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Smithsonian American Art Museum

" A Land Tort" 1889 Painting/Photomechanical

National Anthropological Archives
Copies by Charles Praetorius, 1889-1893, from Original John White Watercolors in British Museum, 1585; Original Number: 68

Colored pencil Watercolor painting and photomechanical on paper mount

Chelonian

" Nous jurons de faire baiser la Toile"

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Parody of David's painting "The Oath of the Horatii" with textile merchants in a shop interior.

"'Noffset' Prevents Offest"

National Museum of American History

"'Tapestry paintings' shown by Mrs. Zorach" in The Art Digest

Archives of American Art
Clipping : 1 p. ; 28 x 14 cm. Clipping of "'Tapestry paintings' shown by Mrs. Zorach" in The Art Digest.

"... in Whom I Am Well Pleased"

Smithsonian American Art Museum

"10 Free Hours!" Marketing and the World Wide Web in the 1990s

National Museum of American History
A floppy disk advertising AOL: It's free! It's easy! It's fun.Remember these?

Getting free stuff in the mail can be exciting, especially if the stuff that’s free is new and novel. On the other hand, it can be frustrating to have unsolicited stuff pouring into your mailbox. From the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, households across the United States received promotional disks in the mail from online service providers. These mailings contained free floppy disks (and later CD-ROMs) for software that provided access to the World Wide Web (WWW), a browser-based application for connecting to the internet made available to ordinary consumers in the early 1990s. Disks in flashy packaging with eye-catching slogans hawked several free hours of web browsing to entice newcomers to the online experience.

The museum’s Computing Collection contains examples of these direct-to-consumer mailings of web browsing software. America Online (AOL) is well represented in our collection, but we also have disks from CompuServe, Prodigy, and Global Network Navigator.

Multiple rectangular cardboard boxes. They're colorful with advertising.A group of mailings from several online service providers in the museum's Computing Collection.

AOL was notorious for aggressive direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns, as the company competed with other providers to get more consumers online, browsing the web, and paying to access it. Why did AOL opt for this aggressive and undifferentiated approach to gaining more clientele? The newness of browsing the web, joining chat rooms, and sending and receiving electronic mail were mediated by desktop computers outfitted with bulky monitors. To a consumer unfamiliar with computing technology in the early 1990s, gaining access to a personal computer and experiencing the dial-up process of connecting to the web were far from trivial activities. AOL’s “bundled solutions” offered a one-stop portal on a user-friendly interface at a time when more discriminating consumers could instead purchase separate providers, search portals, news sites, and map providers in an à-la-carte fashion. So how do you get a population unfamiliar with the experience of connecting to and browsing the web to buy into it? AOL’s approach amounted to bombarding consumers with promotional material from several avenues.

In addition to shipping disks to mailboxes across the country, AOL distributed disks as part of promotional sample packages at Blockbuster Video and placed them at stadium seats at NASCAR races, at the Super Bowl, at seats on American Airlines commuter flights, and even in flash-frozen packages for Omaha Steaks!

Jan Brandt was the mastermind behind the AOL marketing strategy. In an interview conducted by Brian McCullough for the Internet History Podcast, Brandt reflected on the marketing tactics she developed throughout the 1990s at AOL. “At that time floppies had value," Brandt said. "They weren’t cheap. If you went into the store, they probably cost 10 or 20 bucks for a 10-pack. So the fact that you got a floppy disk in the mail for free, it felt like it had some value.”

The mass mailing campaigns were effective in reaching households across the United States, but not without complaints from recipients who considered the unsolicited mail unwelcome. Over the mid to late 1990s, criticism of AOL grew in part because of the carpet-bombing method of advertising—as well as connectivity issues from enrolling too many users in a short period of time and the company’s sale of customer e-mail addresses.

A closer look at the packaging of the disks provides a window into AOL’s target markets, imagined users, and promises to its customers. One AOL mailing features a man in a business suit, tearing apart his white buttoned shirt to reveal a blue T-shirt bearing the AOL logo. The slogan at the bottom reads, “Experience the POWER of America Online!” Playing on the superhero subtext, the promotional material suggests that the target consumer was a white man who might work a routine office job by day and harness the power of the World Wide Web by night.

A folder containing a floppy disk. On the cover a man in business attire pulls open his suit to reveal an AOL tee. The text reads "Experience the Power of America Online Pop this FREE software in your computer for 10 free hours online!"The still-unopened cardboard envelope encloses a 3 ½ inch floppy disk containing AOL Version 2.5 for Windows, 1994-1995.

Another example from AOL appeals to the transformative potential of the internet, promising more knowledge, prosperity, and happiness to its users. It also emphasizes the ease with which one can connect, simply by inserting a disk—a novel activity for amateur computer users. “If you want to be more capable, powerful, connected, knowledgeable, productive, prosperous, and happier,” the mailing reads, “Just insert this disk!” It’s that easy. Just point, click, and connect . . . the more hours the better!

A cardboard folder with a floppy disk in it. The text reads "If you want to be more capable powerful connected knowledgeable productive prosperous and happier just insert this disk"A mailing from America Online Version 2.5, 1994–1995.

The novelty of receiving a computer disk for free in the mail was one thing, but being able to put the free disk to use was another. In the early 1990s, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, only about 15% of households in the United States owned a personal computer. According to a study from the U.S. Department of Labor, by 1997, that figure rose to about thirty-five percent. Despite the steep rise in computer ownership over much of that decade, many people did not own their own computers. Folks who didn’t have a computer in the home could choose to access their e-mail and browse the web at a local library or a web café. While many promotional software mailings were never opened, the carpet-bombing technique paid off, as AOL became the largest service provider by 2000.

AOL’s direct-to-consumer mailings were phased out in 2006 as organizational and internet infrastructures evolved, along with evolving architectures of personal computing devices. In the last 30 or so years, the promotional mailing landscape has also changed, as our virtual inboxes get flooded with e-mails for online deals and other offers. Whether you’re excited about or frustrated by getting free stuff in the mail unsolicited, AOL’s legendary campaign maintains a special place in the history of the World Wide Web, as well as in the history of American marketing.

Alana Staiti is a curator in the Division of Medicine and Sciences.

The Computer Oral History Collection in the Archives Center at NMAH contains interviews with several notable figures in computing history, including Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Marc Andreessen, founder of Mosaic.

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"100 Books from Finland" in National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
This file contains three additional prints from this event.

Opening of "100 Books from Finland" exhibit at the National Collection of Fine Arts (NCFA), now the National Museum of American Art, in the Foyer Gallery of the Natural History Building, November 19,1964. The exhibit was sponsored by the Ambassador of Finland. L to R: Harry Lowe, Curator of Exhibits, NCFA; Mrs. Bako; E.L. Quincy Mumford, Librarian of Congress; and Dr. Elemer Bako, Library of Congress.

"15 of New York" exhibition, Dwan Galleries

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : b&w ; 21 x 25 cm. Interior shot of the Dwan Gallery, showing the "15 of New York" exhibit.

Identification on verso (typed): Group Exhibition: 15 of New York, Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles Oct. 1960.

"1778-1943 Americans Will Always Fight for Liberty" Poster

National Museum of American History
Physical Description Four-color print on paper. Specific History Produced by the United States Office of War Information, Washington, D.C. Printed by the United States Government Printing Office. Distributed by the Division of Public Inquiries, Office of War Information. Series: Office of War Information Poster, No. 26 To control the form of war messages, the government created the U.S. Office of War Information in June 1942. OWI sought to review and approve the design and distribution of government posters. Posters and their messages were seen as "war graphics," combining the sophisticated style of contemporary graphic design with the promotion of war aims. Over time, OWI developed six war-information themes for its own internal use, as well as to guide other issuing agencies and major producers of mass-media entertainment. 1. The Nature of the Enemy - general or detailed descriptions of this enemy, such as, he hates religion, persecutes labor, kills Jews and other minorities, smashes home life, debases women, etc. 2. The Nature of our Allies - the United Nations theme, our close ties with Britain, Russia, and China, Mexicans and Americans fighting side by side on Bataan and on the battlefronts. 3. The Need to Work - the countless ways in which Americans must work if we are to win the war, in factories, on ships, in mines, in fields, etc. 4. The Need to Fight - the need for fearless waging of war on land, sea, and skies, with bullets, bombs, bare hands, if we are to win. 5. The Need to Sacrifice - Americans are willing to give up all luxuries, devote all spare time to the war effort, etc., to help win the war. 6. The Americans - we are fighting for the four freedoms, the principles of the Atlantic Charter, Democracy, and no discrimination against races and religions, etc. ref: Alan Cranston to Norman Ferguson, 17 November 1942, folder: California Trip, box 1078, entry E222, MC 148, RG 208, NACP. From Design for Victory: World War II Posters on the American Home Front, William L. Bird Jr. and Harry R. Rubenstein. Princeton Architectural Press, New York. 1998. This particular poster fits neatly into theme six. General History The Division of Military History and Diplomacy has been collecting recruiting posters for more than fifty years. Recruiting as an activity of the military is important to the understanding of who serves in uniform, during both war and peace, and the visual materials used to market military service. The collection contains examples of early Civil War broadsides, World War I posters, including the original artwork for Uncle Sam as drawn by Montgomery Flagg, and World War II posters, which show the recruiting of men and women for all services and auxiliary organizations. The collection contains primarily Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II recruiting posters for the army, navy and some marines. More modern-day recruiting materials are also contained in the collection, and cover a broad range of army recruiting slogans. Posters during World War II were designed to instill in people a positive outlook, a sense of patriotism, and confidence. They linked the war in trenches with the war at home. From a practical point, they were used to encourage all Americans to help with the war effort. The posters called on every man, woman, and child to endure the personal sacrifice and domestic adjustments to further the national agenda. They encouraged rationing, conservation, and sacrifice. In addition, the posters were used for recruitment, productivity, and motivation as well as for financing the war effort. The stark, colorful graphic designs elicited strong emotions. The posters played to the fears, frustrations, and faith in freedoms that lingered in people's minds during the war.

"17th Century Stone Carvings" Exhibit, NMHT

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Requested from Photographic Services Division by Division of Preindustrial Cultural History.

Exhibit in Hall of Everyday Life in the American Past at National Museum of History and Technology, now known as the National Museum of American History.

"18-Carat Solid Gold Chewing-Gum" by Les Levine

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : col. Color photograph of work of art by Les Levine "18-Carat Solid Gold Chewing-Gum," accompanied by photograph processing sleeve with handwritten inscription: LEVINE; GOLD GUM; 1972

"19th Century Japanese Prints and Drawings" Exhibition

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Also known as 66054.

Digital contact sheet available.

"19th Century Japanese Prints and Drawings" exhibition opening and reception at the Museum of History and Technology, now known as the National Museum of American History, sponsored by Smithsonian Associates.

"49 Cree Indians Traveling" ca 1850

National Anthropological Archives
The two original paintings are housed in the Department of Ethnology, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.

Kane traveled between 1845 and 1848 sketching. The oil paintings were probably painted ca. 1850 after his return. -- Kenneth R. Lister 10/4/81.

Artist and date supplied from catalog card for 471 B 1, line drawing after Chippewa (?) painting.

Original glass negative found (7/1971) in Bureau of American Ethnology collection.

Black and white copy glass negative

"7"

Smithsonian American Art Museum

"75th Anniversary Exhibition of Medallic Work by Members of the National Sculpture Society"

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Also known as 65654.

Digital contact sheet available.

"75th Anniversary Exhibition of Medallic Work by Members of the National Sculpture Society," with Dr. Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli and Elvira E. Clain-Stefanelli, curators of Numismatics at the Museum of History and Technology, now known as the National Museum of American History.

"91 Ways to Destroy the W

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Four quadrants

"9888 - Two Color or Thre

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

"A Chief of the Desert" 1904

National Anthropological Archives
Copyright: Edward S Curtis, 1904

Black and white photomechanical print

Portrait of Chief Wearing Headband And Blanket

"A Chiefe Herowan" 1889 Painting/Photomechanical

National Anthropological Archives
Copies by Charles Praetorius, 1889-1893, from Original

Colored pencil Watercolor painting and photomechanical on Mat

Man in Costume

"A Chiefe Herowans Wife of Pomeiock and Her Daughter of the Age of 8 or 10 Years" 1889 Painting/Photomechanical

National Anthropological Archives
Copies by Charles Praetorius, 1889-1893, from Original

Colored pencil Watercolor painting and photomechanical on Mat

Young Girl and Woman with Body Paint and Carrying Large Gourd; Both in Costume
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