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New J. Walter Thompson Co. Digital Database

Post contributed by Josh Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History.

In 2016, a small group of researchers and project managers descended upon the Rubenstein Library reading room.  They were from the company Adam Matthew Digital, a U.K.-based builder of primary source digital databases for use in teaching and research.  Over six weeks and three trips, they were firmly ensconced in research in our reading room from when we opened at 9AM—pausing only for meals—until we closed.

They perused hundreds of boxes from the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History’s archives of the J. Walter Thompson Co., an advertising agency founded in New York City in 1864.  Considered the most complete record of any existing advertising agency, the archives documents 150 years of the agency’s work with hundreds of business clients, corporate culture, personnel, marketing research, and contributions to the advertising industry.  The goal of Adam Matthew’s research was to build a digital database that captured the essence of the agency and its contributions to American consumer culture.

Homepage for J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America database featuring 1972 Kodak ad from the JWT Advertisements Collection.
Homepage for J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America research database featuring 1972 Kodak ad from the JWT Advertisements Collection.

Thanks to the work of Adam Matthew Digital, Backstage Library Works, our own Digital Collections & Curation Services, and several Duke student assistants, the database is now complete and available to institutions for purchase.  Titled J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America, the database includes print advertisements, writings and speeches by JWT staff, company publications, account materials, company newsletters, market research and reports, meeting minutes and much, much more.  Together, these materials not only document the story of one of America’s oldest and most enduring advertising agencies, but they also reveal many aspects of 20th century history.  Researchers interested in facets of business, social, economic, and cultural history are sure to find the database a rich resource.

"Browse by Collection" page for J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America research database.
“Browse by Collection” page for J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America research database.

If you are interested in purchasing the database for your own institution, inquiries can be sent to Adam Matthew Digital website hereThe database is free to Duke students, faculty, and staff in the Libraries’ collection of resource databases here.

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