Tag Archives: timelines

150 Years of J. Walter Thompson Co. History

J. Walter Thompson owl logoOn this day in 1864, William J. Carlton and Edmund Smith established the Carlton & Smith advertising business in New York, NY. A few short years later, the agency hired a young man by the name of James Walter Thompson. Initially hired as a bookkeeper, Thompson would ultimately purchase the company from Carlton in 1878 and change the agencies name to the J. Walter Thompson Co. It would go on to be one of the largest and most enduring advertising agencies in the world with more than 200 offices in 90 countries around the world.

In 1987, the agency placed its corporate archive in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library here at Duke University. The archive consists of roughly 5,000 linear feet of material and 160 individual collections including the papers of nearly 60 former executives, the records of six offices, 25 departments and functional centers, and over a dozen “artificial” collections such as writings and speeches, agency publications, and newsletters. Navigating this web of interconnected collections is enough to intimidate the most seasoned archival researcher, including library staff.

To help tame the wilderness of the JWT archives, Hartman Center staff, led by Technical Services Archivist Richard Collier, along with our colleagues in Digital Project Services, created an online portal to the JWT archive. We hope the portal will facilitate researcher navigation and discovery of material within the archive and help JWT commemorate its 150th year of operation.

Screen capture of the J. Walter Thompson timeline.
J. Walter Thompson Co. timeline

The portal consists of three major features: an interactive timeline (part 1 and part 2); an administrative history of JWT; and a list of collections associated with JWT in the Rubenstein Library. The timeline feature marks important dates in the history of JWT. You can scroll from event to event using the arrows or—if you were interested in learning about the agency during World War II for instance—you can scroll through the timeline bar and select a specific event.

7 Up's timeline entry.
7 Up’s timeline entry.

The second feature of the portal is an in-depth administrative history of JWT. This portion of the portal presents the history of JWT in a more linear fashion. Entries in the administrative history cover several basic topics: people, accounts, offices, innovations, and general company history. Researchers can trace when the company hired important personnel; acquired large, long-term clients such as Unilever, Ford, Kraft, Eastman Kodak, Kellogg, RCA, and the United States Marine Corps; opened national and international offices; technical achievements and innovations in radio, television, and print advertising; and other tidbits of company history such as milestones in billings and the history of the agency’s corporate branding. Each entry is illustrated with relevant photographs, advertisements, and internal documents.

Screen capture of Associated Collections featureThe final feature of the portal is perhaps the most important component of the timeline. To further assist researchers in making connections between JWT’s corporate history and collections in the archive, we have included a list of associated collections with published online guides.

The timeline has been split into two sections: the first covering 1864 through 1930 and the second into the 2000s. We encourage you to explore the images, advertisements, records, and archival collections documenting the agency’s 150 years of operation. And, of course, Happy Birthday, JWT!

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

The Doris Duke Collection Reimagined

Since August of 2009, when the Doris Duke Collection first opened for research, patrons using the collection have regularly shared with me two pieces of feedback. First is that there is no historical timeline capturing the major events in Doris Duke’s life that could provide context for the collection. The second is the challenge of navigating such a large and complex collection. Because the Doris Duke Collection is divided into smaller collections and the Rubenstein Library holds other collections that contain materials related to or about Doris Duke, discovering all the various parts can beguile even the most seasoned of researchers.

Acknowledging the merit of this feedback, staff from the Rubenstein Library, including me and Noah Huffman, the Archivist for Metadata and Encoding, teamed up with Application Developer, Will Sexton, Web Developer, Derrek Croney, and Digital Projects Developer, Sean Aery from the Duke University Libraries Digital Experience Services to create a “people portal” to the Doris Duke Collection.  The expectation is that this portal will both introduce you to Doris Duke and some of the wonderful materials within the collection, and assist you in effectively navigating the collection and therefore having greater success in finding the materials you’re looking for.

Screen-capture of the Interactive Timeline

The portal has four major features. The first is the interactive timeline, highlighting key events in Doris Duke’s life. By visually representing her life we hope to offer a quick glance to facts and information about Doris Duke. There are several really snazzy features to this timeline. You can scroll from event to event by clicking on the arrow to the right or the left, or if you’re interested in jumping around in the timeline, let’s say to see what Doris was up to in the 1940s, you can scroll the timeline bar below and select a specific year and associated event(s).

Screen-capture of the portal's Biographical History
Screen-capture of the portal's Doris-related collections list

The second feature is the Biographical History. This presents the events in a more linear fashion and not only offers an enticing sample of the material or materials in the collection related to that particular event, but guides you to the collections within the Doris Duke Collection that contain additional information about that event. The idea is to connect the physical materials in the collection to a more abstract event. So for example, if you want to see a selection of materials related to Doris Duke’s wedding to James Cromwell and their honeymoon, you can locate the event and then click through some materials related to that event. You can then select the “Sources” hyperlink. This shows the three collections that contain material(s) related to this event.

The third feature of this portal is perhaps the most exciting. To help you have a fuller research experience, we have included all the collections within the Rubenstein Library associated with Doris Duke, with a direct link to each of the finding aids. By scrolling down this list, you’ll not only see the various smaller Doris Duke collections, such as the papers associated with the Shangri La residence, but other collections within the library that contain materials about Doris Duke. These collections include the James B. Duke papers, since he was her father, and the Duke Endowment Archives, since she was a board member. This list will expand as we not only open additional materials in the Doris Duke Collection but also as we continue to find collections and resources in the library related to Doris Duke.

The final feature is a quiz to test your knowledge of Doris Duke. We wanted to provide an entertaining way to introduce newbies to Doris Duke and also test those who think they know everything about her. We think you’re in for some surprising revelations!

Screen-capture of the Doris Duke trivia quiz. (Answer: True.)

Since this people portal is the first of its kind, we welcome your feedback and any suggestions for improvement. Visit the live people portal here. If you want to learn more about the technology behind this portal, including the use of Encoded Archival Context (EAC), a newly adopted XML standard for encoding information about the creators of archival materials and the circumstances of record creation and use, see Will Sexton’s blog (with the most awesome title ever!) Engineering the Killer Rabbit: How We Represented a Timeline of Doris Duke’s Life in XML.

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist.