Newspapers and advertising have vastly impacted the United States within the Nineteenth century. The Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920 reminds me of Chronicling America which I reviewed in my previous post. The database is a research repository from Duke University that consists of over 3,000 advertising items and publications from 1850-1920. The database describes the project as “illustrating the rise of consumer culture and the birth of professionalized advertising industry in the United States.” The collection is a part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.

What features of the digital objects does the metadata describe?

Searching within the database can be conducted by year, company, product, category, subject, location, publication, medium, and format. The metadata describes various artifacts and objects and I believe it is easiest to search by year as date ranges can be easily condensed for specific results within specific dates. I used one of the objects for a previous activity on home family recipes. There are eleven categories of metadata that describes the digital artifacts. The categories are: Title, Headline, Date, Company, Category, Subject, Format, Type, Rights Note, and Digital Collection.

What features does it not describe?

The metadata does not describe the context behind certain objects. Recipies are fairly straightforward but certain advertisements and newspaper articles can be difficult to understand without prior knowledge of the specific article, company, or newspaper. The metadata subsequently does not tell us how consumers reacted to specific advertisements, newspaper, recipes, and other artifacts. It would be nice to have an idea of how certain advertisements impacted the American people.

What questions does the metadata allow you to ask?

The metadata allows researchers to ask questions about specific companies or years but it does not allow researchers to ask questions about a specific location for all objects. The company category is fairly straightforward that returns the results of a particular company that created the physical artifact. The subject category is simply what category the artifact falls under such as Baking or recipes and patent medicine. The metadata can assist researchers best through searching by year or a specific keyword such as advertisements and simply trial and error. I would recommend starting a search from the homepage and “Browse all 3,186 items” to obtain a broad idea of what the database contains and then narrow it down by year or a specific keyword for the best results.

What questions does it not allow you to ask?

The metadata does not allow you to ask questions about the digital file. The metadata only includes information about the physical object which is still very useful. This database is a great compilation of advertisements but could be changed to be more descriptive and yield better results through search terms. For example, using the search term “advertisements” results in 3,183 search results such as “How to Write Advertisements that sell.” By narrowing the date to 1865-1900 condenses the search results to 584. A subsequent problem I uncovered with the metadata is questions that the metadata prevents scholars from asking such as where are the specific objects located through a metadata category. There is no location category for specific advertisements and artifacts which makes it difficult to search by geographic location to find advertisements. The geographic location for all artifacts where an artifact was published would be more useful. For example, if a specific cookbook was published in New York City, New York than a location category would narrow searches if I condensed it to only search artifacts created in New York. Conducting a general search from the home page and clicking on “Browse all 3,186 items” includes a location category but the category is subsequently missing from specific artifacts and advertisements such as here.

Most artifacts such as The Horsford Almanac and cookbook refers to type as still image. The Rights note of subsequent advertisements such as “Choice Recipes: Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes, Home Made Candy Recipes” states that”The materials in this collection are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Texts and images from this collection may not be used for any commercial purpose without prior permission from Duke University.” therefore,  articles published before 1920, such as this specific cookbook published in 1913, is in the public domain.


I believe that this database is a great option to review because of its similarities to Chronicling America and other subsequent search engines and databases.

The metadata reminds me of the George Mason University Library search engine and can be used to a researcher’s advantage if they have a general idea of what year, product, or company they want to begin their search by and narrow down results through simple trial and error.

In conclusion, this database is useful for a broad general search of Advertisements in America if the researcher has an idea of what they want to search. Utilizing trial and error with keywords and working from the beginning at the homepage may be the best way to conduct a search and go from there.

The database is located here.


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