Making Sense of Advertisements Daniel Pope

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Making Sense of Advertisements Daniel Pope
(from the Making Sense of Evidence series on History Matters: The U.S. Survey on the Web, located at Advertisements are all around us today and have been for a long time; advertising-free “good old days” just don’t exist. This guide offers an overview of advertisements as historical sources and how historians use them, a brief history of advertising, questions to ask when interpreting ads as historical evidence, an annotated bibliography, and a guide to finding advertisements online. Author Daniel Pope has taught at the University of Oregon since 1975 and is currently Associate Professor and History Department Head. He teaches courses on American economic and business history and on the history of American radicalism. He is the author of The Making of Modern Advertising (1983) and editor of American Radicalism (2001); he has written many articles on the history of American advertising, marketing, and consumer culture, and on the history of nuclear power and anti-nuclear activism. Introduction Over a century ago, Harper’s Weekly commented that advertisements were “a true mirror of life, a sort of fossil history from which the future chronicler, if all other historical monuments were to be lost, might fully and graphically rewrite the history of our time.” Few if any historians today would claim that they could compose a complete history of an era from its advertisements, but in recent years scholars have creatively probed advertisements for clues about the society and the business environment that produced them. The presence of many excellent online collections of advertisements provides learners as well as established scholars the opportunity to examine these sources in new ways. The experience can be tantalizing and frustrating, since advertisements don’t readily proclaim their intent or display the social and cultural context of their creation. Yet studying advertisements as historical...
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