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Historical Automobile Catalogs at NYPL: Early Advertising at Work and Play


First they invented the automobile. Then... marketing: How are we going to sell these things?

One marketing tool was the catalog. And that gives a good opening to briefly talk about NYPL's extensive collection of historical automobile catalogs, which can be found at SIBL.

[The Kissel cars on various roads.]   , Digital ID 1163623, New York Public LibraryFirst, let me mention two existing resources on the NYPL website for automobile catalogs:

For the rest of this post, I thought I'd highlight three of the catalogs in the collection—identify the manufacturer and models, and pull out some descriptive copy from the catalog. Plus, a link to the catalog in "book" form on NYPL's new digital collections browser (an interesting feature of the new interface). Before I start the list, I just want to point out that the digitized versions are selections from the catalog, focusing on images of the automobiles. The text I'm including is from the original hard copy.

Update -- A listing of some of these automobile catalog pamphlets can be found in our research guides.

The American Wayfarer; Five passenger; Four cylinder, 50-60 h. p., $ 3,750., Digital ID 1159849, New York Public Library

The American. 1909. American Motor Car Company, Indianapolis, Indiana
Models available in 1909: Speedster, Limousine, Tourist, Traveler, Roadster, Wayfarer, Gadabout
Call Number 3-TOP p.v. 47, No. 1
Source Description: 1 v. : col. ill. ; 23 cm.

The American Roadster; Two or three passenger; Four cylinder, 50 - 60 h.p., $ 3,750., Digital ID 1159839, New York Public Library

At the very outset we want you to differentiate The American in your mind from any other car in which you have ever ridden.
If this sense of difference is not apparent to you with the first ride you take in the American Roadster - we agree to abandon all claim on your consideration.
We are speaking now particularly of the American Roadster, because this car embodies certain pronounced structural departures from accepted usage which establish it in a class by itself. ...

 $ 1,800 regular., Digital ID 1163639, New York Public Library

The Kissel Kar. 1909. The Kissel Motor Car Company, Hartford, Wisconsin
Models available in 1909: D-9 (Touring Car, Limousine), E-9 (Roadster, Coupe, Baby Tonneau, Touring Car, Limousine), G-9 (Roadster, Coupe, Baby Tonneau, Semi-Racer, Touring Car), LD-9 (Touring Car, Baby Tonneau, Coupe, Roadster)
Call Number 3-TOP p.v. 43, No. 1
Source Description: 1 v. : col. ill. ; 23 cm.

 $ 3,000 regular, double ignition including magneto., Digital ID 1163635, New York Public Library

The Kissel Kar for 1909 is the development and refinement of the preceding model. The principle is unchanged. The manufacturing of Kissel Kars has reached a stage where the entire organization is concentrated on refinement and betterment of detail, simplifying of some important unit, or making some improvement for the safety and comfort of the user and all with the end in view of continuing to make the Kissel Kar the BEST car for the money. Others may cost more. None can give better service.

Pennsylvania type "F Six" automobile., Digital ID 1163726, New York Public Library

Pennsylvania. 1909. Pennsylvania Auto Motor Company, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Models available in 1909: Type "D", Type "C 50", Type "E 50"
Source Description: 1 v. : col. ill. ; 23 cm.

Pennsylvania type "C 50" automobile., Digital ID 1163724, New York Public Library

It cannot be questioned that the "valve-in-the-head" or hemispherical motor is more efficient than the inverted "L" head or "T" head type. ... When you want to drive a nail, hit it on the head; when you want to drive a piston, explode the charge directly over the piston, not in ante-chambers. Think it over. ...

The new group of "Pennsylvania 50's" will be practically the same as before. We carefully and faithfully recorded suggestions made by agents and customers, based upon thousands of miles, and found nothing worthy of consideration. ... Therefore, our Type "C 50" will be the same now and forever, as far as we can see.

American motor car company, Indianapolis, Indiana., Digital ID 1159838, New York Public Library


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Auto Catalogs

In your entry the following link doesn't work: •From our Research Guides: Historical Automobile Catalogs - an alphabetical index to manufacturers catalogs... Please advise

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