100 years of cultural and consumer history through the eyes of an advertising giant.

Advertising has had a fascinating effect on the world through its interactions with consumer culture. J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America documents these interactions via the workings of one of the world’s oldest and biggest advertising agencies. The documents in this collection allow us to explore how advertising works, what company culture was like, and how decisions are made. Ultimately, from this we can examine the effect that the industry may have had over wider culture and how culture interacts with advertising. 

This project makes available a large portion of the documents in the J. Walter Thompson archive held by the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. The J. Walter Thompson archive consists of publications, reports, research, memoranda, correspondence, meeting minutes, creative briefs, scripts, speeches, newsletters, artwork and advertisements created by the staff of J. Walter Thompson. Due to the nature of these documents, minority voices can be difficult to find. Find more information on this in our Searching Guide and Language Statement.

The documents published here range from the late nineteenth century up until the late 1990s with the bulk representing the post-1945 world. The collections included are the Publications, Account Files for nine key clients, Staff Newsletters, Staff Writings & Speeches, Chicago Office Research, New York Office Research, New Business Records, Information Center Records, Corporation Vertical Files, Review Board Records, Staff Meeting Minutes and a selection of Print Advertisements. A huge number of brands, companies, and industries are covered from automobiles to cosmetics and cruises. It includes complete files on some of J. Walter Thompson’s key accounts. Find more information on the full J. Walter Thompson collection on our page about the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History.

These brand case studies are:

Kellogg's logo




Kodak logo




Kraft logo




Oscar Mayer logo


Oscar Mayer


Pan Am logo


Pan Am World Airways


R. T. French logo


R.T. French


Scott Paper Company logo


Scott Paper Company

United States Marine Corps logo


United States Marine Corps

White Castle logo


White Castle Restaurants

Discover more about the collections in our Collection Introductions.  

Read more about the Brand Case Studies and Account Files.

Read more about some of the key industries included in the collection in our Industry Guides.

Discover tools and resources to assist in teaching with J. Walter Thompson in our Teaching Tools.