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Trade Catalog Collection

Trade Catalog Collection, 1870s–Present

The Strong’s collection of trade catalogs from the doll, toy, and game industry is the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind in the world. Stephen and Diane Olin donated the core collection of 10,500 trade catalogs to the library in 2006. The catalogs document every aspect of American recreational and leisure activities, including sports, tourism, outdoor pursuits, playgrounds, amusements, social and cultural events, and more. Published by manufacturers to sell their products to wholesalers and retailers—and in some cases directly to consumers—these catalogs and advertising pieces feature the latest in print technology, from steel cut engravings to the introduction of chromolithography and photography, in each era. More importantly, the pieces provide key information about when new products and materials appeared, how much they cost, and when they enjoyed their greatest popularity.

In total, the trade catalog collection includes more than 46,000 catalogs produced during the past 125 years from well-known and influential makers of toys, dolls, puzzles, and games such as Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, Lionel, Kenner, Playskool, Atari, Hasbro, Mattel, and Fisher-Price. The collection also features examples from hundreds of smaller toy firms of the 20th century, many of which have not survived the corporate consolidations and mass-market retailing that shaped the toy industry in the past 40 years. Additional donors to the trade catalog collection include: the Link Group, Richard C. Levy, Anne Williams, Andrew Berton, Ron Dubren, Ken Brand, Ernie Bridge, Darwin Bromley, GUND, Inc., and the Association for Games and Puzzles International (AGPI).

In 2018, The Strong was awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to catalog and digitize part of the trade catalog collection. From December 2018 through November 2019, the library team cataloged and rehoused 5,026 trade catalogs and digitized 2,337 catalogs, focusing on catalogs published before 1960.

See the digitized catalogs.

See also also “But Mom, I Wanted PONG!,” “Imaginary Gardens” and “My Favorite Toy Catalogs in the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play.”

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