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American Consumer Culture combines three vivid collections

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American Consumer Culture combines three vivid collections of documents: Market Research & American Business, 1935-1965, Trade Catalogues and the American Home, and J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America. Together, these galleries are a powerful set of sources for studying the history of consumer culture in the twentieth century – from research into consumer habits to the products produced and the advertising process by which consumer goods are marketed and sold.

  • Market Research & American Business, 1935-1965 provides a unique insight into the American consumer boom of the mid-20th century through access to the market research reports and supporting documents of Ernest Dichter; the era’s foremost consumer analyst and market research pioneer.
  • Trade Catalogues and the American Home. Trade Catalogues have been a prominent feature in commerce and manufacturing from the 18th century to today. Highly illustrated, they are an essential visual record of a variety of products and facilitate research into popular culture, material culture, social norms and attitudes, as well as the history of marketing, business and technology.
  • J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America. 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 the world’s oldest and biggest advertising agencies. The documents in this collection allow us to explore how advertising works, company culture, how decisions are made, and ultimately from this we can examine the effect that the industry may have had over wider culture and how culture interacts with advertising.

This vast collection of primary sources documents 20th-century consumer culture in the United States and offers insights into one of the most important themes of modern times. It looks at three pillars of consumer culture: market research and its psychology; the process of advertising; and the actual goods manufactured and consumed.

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by Patricia Sobczak, business and public affairs collection librarian

Image: Whatever you do…you’ll like what you’ve done!, Campbells Soup Company in American Consumer Culture, Adam Matthew

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