income fueled commercial expansion and the emergence of the American consumer market, spurring on manufacturers and businesses to produce a fantastic variety of printed materials to advertise their products. This exhibit captures the essence and excitement of that period in US history.”
The exhibit will run until April 5, 2014.
About Baker Library Historical Collections
Baker Library Historical Collections (www.library.hbs.edu/hc/) is a rich resource for scholarship in business and economic history and cross-disciplinary studies. Thousands of items - including business records, diaries and correspondence, research papers, rare books, ephemera, and visual materials - provide the documentary evidence that allows scholars to investigate firsthand the important business theories, organizations, movements, and individuals that have shaped our nation's history and globally influenced progress and developments today.