Guest editorial: International sources for advertising and marketing history

Richard Hawkins (Department of History, Politics and War Studies, University of Wolvehampton, Wolverhampton, UK)
Leighann Neilson (Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 6 May 2022

Issue publication date: 6 May 2022



Hawkins, R. and Neilson, L. (2022), "Guest editorial: International sources for advertising and marketing history", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 133-134.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

This special issue of the Journal of Historical Research in Marketing (JHRM) has its origins in the 19th Biennial Conference on Historical Analysis and Research in Marketing held in Ottawa, Canada, 16–19 May 2021. Discussions at this conference suggested that there was a need for more accessible information about the international primary sources available for advertising and marketing history research. A paper presented at the Ottawa conference by archivists Dalton Campbell, Kelly Anne Griffin and Andrew Elliott from Library and Archives Canada (LAC) highlighted this issue. LAC has a lot of archival collections relating to advertising and marketing, but many of these sources are unknown to marketing and advertising history researchers. Discussion following the presentation focused on two main points:

  1. learning about the availability of archival sources can help researchers improve the rigour of their work through access to primary sources; and

  2. learning about archival sources can inspire additional research topics.

Thus, this special issue was born. A version of the LAC conference paper by Campbell, Griffin and Elliott is included in this special issue.

Since the call for papers for this special issue was issued, the world has had to learn to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 virus. The pandemic did not create, but it did dramatically emphasise issues related to access to physical archival material. With travel circumscribed and, in many cases, academic researchers are forbidden to travel by their universities, we have had to become a lot more familiar with the availability and conditions for access to digitised archival records. Several of the papers in this special issue speak to the availability of digital records and comment on their use. In addition to the LAC article, this special issue includes ones on advertising and marketing resources available at other libraries and archives. Christopher Long and Bridget Long survey the Pirate Archives, which are held by the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Pirate is an award-winning Toronto-based advertising company founded in 1990. The archive contains numerous case files relating to Canadian brands as well as Canadian political parties. Terrence H. Witkowski’s article surveys the sources available for advertising and marketing history at the McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, WY. Its collections have a particular focus on the history of firearms marketing in the United States. The library also includes the Buffalo Bill Collection, which reveals how Wild West shows were marketed and experienced. Ann-Marie Kennedy, Jayne Krisjanous and Sarah Welland look at historical inclusion and exclusion in New Zealand marketing and advertising using the primary resources available for historical research at Archives New Zealand and the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, New Zealand. Katherine Margaret Howells explores British advertising and marketing history in her article using the records of the National Archives of the UK. Jeanette Strickland has a broader focus in her article on European sources for advertising and marketing history. It builds on Fred Beard’s study of the world’s archives to identify historical advertising and marketing ephemera, published in JHRM Vol. 10, No. 1. Tony Yan and Michael R. Hyman’s article explores historical research with Chinese multilateral historical marketing sources created in China from 1842 to 1949.

While the Covid-19 pandemic initially led to many researchers having to put their research projects on pause, it has also given us the opportunity to become more familiar with non-traditional sources, like and, resources created for other audiences but already containing a wealth of information that can be of use to marketing and advertising historians. This gives added resonance to the final two articles. The article by Leighann Neilson looks at digitised primary sources for marketing and advertising historians. Her focus is on those available on subscription and, in particular, the collections available at The final article by Richard A. Hawkins looks at online digitised historic newspaper collections available around the world with a particular focus on those which are freely accessible without charge. These were particularly valuable for marketing and advertising historians who were confined to their homes in countries that imposed lockdowns during the worst of the Covid 19 pandemic.

As we look to the future of marketing and advertising history research, we need to take into consideration the changes that information technologies have brought to archival recordkeeping. Since at least the mid-1990s, many official and personal records have been “born-digital”. As historian Ian Milligan (2019) discusses, this major shift in form brings with it both advantages and disadvantages. Massive amounts of information are now being collected and stored in digital form by organisations such as the Internet Archive ( Included in these archives are records of more people from all walks of life than would have been collected before. This could mean that researchers will have access to the records of buyers, sellers, marketing and advertising practitioners, channel partners, etc., who would not have “made the cut” to have their records stored in, for example, national archival collections. It also means that we will need to learn how to access and effectively search all of this information. Articles that assist marketing, and advertising historians learn about the existence of and how to access “born digital” archives would make a welcome contribution to future issues of JHRM.

Milligan, Ian. 2019. History in the Age of Abundance? How the Web is transforming historical research. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

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