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Guide to the Billboard Photograph Collection
ca 1918-1934
 PR 5

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on August 15, 2019
Finding aid written in English.

Biographical/Historical Note

The photographs in this collection were taken by the New York City photographic company Drucker & Baltes for the General Outdoor Advertising Company; a billboard company formed in 1925 through the merger of the Fulton Group and Thomas Cusack Company.

Outdoor advertising, in the form of flyers, broadsheets and posters, has existed as long as printing on paper has been economically viable. Large chromolithographed posters were popular in America after the process was introduced in 1840, and were used to advertise circuses and shows, as well as for troop recruitment during the United States Civil War. These posters were generally pasted or hung on the sides of buildings or other structures.

Starting in the 1870s and 1880s, large advertising posters began to appear in American cities along elevated railroads and streets, and the first companies leasing outdoor advertising space were formed. 1896 saw the publication of an industry journal, The Bill Poster, as more money was being made through advertising. In 1900, a standard size of poster (16 sheets of 42" x 28" each), as well as a standard size board on which to place it, was adopted by the burgeoning industry.

As automobiles grew in popularity, outdoor advertising became much more prolific. In New York City, the largest billboards were seen in busy intersections such as Times Square and 42nd St. at 6th Avenue, as well as along elevated railroad tracks.

Such large scale advertising was not welcomed by all. In New York, citizens and politicians complained about the visual pollution they felt billboards added to the cityscape. By 1918, New York City laws restricted billboards from residential areas.