All posts by Kate Collins

Beef & Okra Gumbo (1957) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

Throwing a Mardi Gras-themed party this weekend? Then check out this gumbo recipe!

New Orleans Carnival season is in full swing with Mardi Gras fast approaching. My Twitter feed is full of images of brightly clad parade goers and heaps of dazzling beads. Scrolling through my feed the other day, nostalgia overwhelmed me. I had been missing New Orleans, the subject of my dissertation research. In that moment, I wanted one thing: gumbo.

With a goal to kick off the Rubenstein Test Kitchen in 2017, I thought I could make gumbo from a historic recipe, satiating my emotional need for it while also sharing my passion for the dish with wider audiences. There was one flaw in my plan, though. I had already written a blog post for the Devil’s Tale on Shrimp Gumbo Filé. As I pointed out in that post, however, New Orleans-style gumbo is anything but formulaic and reflects the complexity of New Orleans’ Creole food culture. There were an infinite number of combinations that I could draw upon to make a gumbo dish that would look nothing like the one I had made a few years ago.

So, I set out to look for a gumbo recipe that stood in contrast to the meaty seafood stew I had previously made from the Picayune’s Creole Cook Book (1916). Whereas I tend to gravitate towards roux-based stews with chicken, ham, and seafood, I knew that there were entirely different gumbo traditions—ones that drew upon ingredients that I have never tried in my gumbos.

Ladies Home Journal (1957). David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

I found just the recipe I was looking for in an article published in a 1957 issue of Ladies Home Journal. This was a beef-based stew with tomatoes and okra, among other unfamiliar gumbo ingredients like basil and oregano. The recipe came from an article titled, “Main Dishes with a Southern Accent,” written by Dorothy James, a native New Orleanian.

Okra Gumbo

Buy 2 pounds of either stewing beef or veal cut into 1” cubes. Put in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven along with 2 cups water, 2 cups chopped onion, ¾ cup chopped green pepper, ¾ cup chopped celery, 2 cloves garlic, crushed. Season with 1½  teaspoons salt, 1½ teaspoons gumbo filé, 1 teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon basil, ½ teaspoon orégano, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and a dash of crushed red-pepper flakes. Gumbo filé is innate to gumbo as far as Southern cooks are concerned, but it is not generally available in the North. It may be omitted, in which case add a little more red pepper and herbs. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Separate the meat from the broth and set both aside. Make a brown roux with ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup bacon drippings. Add the broth, 4 fresh tomatoes, peeled and quartered, and 1 cup tomato sauce. Cover and cook until the sauce is well blended. Then add the meat, cover again, and simmer gently about 45 minutes longer. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Wash and trim 1½ pounds fresh okra. Then cut into ½” pieces—there will be about 3 cups. (You can use two 10-ounce packages of frozen okra). Add to the gumbo and cook another 20-30 minutes, or until the okra is tender. Serve with rice. Makes 6 servings.

The final product was incredibly tasty. The gumbo, which had three kinds of thickener (filé powder, roux, and okra slime), had a decadent, creamy texture. The tomato was not overwhelming and provided a tangy, sweet undercurrent that blended nicely with the kick of the red pepper flakes. I had to add a bit more salt to balance the flavors in the dish to my liking. Overall, it was a satisfying meal that showcased both beef and okra beautifully.

As is the case with any recipe, there are tips, tricks, and “trade secrets” that are regularly left out. I’ve added some notes to help create the most flavor-packed gumbo possible.

I purchased a fatty beef brisket from the local grocery store. The more fat in the meat, the more flavorful the stock. I also patted my beef try with a paper towel (thanks for the tip, Julia Child) and browned it in 2 tablespoons of oil to start a nice faun on the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes, I pulled the beef out, added a bit more oil to the pan, and sautéed my vegetables for 5 minutes. Then, I added the beef back in along with the water and spices. I added an extra cup of water so that the beef was almost completely covered.

After letting the stew simmer for an hour, I separated the beef and broth, trimming the extra fat off the beef once the meat had cooled. In the meantime, I washed out my cast iron pot and prepped to make a roux, the base of most Creole stews. For a detailed lesson on how to make a roux, see my previous blog post on gumbo. This time, I decided to make a quick roux, in ten minutes or less. I heated up equal parts oil and fat over medium-high heat and stirred constantly. My roux went from butter yellow to Hershey’s chocolate bar brown in about 9 minutes. I poured the broth back in and then added the tomatoes and tomato sauce, and eventually the beef (watch for splatter from the hot roux).

Finally, I added in the okra, and allowed the gumbo to simmer for another 30 minutes, while I prepared rice.

Voila!

Pioneering African-American Women in the Advertising Business, Biographies of MAD Black WOMEN

Date: Wednesday February 22
Time: 3:30 to 4:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
Optional Facebook RSVP

Dr. Judy Foster Davis of Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business will present on her research into the history of African-American women who have worked in the advertising industry. She has recently published a new book on this topic,  Pioneering African-American Women in the Advertising Business, Biographies of MAD Black WOMENHer research focuses on marketing communications strategies and policies in corporate and entrepreneurial settings and historical and multicultural marketing topics. This event is part of the Hartman Center’s 25th Anniversary lecture series focusing on women in advertising and is co-sponsored by the Baldwin Scholars and African & African American Studies.

Research-a-Palooza 2017 Round-Up

On January 6, we invited our colleagues across the Duke University Libraries to come to the Rubenstein Library and explore our collections. Of course they (and anyone else) are welcome to come do research at anytime, but sometimes it’s fun to bring some conviviality to our reading room. Check out what our colleagues looked at – they have such good taste!

Winston Atkins – Preservation Officer
I used the Frank Clyde Brown Papers, General Editors’ Papers Series. In the process of editing Brown’s massive collection of North Carolina folklore for publication, the two associate editors who focused on ballads and folk songs chose not to publish about 25 percent of the collection’s music. I’m curious about the characteristics that led them to exclude a song. Naturally, they would want to omit songs that were under copyright, but even so, ambiguity existed. In 1954, one of the associate editors, A. P. Hudson, sent the Duke University Press the first of five checks for $50 to reimburse them for a reprint fee paid to Shapiro, Bernstein, & Co., a music publishing house. Hudson’s recently-published volumes had included songs that had begun as folk songs but unhappily, versions of these songs were under copyright. “I simply did not believe that any one would object to our publishing, without music, the somewhat garbled traditional texts of a lot of pieces that began as all folk songs do.” No word on whether the Press accepted the check.

Amy McDonald – Assistant University Archivist
I spent a little of my research time browsing through a curious scrapbook in the papers of Braxton Craven (considered Duke’s second president, he led the institution from 1842 to 1863 and then from 1866 to 1882). It contains sentimental and moralizing love stories clipped from newspapers and magazines. Many of the stories are accompanied by handwritten summaries of their key lessons; you can see examples of these words to live by on the Rubenstein’s Tumblr.

I’m not entirely certain who kept the scrapbook (Braxton Craven himself? A family member?)—but lest you think that this guy doesn’t look susceptible to this sort of story, let me remind you that one of his claims to fame is as the author of “Naomi Wise: Or, The Wrongs of a Beautiful Girl,” the story of a Randolph County, NC murder that became the basis for the oldest known American murder ballad.

Research-a-palooza time was nearly up when I came to a story with a truly great title (photo at right). I didn’t get a chance to read it (saving something for the next research-a-palooza!), but I’m sure Amy’s revenge was suitably epic.

Hannah Rozear – Librarian for Instructional Services
During Rubenstein Library’s Research-a-Palooza I looked at 1930s issues of a student literary magazine called, The Archive. I chose this item because I knew that a student activist and leader of Duke’s American Student Union, Sheldon Harte ‘37, was an editor for The Archive and I was curious to see what kinds of essays he’d contributed. I did find a piece of his he wrote called, “Red is Symbolic of Kay,” – which was a really interesting find because it’s a short allegory that Sheldon wrote about communism. After graduating from Duke, Sheldon moved to Mexico City where he became a bodyguard for Trotsky and, tragically, was kidnapped, tortured, and killed by enemies of Trotsky in the summer of 1940 (see Duke magazine article for details).

Megan O’Connell – Research Services Assistant, Rubenstein Library
Having been around during the tail end of the Cold War amid national fears of nuclear attack, I was curious to see how these concerns had been addressed on college campuses such as Duke. Duke’s Fallout Preparedness Committee worked in the 1960s to evaluate the readiness of the University and community for a nuclear attack, assess existing infrastructure, build fallout-shelter infrastructure, and establish plans for emergency actions. From their reports, I learned that the Perkins library building is a superior shelter due to our sub-basements and thick stone walls; that early plans detailing which faculty and staff would shelter in the library neglected to include the Library staff (!); and that people sheltering for extended periods were to be offered sedatives and shuffleboard.

Kelly Wooten – Research Services and Collection Development Librarian, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture
I requested the Sarah Bowdich Lee manuscript on African history and geography from the 1830s to take a look since I had come across it in the catalog by chance. We have a collection of digitized women’s travel diaries, so I was curious about whether it might be a fit for that. In reviewing it, I felt empathy for undergraduates and other researchers who struggle with cursive writing—it was legible but difficult to skim. Though it is intended as scientific and based on observations, the colonialist tone towards the people and cultures she encountered in Africa were apparent from page one.

After setting the Lee manuscript aside, I poached a box of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazines from the shelf on hold for my colleague Kate Collins who will be leading a class on Mystery Fiction. I am a huge fan of shows like Murder, She Wrote and book series like the Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French, so I couldn’t resist. The covers were all pulp style illustrations, so I ended up browsing through the entire box rather than settling on a Dashiell Hammett short story to read.

Aaron Welborn – Director of Communications
If Research-a-Palooza was a contest, Aaron definitely would have won. He and his wife looked at more than 10 books and archival collections. Here some of highlights from what they saw:

Papyrus fragment (P.Duk.inv. 756), containing a bit of Book 4 from Herodotus’s Histories

I had just finished reading Ryszard Kapuściński’s Travels with Herodotus, a beautiful, meditative book about his many decades as a foreign correspondent for the Polish Press Agency. Throughout his travels, Kapuściński took along a copy of Herodotus’s Histories, and he interweaves his own stories of covering political coups, civil wars, and repressive regimes with interludes from the 5th-century BC historian. The stories in that ancient text become a kind of lens through which to see the ongoing, seemingly eternal struggle of East vs. West, as well as the craft of writing history. The history of the ancient world has been passed down to us in bits and fragments, and it’s amazing that any of it survived. So I wanted to lay my eyes on one of those fragments and see it up close and in person. It was really cool.

Andrew Jackson Papers from the Harry L. and Mary K. Dalton Collection
There have been a lot of comparisons in the press lately between Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump. Some people have this romantic vision of Jackson as an “American lion” who had an almost mystical connection with the masses and who bent the arc of history to his will. But it’s also worth remembering that Jackson was a genocidal demagogue with an unwavering commitment to slavery. The papers in this collection contain interesting glimpses of relations between the U.S. government and the Creeks, Cherokee, and Seminoles, who Jackson ultimately expelled from their own lands in one of the most shameful episodes of American history. Plus ça change…

Various Whitmaniana, including his corrected versions of “Songs of Myself” and two locks of his hair.
I’ve always heard about our Whitman stuff, but I’ve never actually taken the time to look at any of it. There is SO MUCH to peruse! His handwritten corrections to “Song of Myself” are fascinating in particular and reveal a messy, restless mind that was always revising, always trying out new turns of phrase. On one page, you can see where a drop of blood stained the paper, and Whitman has pointed to it and written “Inspiration!” As for the hair, I just wanted to see it because I could.

Patsy Breaks into Advertising: Women’s Recruitment on Madison Avenue

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

You might be surprised to learn that advertising agencies have a long history of recruiting female employees. Compared to other corporate fields, ad agencies developed fairly progressive attitudes towards women’s employment as early as the late nineteenth century. At that time, women wrote advice manuals for those seeking to build professional careers. One such book, Occupations for Women (1897), contains an entire chapter on advertising. That chapter notes: “A business field which women are exploring with success is that of advertising […] So clever have women proven themselves in this special line, that hardly a manufacturer having goods toward which he wishes to attract attention, fails to avail himself of their availability.” Encouraged by the descriptions in these manuals, women entered into clerical work at ad agencies. Some of them earned promotions, becoming copywriters or market researchers, among other advanced positions. Irene Sickel Sims was one such pioneering woman who we’ve already profiled in The Devil’s Tale. She worked as an assistant advertising manager and chief of copy for the retail advertising bureau of Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago in the 1910s and 1920s.

Agencies understood that female advertisers and diverse perspectives were key for successfully marketing to women consumers who made the vast majority of household purchases. According to a 1917 “house ad” created by the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT), the company had recently “developed a staff of women” to target the large demographic of female buyers. The ad goes on to note that “over a period of years, this staff has illustrated that women, thoroughly trained in advertising, working with men, can establish facts which cannot be even approximated by men working alone.” Those women recruits, hailing from some of the most prestigious universities in the country, created highly successful advertising campaigns for JWT clients. Although some women were able to enter into the field of advertising in roles beyond that of a typist or executive assistant, the majority of employees in executive roles remained white men. It was not until the post-WWII period that significant numbers of women and people of color began taking on positions as ad executives.

Author photo in Patsy Breaks into Advertising (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946). Hartman Center Archives.
Author photo in Patsy Breaks into Advertising. (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946).

In the post-WWII period, women published fictionalized works encouraging girls to consider advertising as a potential career. E. Evalyn Grumbine, for example, wrote two novels that tell the story of a young woman who achieves career success in the field: Patsy Succeeds in Advertising (1944) and Patsy Breaks into Advertising (1946). In writing Patsy’s character, Grumbine drew upon her own professional experiences as the advertising director and assistant publisher of Child Life Magazine.

Grumbine’s aim was to provide young women with a realistic portrayal of the professional and personal life of a career woman. In Patsy Breaks into Advertising, for example, the main character’s professional journey is marred by setbacks. Over the course of her burgeoning career, she deals with missed job opportunities, personality conflicts with work colleagues, and an inability to meet deadlines. Yet, she shows resilience and learns key skills like how to handle copy and cuts for production that enable her to eventually earn a position as an advertising manager. Patsy Breaks into Advertising, therefore, is much more than a career guide, it is also a commentary on the American work ethic at that time.

Front Cover, Patsy Breaks into Advertising (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946). Hartman Center Archives.
Front Cover, Patsy Breaks into Advertising (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946).

Advertising was one of many professional fields that juvenile literature highlighted in order to encourage industriousness in young women. Other fictional characters included librarians, realtors, nurses, doctors, and stewardesses. The Rubenstein has numerous books in our collections that illuminate societal views on career advancement for young women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Back cover listing other career books offered by Dodd, Mead & Company, Patsy Breaks into Advertising (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946).

You can learn more about JWT, career books, and the role of women in advertising via the “Agencies Prefer Men!” The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, open through March 17, 2017 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

From Hawaiian Pie to Mustard Meringue: The Role of Test Kitchens in Modern Advertising

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

One of the Duke Libraries’ most popular blog series is the Rubenstein Test Kitchen. For this series, we invite library staff and affiliated scholars to recreate historic recipes, some of which delight and some of which cause fright (wiggly meat jell-o, believe it or not, isn’t as appealing as it once was to the American consumer). Our contributors exercise a fair amount of creativity and patience as they replicate decades- or even centuries-old recipes. Their trials and tribulations at the stovetop are indicative of the culinary skills and know-how that can be lost in translation. For example, many historic gumbo recipes begin with the phrase, “First you make a roux,” but do not provide instructions for how to actually make the roux. The creators of those recipes assumed that readers would have mastered the challenging technique of slowly toasting flour in fat, which, in the 1800s was common knowledge. Many Americans today, however, would not know how to start a roux or even know that it is a traditional base for sauces and soups. Recipe writing and replication are no easy tasks.

Reflecting on our popular posts, a question came to mind: where did test kitchens originate? After co-curating our most recent exhibit, “Agencies Prefer Men!” The Women of Madison Avenue, I learned that the early history of test kitchens is actually tied to advertising agencies.

Woman in JWT test kitchen, mixing a batter.
J. Walter Thompson’s Chicago office test kitchen, 1919. JWT Archives, Iconographic Collection.

In 1919, the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) was the first advertising agency to invest in an on-site home economics service and test kitchen. The initial purpose of the kitchen, according to the JWT News Bulletin, was simple: “to invent and test recipes” in order to instruct women “how to get the best results with the greatest economy.” The kitchen was located in the Chicago office, which catered to important clients in the food industry, including Libby, Kraft, and Quaker.

As the test kitchen matured, its goals diversified to fit the demands of JWT clients. Researchers in the test kitchen, for example, worked to discover new uses for client products so as to increase sales opportunities in new fields. The test kitchen also had an important relationship with the art department at JWT. Researchers prepared dishes and brought them to the art team to be photographed for print advertisements. Those early experiments regularly failed because the food quickly lost its luster and thus looked unappetizing in photos. After an hour or so, for example, flaky biscuits and airy souffle no longer looked fresh. In order to remedy this issue, JWT employed home economics experts and renovated the test kitchen space, turning it into an “art gallery” for prepared foods. JWT understood the importance of the adage, “we eat with our eyes first.” The efforts of JWT paid off. As recounted in the News Bulletin, “The piping hot biscuits of the copy were made ten times as attractive by the delicate flakiness of the samples in the illustration.”

In this laboratory, test kitchen staff also created recipes to include in print advertisements. For example, they would have tested Libby’s products like Hawaiian Sliced Pineapple and Pineapple Juice before the agency designed advertisements for publication in magazines like The Ladies’ Home Journal

Advertisement for Libby's Pineapple, featuring pineapple upside down cake
Libby’s advertisement, 1947. JWT Archives, Domestic Advertisements.

In time, the test kitchens of JWT not only functioned as places to present foods more effectively in advertising, but also as places that defined the trajectory of American cooking. As reported in the September 1958 JWT newsletter, the Home Economics Center was “an endless source of food ideas of all kinds.” As a promotion for their client, French’s mustard, JWT created a new recipe for meatloaf that featured a tangy mustard meringue on top of a mustard-laced loaf. The researchers also created a recipe for a heartier pizza crust made with French’s mustard. These innovative uses for ordinary products helped boost sales for many of JWT’s clients, bolstering the company’s reputation as one of the most dynamic and influential advertising agencies in the world.

Two women in the JWT Chicago Office Test Kitchen. One is icing a cake, the other is in the background preparing a turkey.
J. Walter Thompson’s Chicago Office Test Kitchen featuring Mabel Anderson (left), the head of the Home Economics Division, and Mildred Stull (right), 1958. JWT Archives, Iconographic Collection.

As we ready ourselves for the next round of Rubenstein Test Kitchen posts, I hope that our contributors think back on the paramount role that test kitchen researchers played in the making of the modern American palate, including the fascinating recipes preserved in our archives.

You can learn more about the JWT test kitchen researchers and their contemporaries in advertising via the “Agencies Prefer Men!” The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, open through March 17, 2017 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Global Health Humement Project & World AIDS Day Event

When: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Time: 3:00 – 5:00 p.m., reception to follow
Where: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (room 153) of the Rubenstein Library

This semester, Global Health Professor Kearsley Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives class is tackling a new project using Rubenstein Library collections. Working with poet and writer Kelley Swain, students are exploring the Maria de Bruyn Papers, a rich collection of global health materials related to de Bruyn’s work as a medical anthropologist globally addressing HIV/AIDS.

Students in Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives explore the de Bruyn papers.
Students in Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives explore the de Bruyn papers.

Students are delving into the de Bruyn papers as they work with Kelley Swain and learn more about the Humement project, based on the work of artist Tom Phillips, and apply this to their class. You can find details about their work in a recent DGHI newsletter. (A very important note: Original materials were not altered. Students spent an afternoon selecting original documents to scan and reproduce for their projects.)

In conjunction with the work of Professor Stewart’s class, the History of Medicine Collections is co-sponsoring an event with the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Health Humanities Lab, and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & the History of Medicine to recognize World AIDS Day. The event will be held on Wednesday, November 30, from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. with a reception to follow, held in Room 153, the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room of the Rubenstein Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Speakers will include Maria de Bruyn, Alicia Diggs of North Carolina AIDS Action Network (NCAAN), poet and writer Kelley Swain, and students from Professor Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives class.

An exhibit in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room will highlight a small sample of what can be found in the Maria de Bruyn papers. In addition, students in Professor Stewart’s class will be showcasing their work on the Student Wall in Perkins Library in December and January.

Rena Bartos and “The Moving Target” in Modern Advertising

As one of the first female advertising executives in the country, Rena Bartos dramatically changed the way advertising envisioned women, both in the board room and in their marketing products.

Photograph of Rena Bartos c. 1970
Rena Bartos, c. 1970s, JWT Archives, Iconographic Collection, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

While at JWT, Bartos created a pioneering concept in marketing called “The Moving Target,” which treated women as diverse consumers, rather than a monolithic group. She argued that in the 1970s, women’s attitudes and lifestyles were changing and accordingly so were their consumer habits. According to Bartos, the 1970s were different from previous decades because men and women increasingly purchased consumer goods together. She named that historical period, “the era of partnership,” highlighting the more egalitarian division of labor among men and women both at home and at the workplace and its impact on consumerism.

The Moving Target cover
The Moving Target. J. Walter Thompson Company, 1974. JWT Archives, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

In order to understand the shifting desires of women consumers, Bartos took into account the influence of women’s careers on their consumer habits. Responding to inquiries about whether or not “working” and “non-working” women shared similar needs, she argued that in order to make a fair comparison between the two groups, one must take into account their life situations including whether or not they were married or if they had children. Defined by more than just their career paths, women’s consumer needs were complex and constantly shifting, indicative of Bartos’ Moving Target concept.

Spiegel advertisement, Vogue, 1980
Spiegel advertisement, Vogue, 1980, Jean Kilbourne Papers, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

As pointed out in The Moving Target (1974), there was a growing trend in advertising “toward depicting the woman who is happily fulfilled in traditional areas–as wife and mother–and how, in addition, holds a job she likes.” The 1980 Spiegel advertisement above is indicative of that trend. The ad quotes a working mom: “I’ve successfully managed one aviation company, two children and three languages.” According to Bartos, the majority of advertisements, however, continued to depict women as either housewives or as anxious working women, “scurrying home from the office to take her house-wifely tasks anxiously in hand.” Her work, therefore, came at a crucial time in advertising, encouraging the industry to embrace the reality of a multi-dimensional American experience.

Enjoli Perfume advertisement, Vogue, 1978,
Enjoli advertisement, Vogue, 1978, Jean Kilbourne Papers, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Bartos’ contributions to marketing and advertising stretched far beyond her time at JWT. Following her successes there, she created her own consulting firm, the Rena Bartos Company. In addition to her pioneering work as a consultant, she also served as the President of the Advertising Women of New York, was the first woman elected chair of the Advertising Research Foundation Board of Directors and was the first woman invited to be a member of the Copy Research Council. The Advertising Research Foundation honored her many contributions to the field by awarding her the Lifetime Achievement Great Mind Award in 2012 at the age of 94.

You can learn more about Bartos and her contemporaries via the Agencies Prefer Men! The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, open through March 17, 2017 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

Exhibit Opening and Lecture with Helayne Spivak: “Have We Come A Long Way, Baby?”

Date: Tuesday, November 15th
Time: 6:15 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (room 153) of the Rubenstein Library

final-posterJoin the Hartman Center in celebrating its 25th Anniversary with its second event in the anniversary lecture series focusing on Women in Advertising.  Helayne Spivak, Director of the Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University, will speak about the status, achievements, and challenges women face in the advertising industry today as well as reflect on her own career and women mentors she has had.

Across the hall in the Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room, the Hartman Center will unveil its new exhibit, “Agencies Prefer Men!”: The Women of Madison Avenue. This exhibit uses material from the Hartman Center’s collection to share the long and sometimes hidden history of women in advertising, tracing the career opportunities open to women as they progress from clerical staff to copywriting, art and market research and on to the highest positions in ad agencies as creative directors and CEOs.  The exhibit will run through March 10, 2017.

Light refreshments will be served.

Applications Now Accepted for the 2017-2018 Travel Grant Program

t1867-1The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2017-2018 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, and the Human Rights Archive (new this year!) will each award up to $1,000 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein also offers the Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship, a $1500 award for researchers whose work would benefit from use of the Jantz Collections.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, NC, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2017. Recipients will be announced in March 2016.

The Occasionally Recorded Happenings in the Business and Social Life of Irene Sickel Sims, 1916-1917

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

In the AMC hit television series Mad Men, Peggy Olson begins her career in advertising as an executive assistant whose skills and conviction enable her to become the first woman copywriter at the firm. Throughout the series, she is portrayed as a burgeoning second-wave feminist whose work ethic and determination enable her to succeed in a male-dominated industry. Although fictional, Olson’s story reflects the experiences of real women who worked on Madison Avenue in the post-WWII period. These mid-century professionals were but one generation of pathbreaking women in advertising. Unbeknownst to many viewers, women had their start in advertising long before Beatlemania hit the U.S. or the mini-skirt was in vogue. In fact, their integral contributions date back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In Frances E. Willard’s Occupations for Women (1897), the author dedicates an entire chapter to the integral role of women in advertising. Willard notes that women

are becoming advertising agents, taking the position in establishments in charge of the advertising department, and above all, are finding large remuneration in writing special advertisements for manufacturing firms […] So clever have women proven themselves in this special line, that hardly a manufacturer having goods toward which he wishes to attract attention, fails to avail himself of their ability. (149)

Irene Sickel Sims was one such pioneering woman. She worked as an assistant advertising manager and chief of copy for the retail advertising bureau of Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago. She kept a diary (1916-1917), the front page of which is inscribed with her playful handwriting, “This Then Commences the Occasionally Recorded Happenings in the Business and Social Life of Irene Sickel Sims.” The diary, written 100 years ago, details her work relationships and her day-to-day activities at the bureau, which ranged from business lunches to professional conferences. Many of her entries detail her professional relationships with men, marked by daily encounters, some of which she found frustrating and some of which inspired and motivated her.

Black and White Photograph of Exterior of Marshall Field's Chicago Store
Marshall Field’s Chicago Store, c. 1907, Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. https://www.loc.gov/item/det1994015806/PP/.

As she built her reputation in the company, her colleagues regularly sought out her expertise. In August of 1916, for example, a young male co-worker came to her for help with ad revisions. She recorded the interaction in her diary:

R.V.T wrote me Saturday: “Mrs. Sims: You know so well the ways of grammar and the by-paths the trails of rhetoric. Won’t you answer this for a poor section top?” appending a criticism received on one of their signs. I decided then I’d rather have a note like that – I’d rather have all the young men in the dept. coming to me for adv. counsel and criticism than have the best of surreptition loves.

For Sims, experiencing success at work was more exciting than the thrills associated with a secret love affair popularized in literature in film at that time. She found pleasure in her career and thrived off of her abilities to mentor her colleagues, male and female alike. Sims was so successful at Marshall Field’s that other companies regularly recruited her, enticing her to join their advertising departments with formidable offers.

Photograph of two interior pages of Irene Sickel Sims's handwritten diary
Irene Sickel Sims Diary, 1916-1917, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Sims was one of many pathbreaking women to enter into the field of advertising in roles beyond that of a typist or executive assistant. Yet, the majority of employees in executive roles remained white men. It was not until the post-WWII period that significant numbers of women and people of color began taking on positions as ad executives.

You can learn more about Sims and her contemporaries via the Agencies Prefer Men! The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, opening November 15, 2016 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.