Forgotten classics: The Business Guide by James L. Nichols (1894)

Darryl W. Miller (CBE, University of Wisconsin, River Falls, Wisconsin, USA)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Publication date: 21 November 2016



The purpose of this paper is to review a popular business handbook – The Business Guide – by James L. Nichols, first published around the turn of the twentieth century. The analysis is geared toward determining how it fits within the development of marketing thought and education.


A review of the marketing history literature focusing on marketing thought, education and practice around the turn of the twentieth century is conducted. The content of The Business Guide is analyzed and compared with the themes reflected in the literature review.


Most editions appeared in the era just proceeding the emergence of marketing as distinct discipline. It is unlikely that it had any appreciable influence on the development of marketing thought. However, it was used as a textbook at North-Western College in Naperville, IL, and may have been at other early business education programs in the USA and Canada. Nichols’ treatment of marketing topics was consistent with the era. It reflected commodities and functional views. For him, marketing was primarily distribution along with advertising, pricing, product management and credit. Consistent with modern marketing philosophy, Nichols placed heavy emphasis on ethics.


Despite the fact that this book was published in multiple editions over several decades, it seems to have been largely forgotten. As far as is known, this paper is the only recent treatment of this historical artifact.



The author wishes to thank Professor Brian Jones and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. He would also like to thank Tina Kelly for her help in preparing the original draft of the paper.


Miller, D.W. (2016), "Forgotten classics: The Business Guide by James L. Nichols (1894)", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 564-584.

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