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Emergence of Advertising in America Research Guide

A research guide to the Emergence of Advertising in America digital collection. The guide contains contextual information about source collections and historical context.


  • 1841 - Volney B. Palmer opens the first American advertising agency, in Philadelphia.
  • 1850 - Advertising in the New York Tribune doubles between October 1849 and October 1850.
  • 1850 - Phineas T. Barnum brings Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale" to America, employing newspaper ads, handbills, and broadsides to drum up extraordinary interest in this, until now, unknown-to-Americans international singing star. From being relatively anonymous six months prior to her arrival, she is met at the docks by 30,000 New Yorkers - a result of Barnum's advertising campaign.
  • 1851 - I. M. Singer and Company takes out its first patent for the Singer Perpendicular Action Sewing Machine.
  • 1851 - The first issue of the New York Times (under the name "New-York Daily Times") is published.
  • 1851 -Benjamin Bratt is the first to manufacture and mass-market soap in bar form.
  • 1852 - First advertisement for Smith Brother's Cough Candy (drops) appears in a Poughkeepsie, New York paper - the two brothers in the illustration are named "Trade" and "Mark."
  • 1853 - A Boston court rules that Singer infringed on Elias B. Howe's 1846 sewing machine patent, and Singer pays Howe $15,000 in the settlement.
  • 1853 - Railroad lines reach west as far as the Mississippi River.
  • 1856 - Mathew Brady advertises his services of "photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes" in the New York Herald paper. His inventive use of type in the ad goes against the newspaper industry standard of all-agate and all same-size type used for advertisements in the papers.
  • 1856 - Robert Bonner is the first to run a full-page ad in a paper, advertising his own literary paper, the New York Ledger.
  • 1858 - First Transatlantic cable laid, between Ireland and Newfoundland.


  • 1860 - 33,000 patents are issued between 1850 - 1860; only 6,000 patents had been issued in the previous decade.
  • 1861 - The first Sunday edition of the re-named New-York Times is published, capitalizing on interest in news of the Civil War.
  • 1861 - There are twenty advertising agencies in New YorkCity.
  • 1863 - James W. Tufts builds and patents a soda-fountain machine for use in his Boston drugstore.
  • 1864 - William James Carlton begins selling advertising space in newspapers, founding the agency that later became the J. Walter Thompson Company, the oldest American advertising agency in continuous existence.
  • 1865 - George P. Rowell and his friend Horace Dodd open their advertising agency in Boston.
  • 1866 - Transatlantic cable becomes operational.
  • 1867 - The magazine Harper's Bazaar premieres.
  • 1867 - Lord & Taylor is the first company to use double-column advertising in newspapers.
  • 1868 - Vanity Fair magazine begins.
  • 1869 - N. W. Ayer and Sons advertising agency is founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the following year begins advertising its own agency in both general and trade publications.
  • 1869 - E. C. Allan starts the People's Literary Companion, marking the beginning of the "mail-order" periodical.
  • 1869 - The first advertisement for Sapolio soap is published.
  • 1869 - George P. Rowell issues the first Rowell's American Newspaper Directory, providing advertisers with information on the estimated circulation of papers and thus helping to standardize value for space in advertising.
  • 1860s - Advertising begins to appear in nationally distributed monthly magazines.


  • 1870 - Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe) appears in a Harper's Weeklyadvertisement endorsing Waltham watches.
  • 1870 - The Boardwalk in Atlantic City is completed.
  • 1870 - Chesebrough Manufacturing Co., makers of Vaseline, is founded.
  • 1870 - 5,091 newspapers are in circulation, compared to 715 in 1830.
  • 1871 - 121 brand names and trademarks are registered with the US Patent Office.
  • 1872 - Montgomery Ward begins mail order business with the issue of its first catalog.
  • 1872 - The Associated Press extends its news service to 200 papers.
  • 1875 - 1,138 brand names and trademarks are registered with the US Patent Office.
  • 1875 - The Sholes and Glidden typewriter, made by the Remington Co., is first advertised in New York papers; the first successfully selling typewriter, the "Remington No. 2," appears in 1878.
  • 1876 - Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.
  • 1877 - The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 occurs. The labor unrest spreads across the country, affecting freight traffic.
  • 1877 - The Washington Post newspaper begins publication with a circulation of 10,000, costing 3 cents a paper.
  • 1878 - Thomas Edison secures basic patent for a phonograph machine.
  • 1878 - J. Walter Thompson buys out William J. Carlton's small ad agency and renames it after himself.
  • 1878 - The American Cereal Co. introduces Quaker Oats as the first mass-marketed breakfast food.
  • 1879 - Ivory soap is named, four years after the formula was accidentally discovered at Procter & Gamble.
  • 1879 - George Eastman patents a process for making dry photographic plates.
  • 1879 - Frank Woolworth opens his first "five and dime" store.
  • 1879 - John Wanamaker places the first whole-page newspaper advertisement by an American department store.
  • 1870s - Charles E. Hires begins advertising Hires Root Beer in the Philadelphia Ledger, expanding over the next two decades into national magazines.
  • 1870s - $1 million dollars is spent annually advertising Lydia Pinkham's Pink Pills.
  • 1870s - Louis Prang, a lithographer and printer, develops the idea of mass-producing small "trade cards" that could be adapted to the needs of individual advertisers at low cost. Thread companies, such as Clark's O.N.T., are among the first to begin nationwide distribution of advertising trade cards.
  • 1870s - In response to the high volume of outdoor advertising (including posters and signs painted on rocks, buildings and barns) in cities and rural areas, several states begin to impose limitations to protect natural scenery from sign painters.