When I revisited the Cover Browser site in the course of writing my recent post on CBR’s 50 Best Comic Covers of 2009, I discovered that an entirely new sister site had been added, Vintage Ad Browser.
The collection includes ads in a variety of genres, arranged within them by decade. Some categories go back into the 18th Century, but I focused on the turn of the 20th Century, looking for some of the ads done by “Golden Age” illustrators, both well known and obscure, before the emphasis in advertising shifted to photography. Unfortunately, there is no attempt to give artist credits (it would be a daunting task, to say the least), but you can just browse for interesting images.
You can select a category (I had some luck with “Beauty & Hygiene” and “Clothes“) and search back through the years for images of ads from that era. Once inside a particular decade, there are usually several subsequent pages of ads (small “Next” link at bottom).
There are sections on propaganda posters (see my post on Propaganda Posters, and here), movies, toys, food, cars, military topics, sports, tobacco and all manner of stuff that has been advertised over the years. It’s a amazing conglomeration of advertising styles, approaches, topics and, best of all, illustration styles.
Some of the initial images are a bit rough, but many of them are linked to higher resolution versions that look much better.
They’re not all gems, of course, far from it in some cases; but the gems are there if you’re willing to do some clicking and searching.