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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:534 1931-1944 A939

Automobile Industry Photograph Collection


This collection consists of approximately 2000 black and white photographic prints that depict manufacturing activities, plants, officials, exhibits, and war work of the numerous automobile manufactureres in the United States.


  • 1931-1944
  • Majority of material found within 1936-1942

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information.


19 linear feet (25 boxes)
The collection consists of approximately 2000 black and white photographic prints. The photographs depict manufacturing activities, plants, officials, exhibits, and the war work of numerous automobile manufacturers. The images also include various publicity stunts and events such as cross-country races, good will tours, and appearances by local and national celebrities. A large portion of the collection consists of promotional photographs of the manufacturers’ various makes and models of automobiles, mostly for 1936, 1937, 1939, and 1941. Many photographs illustrate details, such as the front grill, the trunk, the interior of the vehicle, or the engine. Most photographs include a caption written by the firm’s marketing department. There are also some printed materials prepared for auto show press kits.

The automobiles manufacturers represented include Ford Motor Company and Lincoln; Chrysler Corporation and its Chrysler, DeSoto, Dodge and Plymouth divisions; of General Motors Corporation and its Buick Motor Company, Cadillac Motor Company, Chevrolet Motor Company, General Motors Truck Company, Olds Motor Works and Pontiac Motor Company divisions; and independent automobile manufacturers Auburn Automobile Company, Graham-Paige Motors Corporation, Hudson Motor Car Company, Nash, Packard Motor Car Company, Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company, Reo Motor Car Company, Studebaker, Willys-Overland, and the White Motor Company. There are also a small number of photographs from related organizations and businesses, such as the American Automobile Association, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, General Tire and Rubber Company, and Steward-Warner Speedometer Corp. The collection is arranged by manufacturer name.

Historical Note:

The First National Automobile Show was held in November 1900 in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. More than 40,000 visitors viewed displays of automobiles, parts and accessories presented by fifty-one exhibitors. The New York show was held each year thereafter until World War II. Automobile manufacturers displayed their latest models and newly available accessories, emphasizing new features in design and engineering. Automobile shows were increasingly held in other large cities across the United States. The manufacturers produced promotional materials and press kits, to herald the release of their newest models. These kits, which commonly included publicity photographs, were distributed to members of the press for use in the automotive sections of morning and evening newspapers. In the early 1940s, as automobile manufacturers shifted production to military vehicles and equipment, promotional materials depicted the war work being done by the manufacturers.

During the 1930s, the Business Historical Society actively collected industrial photographs for deposit in Baker Library. Charles H. Taylor, treasurer of the Boston Globe and a founding member of the Business Historical Society, and J. T. Sullivan, automotive editor and writer for the Boston Globe, assisted the BHS in these efforts. From 1932 through the early 1940s, Taylor and Sullivan provided the Business Historical Society with a large collection of photographs and printed materials illustrating the efforts of automobile manufacturers to promote their new vehicles of the 1930s and early 1940s.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:
  1. Series I. Ford Motor Company, ca. 1936-1944
  2. Series II. Chrysler Corporation, ca. 1935-1944
  3. Series III. General Motors Corporation, ca. 1931-1944
  4. Series IV. The Independents, ca. 1936-1944
  5. Series V. Related organizations and businesses
  6. Series VI. Printed materials and duplicate photographs

Physical Location



Gift of Charles H. Taylor and J. T. Sullivan, 1932-1944.

Processing Information

Processed: August 2001

By: Maggie Hale, assisted by Naomi Sanger
Link to catalog
Business Historical Society. Automobile Industry Photograph Collection, 1931-1944 (bulk 1936-1942): A Finding Aid
Baker Library

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository

Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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