Historic Business Research

Photograph Collections

Group of children at Harriet School depositing money in their savings accounts, photograph used as part of an advertising campaign by Farmers & Mechanics Savings Bank to promote savings programs for children, 1920Norton and Peel Photograph Collection 
Collection includes photographs, photograph albums and office files of C.J. Hibbard and the photography firm Norton & Peel who later bought Hibbard’s studio. Hibbard’s images include many street scenes and building photographs from Minneapolis. The majority of the collection has a commercial focus with images of business exteriors, interiors, or products mainly in Minneapolis and St. Paul but suburban and outstate Minnesota images are included. There are also images of landscapes, home exteriors, accident scenes for insurance, and family events.  Much, but not all, of the collection has been digitized.  
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Marshall R. Hatfield Photograph Collection, 1987-1990.
Includes views of cities, small towns and rural areas around Minnesota. Several homes, hotels, restaurants, stores, and other businesses are featured with both exterior and interior views. Three accompanying journals provides a frame-by-frame explanation of the images on each contact sheet.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid
Women shopping in Red Owl grocery storeRed Owl Store Photograph Collection, ca. 1956-1963​
The collection includes both commercial prints depicting grocery displays and various snapshots of employees and shoppers at the Red Owl Store in the Southdale Shopping Center in Edina, Minnesota. Products and brands featured are Wheaties, Coca-Cola, several Red Owl canned and bagged goods, Fairmont, Post, Pillsbury, Kraft, as well as produce and non-food items. The images were compiled by Leonard Engstrom who managed the Red Owl Store at the time the photographs were taken.
MNHS call number:  I.404 (Selected Selected images from this collection are available online
Preston Implement Company Film Collection, 1955-1967
Films are advertisements and demonstrations of agricultural equipment, including but not limited to Minneapolis-Moline tractors, Farmhand Company Beet Harvester, and Bobcats.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Searching for Advertisements

Using the library catalog or online finding aid searches*:

  1. Visit the MNHS Online Catalog or Finding Aids Search page on your internet browser
  2. Search for a term like "advertising," "marketing," or "public relations" (use the quotation marks for 2 word phrases) 
  3. When you find a collection that looks interesting, click on the title to go to the individual item view. 
    ​(In the Catalog, look for the Finding Aids line.  If there is a web link, click it to view a detailed inventory.  If there is not a link, the finding aid is available on paper here at the library.)
  4.  For large online finding aids, use the Ctrl+F function (Command+F on a Mac) to quickly and easily search within the document 

*Note: only about 20% of MNHS collections have online finding aids


Other places to find advertisements:

  • Newspapers
  • City Directories
  • Telephone Books
  • Magazines and Trade Journals
  • Catalogs and Price Lists

Examples of Advertising

Nash's Coffee AdvertisementMac Martin Advertising Agency Client Scrapbooks and Films, 1905-1982
Advertising proofs, brochures, booklets, catalogs, photographs, and films documenting work done by this Minneapolis advertising agency for more than 130 different companies, headquartered mainly in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Flour, coffee, canned vegetables, farm machinery, building products, financial services, tourism, real estate, household products, and political campaigns are featured in the advertising materials.
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

McGarvey Coffee Company Advertising Materials, ca. 1927-1990
Includes photographs, advertisements, newsletters, articles and newspaper clippings related to advertising for McGarvey Coffee Company of Minneapolis. The bulk of the material are photographs which feature views of the McGarvey Coffee, Inc. buildings and offices, employees, product packaging, roasters and equipment, and advertisements.
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

Boating Industry Catalogs, 1956-2005
Catalogs from Minnesota and U.S. boat manufacturers and companies documenting the boating industry. The catalogs reflect advertising trends and the transition in boating from a tourist activity to a leisurely activity.  Included in the collection are sales catalogs on boats, motors, outboards, trailers, water skis, pontoon boats, powerboats, fishing boats, yachts, sailboats, other boating accessories, and snowmobiles. Price lists for boats and motors are also included.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid
Donaldson's Catalog collection, 1898-1985
Seasonal and holiday catalogs from Minneapolis-based Donaldson's Department Store.
MNHS call number: HF5465.U6 D673
Advertising Billboards and Signs Photographed by James Webster Manuel, 1959-1973.
Views of billboards and signage on business building exteriors installed by Brede Inc. Manuel worked for the company located at 2211 Broadway NE, Minneapolis.
MNHS call number: Photograph Album # 278-279

Searching for Images & Artifacts

Search for images and artifacts at MNHS using our Collections Online system. Then filter the results using the options in the system's left-hand column.   

You may want to try specific terms like a business name, the type of business, or the name of a building.  Since many businesses are shown in more general street scenes, you may also want to look under a location like an address or a town name.

You may also want to try more general terms, like: 

Other photograph collections can be found in manuscript collections (see Business Records for more information), government records collections, or cataloged separately as albums or collections. 

MNHS Reference Staff

reading room bookshelves


Gale Family Library
Minnesota Historical Society Library

Located on the Second Floor of the Minnesota History Center
345 West Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Library Hours:
Thursday to Saturday: 10am to 4pm
Sunday to Wednesday: Closed

More Information on Visiting the Library


Contact Us:


Email Us

Visit our Main Website

Gale Family Library • Minnesota Historical Society • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300
Hours and More InformationEmail us