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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection (NAHC)
Published 1.16.2019

Bugatti advertisement 1920s NAHC 1 RESIZEDBugatti advertisement, 1920s (National Automotive Heritage Collection)


When you take a look at 1920s and 1930s automotive advertising history, the automakers used the best illustrators in the world to sell their products. Some automotive historians say that this era represented the best automotive works of art. It was a time when magazines and automotive sales literature were the only way to advertise and sell cars for the consumer market. The cars were beautiful, and the automotive illustrations were becoming part of our culture.

Packard advertisement 1920s NAHC 2Packard advertisement, 1920s (NAHC)


The automotive illustrations featured in this story come from the rare “Silver Anniversary Automobile Salon “souvenir program from New York in 1927. The automotive material is very rare and difficult to find. The Automobile Salon, took place from November 27 to December 3, 1927 in the Grand Ballroom and Main Lobby of the Hotel Commodore in New York City. The show was directed by Mr. John Eustis.

Packard advertisement 1920s NAHC 3Packard advertisement, 1920s (NAHC) 


The other automotive illustrations in this story are from the official program of “The Automobile Salon” that took place from December 1 to 7, 1929. The catalogs were published for exhibitions that offered limited, high end products and automotive services for consumers. The Automobile Salon was a very prestigious and established institution that dedicated the show to high end motor car chassis and custom coachwork designs. This salon was a very unique place for people to visit and would draw people from all over the world to see Detroit's offerings and other makes of beautiful automobiles.

Duesenberg advertisement 1929 NAHC 4Duesenberg advertisement, 1929 (NAHC)


The Automobile Salon not only represented the very best in American car design, but the very best from European manufacturers as well. During the exhibition, there was one statement to describe the automobiles that were on display: “The Supreme Achievement of Design Engineering.” Many great automobile makes like Bugatti, Cadillac, Isotta, Packard, Pierce-Arrow, Stutz and many other popular name plates were featured.

Isotta Motors Inc advertisement 1929 NAHC 5 RESIZEDIsotta Motors Inc advertisement, 1929 (NAHC)


All of the vehicles on display were great, however, one of the rarest automobiles on display was the Bugatti -- a beautiful car. The Bugatti advertising shown above is very collectible and rare today.

The Isotta Fraschimi Straight Eight from the late 1920s, also pictured in this story, is a rare piece of automotive history and advertising that I had not seen before.


Pierce Arrow advertisement 1920s NAHC 6Pierce Arrow advertisement, 1920s (NAHC)


During the early days, coach-builders such as Brewster & Co. manufactured their own vehicles from 1915 to 1925, which were very popular along with LeBaron, Ray Dietrich, Hibbard & Darrin, and the Derham Body Co. Briggs was also one of the largest independent manufacturers of car bodies.

Stutz advertisement 1920s NAHC 7 RESIZEDStutz advertisement, 1920s (NAHC)


Other nameplates that I do not want to leave out were the Don Lee Coach & Body Works, where Harley Earl, who later became a part of General Motors styling group with the 1927 LaSalle, got started. The Walter M. Murphy Co. was also a part of the early days of automotive history. Coach-builders were a part of the Automobile Salon exhibitions which many people admired.

Pierce Arrow advertisement 1920s NAHC 8 RESIZEDPierce-Arrow advertisement, 1920s (NAHC)


In conclusion, Michael Lamm & Dave Holls’ book “A Century of Automotive Style” said this about the Automobile Salon: “There were actually two important U.S. automotive fashion events staged in New York each year, and both contributed mightily to domestic style for the upcoming season. The most prestigious, called the Automobile Salon.”



Silver Anniversary “The Automobile Salon Souvenir Catalogue.” New York, 1929.


The Automobile Salon Catalog. Hotel Commodore, New York, 1927.


Lamm, Michael & Holls, Dave. “A Century of Automotive Style 100 Years of American Car Design.” 1996-97.   


Stern, Jane & Michael. “Auto Ads.” Random House, New York.