This past September, Jay Paull, a vintage ad enthusiast based in Reston, Va., launched an online archive to showcase his collection of more than 10,000 American advertisements dating from the 1830s to the 1920s.
Mr. Paull aims to digitize every advertisement—some 10,000—from the publications in his collection. He has currently scanned about 2,700, dating from 1834-1916. He says he hopes his archive will “capture the scope of what American life was really like in that era through advertising.”
There are other digital archives of early American advertising accessible to the public. Duke University has two online archives, Ad*Access and Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920, which each contain several thousand ads that are free to browse.
In order to avoid copyright issues, all the ads in the digital archive are pre-1923 (generally, works published before 1923 are in the public domain). Visitors can’t download or order prints of the advertisements on his site.
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