Karr Collection Television Commercials: Introduction
This is a guide to the television commercials in the Lawrence F. Karr
Collection held in the collections of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting,
and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress.
The Karr Collection contains 1,928 commercials produced during the
1960s and early 1970s. In addition, there are 175 duplicate copies. Public
service announcements (PSAs) are not included in this finding aid, but
a guide to them is in preparation. The commercial products advertised
include items such as food for human and pet consumption, automobiles,
cigarettes, miscellaneous products for indoor and outdoor household use,
entertainment products, and various services. Companies which manufactured
the products represented in the Karr Collection include Colgate- Palmolive,
Campbell's, Chevrolet, General Foods, American Oil Company, Topper Toys,
and many more.
These commercials were broadcast on WJAR-TV, Channe1 10, the NBC affiliate
in the Providence, Rhode Island area. Although some of the advertising
campaigns found in this collection were for products available only in
this geographic area, most were for products meant for a wider, national
audience of viewers and consumers.
Researchers in the fields of broadcasting history, advertising history,
industrial relations, film and media studies, American studies, women's
studies, African American studies, and other areas will find these films
rich in representations of American life during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Many of the ads depict, or make reference to, topics and issues which
characterize that time period. The environmental concerns as reflected
by the Great Society programs of the Johnson administration, the Vietnam
War, the Civil Rights movement, the burgeoning "youth culture", the women's
movement and the sexual revolution are presented in imaginative ways
in these commercials.
Aesthetically, the visual and aural zeitgeist of the 1960s and early
1970s is captured through use of jump cuts, montage editing, innovative
lighting, "mod" fashions, psychedelic graphics, and diverse music sound
tracks representing rock and roll and jazz that foreshadow the techniques
later found in the music videos of the MTV era.
In addition to the Karr Collection, other television commercials are
contained in the collections of the Division. However, it is difficult
to gain access to many of them because in the older manual card files,
they are entered under the name of the sponsor and are not brought together
as a genre. The following is an example of a title in the card files: "[Colgate
Palmolive television commercial]. Bend your elbow."
Since about 1987, commercials have been cataloged in the Library's
MUMS computer system. To date, MUMS contains 573 commercials.
The titles of the television commercials begin with the generic term, "[Television
commercial--]," and continue with the name of the product or sponsor
and, in some cases, the title of the commercial, if known. The following
is an example of a title in the MUMS system: "[Television commercial--Quaker
State motor oil]. Father and son."
A number of search strategies could be used to locate the commercials.
The most inclusive search would be a title keyword search limited to
the file of audio-visual materials: "find t television commercial and
c collection;f=av." The second component of the search string, "and c
collection," confines the results to commercials actually held at the
Library of Congress. If the searcher knows the type of product or the
name of the manufacturer or service provider, they should add those words
to the search string, for example: "find t television commercial miller
beer and c collection;f=av." For further assistance on searching MUMS,
please consult online help, online searching documents, a reference librarian
or Library of Congress publications.
Separate guides to the Dartmouth College Collection of approximately
500 television commercials, dating from 1952 to 1963, Gitt Collection
of television commercials and public service announcements in the Karr
Collection are also available. It is hoped that other collections will
be made accessible through finding aids in the future.