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Woodward Advertising Collection

In 1989, Chicago businessman Garry Woodward donated a vast collection of an estimated 4 million historic newspaper and magazine advertisements to the University of Illinois Communications Library. At that time, the Woodward Collection included more than 1,000 filing cabinet drawers of advertisements from magazines and newspapers. The collection is a visual representation of the social, consumer and cultural values of the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries and documents the importance of advertising history.

Collection History:

The Collection was started by Reginald Vance Coghlan, a creative director for the Ruthrauff and Ryan advertising agency. Coghlan was a friend of John Breck who offered him several thousand magazines in which the Breck Girl Shampoo advertising appeared. Coghlan separated all the magazines, compiled, and collated the advertisements and began a service organization offering historical copies of ads, usually covering a whole product category or multiyear history of a brand. Coghlan subsequently subscribed to various national magazines and newspapers and clipped ads for approximately forty years. Details on how the collection was maintained for the next 60 years (until its donation to the Communication Library) are unavailable.

In 2018, the University of Illinois Library received a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) to de-duplicate and rehouse the collection, provide a finding aid, and relocate the collection to a climate-controlled facility.

Collection Scope and Breadth:

Organized by product type, then by brand and date range, the ads date from the late 1800’s through the 1980’s. There are over 250 product categories and over 3,000 brands represented. Product categories with a significant number of ads include: Air-conditioners, Airlines, Alcoholic Beverages, Automobiles, Banks, Cameras, Cigarettes, Coffee, Insurance, Margarine, Meat, Petroleum, Ranges/Ovens, Soup, Tires, Utilities, Watches, and Women’s Products.

Using the Woodward Collection

Researchers can search the finding aid for the Woodward Collection here.

All Woodward Collection advertisements are non-circulating and may only be used in the Communications Library (room 122 Gregory Hall) under the guidance of the Communications Librarian. Researchers need to contact the Communications Library (comlibrarian@illinois.edu) and 1. provide a description of what it is needed and 2. arrange a time to view the items. It is strongly recommended that researchers request these materials well in advance of their visit since materials are stored off-site and would need to be requested ahead of time.

Contact Information:
University of Illinois Communications Library
122 Gregory Hall
810 South Wright Street
Urbana, IL, 61801


For more information, contact the Communications Librarian at: comlibrarian@illinois.edu