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Finding Resources on Consumers & Shopping


****Topic List***



Your textbook is often a good place to identify a topic for your research and to find sources that will provide context on a topic. Book chapters are often accompanied by notes and/or a bibliography, both of which will point you to further reading.

If you are checking for availability of a book, check by title in Cook OneSearch . Type the tiltle of the book into the Cook OneSearch box and note the call number so that you can retrieve it from the stacks, request it from another USMAI library, and/or browse for related books in the same general area of the Cook library stacks. To determine the availability of an article that is in a bibliography, type the title of the article into the search box. If Cook owns it, you will be directed to it through a direct link or through Find It.

There are a number of REFERENCE resources that might be useful for finding an overview and an historical timeline on products, consumers, and shopping. They generally fall into the areas of popular culture and social history. You will see some of them listed below. Most of them are located in the reference stacks on the main floor of the library. Some are available online and require that you enter your NetID if you are located off campus.

NOTE:Once you pick a product, especially if it is related to a specific company, check for the website of the company. Company websites often have sections devoted to company history and historical advertisements. Also, check for a timeline of your product on the web. This will give you an idea of the years in which you should be searching for advertisments for your product.


American Eras: 1600 - 1899

  • Look at the sections on lifestyles, social trends, and fashion



American Decades: 1900 - 1989

  • Look at the sections on lifestyles, social trends, and fashion

E169.1 G7553


Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life in America: 1763 -

  • Look at the category Material Life under each time period

St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture

  • Also available in Reference stacks: Ref E169.1 S764 2000
  • To get a good idea of what's included in the encyclopedia, see the Topic List for categories such as: advertising, brands, consumption/consumerism, daily life, fashion/clothing, magazines, foodways, products, retail, and toys/games
  • Or look for the Category Index, by clicking on the Table of Contents tab, choose vol. 5: U - Z from the drop down menu on the top right of the resulting screen, select Category Index > once in it, scroll to page 313

E169.1 B7825 2002


Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of the 20th Century: 1900 - 1990s

  • In each chronological volume, look at entries by topic categories such as: Commerce; Fashion; Food & Drink
E169.1 E626 2001

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century

  • See articles on advertising, consumers & consumption, and merchandising
E740.7 E53 1996 

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century

  • See articles on consumption and marketing
HN57 E58

Encyclopedia of American Social History

  • See section - Patterns of Everyday Life, especially the article: Culture and Consumption
Specific Subject Encyclopedias

American Beauty Industry Encyclopedia

  • Articles on topics such as: advertising; branding; designers; undergarments; grooming, male and male beauty; hair care products; hair straightening; wigs; African and Asian American and Latina beauty industries; various beauty/style magazines; tanning; tattoos; skin care; whitening/brightening/bleaching
  • Check List of Entries by Topic for product suggestions

Check the Library Catalog for books available at Cook Library. If you want a larger selection of books available in all of the University System of Maryland libraries, check the USMAI Catalog. Be warned that books are usually not your best resource for product history. Databases like America: History & Life and JSTOR may be better.

  • Use the following as search strategies for identifying books:
    • Look at subject word/s such as: consumer*; shopping; shopping malls; consumption and search with other words such as: history; social aspects (For example: subject word/s..... shopping and social aspects; consumers history united states)
    • Look at the subjects that have been assigned to a book that you have found in notes or a bibliography
    • Subject beginning with.... product history (For example: tobacco history; coffee history; automobiles history)
    • Subject beginning with.... advertising product (For example: advertising beauty ; advertising beer; advertising cigarettes
    • subject word/s.....coffee and marketing
Magazine, Newspaper, & Journal Articles

Begin your search from the Advanced Search screen of Cook OneSearch, a resource that searches for articles from many research databases. Some of the databases include:

Try searching for your product OR industry ( For example: cosmetics or beauty industry, eyeglasses or eyeglass industry, beer or alcoholic beverage industry) AND it with the word history. Also try searching your product or product industry AND the word.... advertis* (with an asterisk) or consumer* (with an asterisk), which looks for resources on consumer behavior or consumers' preferences or consumers.

JSTOR is a non-Ebsco database that might also prove useful in your search for journal articles. Try searching it separately, as its articles are not always included in a Cook OneSearch.

Advertisements & Commercials (Primary Sources)

Try a Google search, typing the name of your product or company and the word ad. For example: L'Oreal ads; dishwashing detergents ads. Limit your search to Images, if desired.


History Matters: Making Sense of Ads [hosted by George Mason University]

  • See Advertisements Online for websites that are devoted to advertisements including tobacco, Coca-Cola, soap and others

Historical Advertisements [hosted by University of Pennsylvania]

  • Bibliography of online sources, some that we can access, others that we cannot because the library does not subscribe to them

Vintagae TV Commercials [ Prelinger Library]

  • Television commercials housed in the Internet Archive
  • Browse to see the 43 collections that constitute the entire collection

Ad Access


Vintage Ad Browser 

  • Indexed by product, by year from 1800 - 2000s

Classic Advertisements Gallery [Smithsonian Institution]

  • Special exhibit from the Smithsonian Institute highlights twenty ads from power companies made between the 1880s and 1930s

Historical Newspapers [ProQuest]

  • Includes: New York Times (1851 up to 3 years ago); Sun [Baltimore] (1837 - ); and four black newspapers, ranging in date from 1910 - 2005
  • For newspaper advertisements on your product: Click on Advanced Search and search by company or product; choose two document types: advertisement, classified advertisement ; and limit by dates, if desired
    • For articles on a product: Select a date range, choose document type: Article, and try searching the product name in document title - TI, instead of all fields + text

Accessible Archives

  • A database of magazines, newspapers, and other historical materials that provide access to primary sources
  • Start by clicking on SEARCH on the menu bar at the top of the screen. Choose publications such as:
    • Godey's Lady's Book (1830-98) , Pennsylvania Gazette (1728 - 1800) , South Carolina Newspapers (1732-80), and the Virginia Gazette (1736-80).
    • When searching Godey's Lady's Book, type the name of your product in the search box and select advertisements; limit by year, if desired.
    • When searching newspapers like Pennsylvania Gazette or Virginia Gazette, type the name of your product and the word advertisement (For example: coffee advertisement) in the search box and limit by year, if desired (Unlike Godey's, newspapers do not have the option to select advertisments only, so you have to type the word advertisement as part of your search.)

Films on Demand is a research database that provides streaming video of films on many academic topics, including consumers, consumerism, and advertising. These films tend to focus on the current status of these topics, rather on the historical aspects.

  • To see what is available generally on advertising, look under the subject Advertising & Public Relations within the database
  • Or try a keyword search, by typing commercials in the search box
  • Or try a keyword search, by typing consumer* in the search box and changing by segment to by title, to search in video titles only for consumer*
MLA Style Guides

Check the QUICK TOOLS menu on the Cook Library homepage for Citing Sources for help in citing in MLA style. You will find three brief guides here that were created by Cook Research & Instructions librarians.

For a more extensive, but easy to use guide, I recommend Diana Hacker: Research and Instruction Online Choose the MLA list of works cited for instructions on how to cite specific types of resources.

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The URL for this Web page is http://pages.towson.edu/sara/shopping.html

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