A Finding Aid to the Douglas Leigh Papers,
1903-1999
, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.leigdoug
Creators:
Leigh, Douglas
Dates:
1903-1999
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
17.6 Linear feet
Repository:
The collection measures 17.6 linear feet and dates from 1903 to 1999 (bulk 1924-1992) and documents the career of advertising designer and executive Douglas Leigh. Found are 83 volumes of publicity scrapbooks that contain mostly photographs, clippings, printed materials, and scattered letters, drawings, and blueprints. Also included are professional correspondence; photographs of project installations, aerial advertising, and entertainers; plaques and awards received by Leigh; and printed material, which includes clippings, press kits, advertising materials, designs and original sketches for projects by Leigh. The material reflects Leigh's continuously imaginative use of a wide range of media in promoting his clients' products. Among the projects/campaigns represented are 7up, Airships (Tydol, Flying Red Horse, MGM, Wonder Bread and others), Allied Chemical Tower, Amoco, BlueCross-Blue Shield, Camel cigarettes, Coca-Cola, EPOK, Eveready, Flamingo Frozen Foods, Four Roses Whiskey, Fram Oil Filters, Helmsley Building, Old Gold Cigarettes, Pan Am Building, Pepsi-Cola, R. J. Reynolds, Schaefer Beer, Spectaculars, Stag Beer, Times Tower Building, and Wilson Whiskey.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The collection measures 17.6 linear feet and dates from 1903 to 1999 (bulk 1924-1992) and documents the career of advertising designer and executive Douglas Leigh. Found are 83 volumes of publicity scrapbooks that contain mostly photographs, clippings, printed materials, and scattered letters, drawings, and blueprints. Also included are professional correspondence; photographs of project installations, aerial advertising, and entertainers; plaques and awards received by Leigh; and printed material, which includes clippings, press kits, advertising materials, designs and original sketches for projects by Leigh. The material reflects Leigh's continuously imaginative use of a wide range of innovative media in promoting his clients' products.
Among the projects and campaigns represented in the papers are 7up, Airships (Tydol, Flying Red Horse, MGM, Wonder Bread and others), Allied Chemical Tower, Amoco, BlueCross-Blue Shield, Camel cigarettes, Coca-Cola, EPOK, Eveready, Flamingo Frozen Foods, Four Roses Whiskey, Fram Oil Filters, Helmsley Building, Old Gold Cigarettes, Pan Am Building, Pepsi-Cola, R. J. Reynolds, Schaefer Beer, Spectaculars, Stag Beer, Times Tower Building, and Wilson Whiskey.
The Personal Scrapbooks Series (.06 linear feet) consists of 4 scrapbooks that contain photographs, letters, and printed material that document Douglas Leigh's interaction with family, friends, and colleagues.
The General Scrapbooks Series (4.0 linear feet) consists of 16 scrapbooks containing clippings, miscellaneous printed material, letters, interview transcripts, artwork, photographs, and a metal Tydol pin that document the development of miscellaneous projects by Douglas Leigh and his company.
The Billboard Project Files Series (5.0 linear feet) consists primarily of scrapbooks, photographs, and individual product files that document the development of billboard advertising projects.
The Poster Project Files Series (1.6 linear feet) consists of notes, reports, artwork, photographs, miscellaneous printed material, 4 scrapbooks, and individual product files that document the development of poster advertising projects, primarily those used on Railway Express Agency delivery trucks.
The Dirigible Project Files Series (3.7 linear feet) consists of notes, reports, artwork, photographs, miscellaneous printed material, 12 scrapbooks, and individual product files that document the development of dirigible advertising projects involving both painted logos and networks of lights over the surface of the dirigible. These sequentially-timed lights caused dramatic animated effects against the night sky.
The Urban Improvement Project Files Series (2.2 linear feet) consists of photographs, a promotion book, clippings, miscellaneous printed material, 18 scrapbooks, and individual urban improvement project files that document the development of urban improvement projects involving both the construction design of new buildings and the lighting of prominent buildings in New York City and elsewhere.

Arrangement
Arrangement
Scrapbooks within Series 8-13 (Personal Scrapbooks, General Scrapbooks, Billboard Project Files, Poster Project Files, Dirigible Project Files, and Urban Improvement Project Files) have been arranged into as accurate a chronological order as possible. They have been numbered consecutively within each series, and scrapbooks containing material concerning multiple products appear before those concerning individual products.
Oversized materials from various series have been housed in Boxes 6-11, Boxes 12-32 (sols), BV 33, and OV 34, and are noted in the Series Description/Container Listing Section at the appropriate folder title with see also/see references. Additional oversized boxes may be listed with the appropriate series when they contain oversized material from one series only.
The collection has been arranged into 13 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1943-1988 (Box 1, 12; 6 folders)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1924-1999, n.d. (Box 1; 16 folders)
  • Series 3: Notes, 1941-1997, n.d. (Box 1; 3 folders)
  • Series 4: Writings by Others, 1962, n.d. (Box 1; 2 folders)
  • Series 5: Artwork, 1958 (Box 1; 1 folder)
  • Series 6: Photographs, 1913-1990 (Box 1, 12; .03 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Printed Material, 1905-1999, n.d. (Box 1; 22 folders)
  • Series 8: Personal Scrapbooks, 1942-1982 (Box 12-13; .06 linear feet)
  • Series 9: General Scrapbooks, 1933-1951 (Box 2-5; 4.0 linear feet)
  • Series 10: Billboard Project Files, 1929-1997 (Box 1, 6-7, 14-25, BV 33; 5.0 linear feet)
  • Series 11: Poster Project Files, 1943-1963 (Box 7-8, 14; 1.6 linear feet)
  • Series 12: Dirigible Project Files, 1944-1954 (Box 8-11, 14, 26-28; 3.7 linear feet)
  • Series 13: Urban Improvement Project Files, 1903-1992 (Box 9, 14, 28-32, OV 34; 2.2 linear feet)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Douglas Leigh was born in Anniston, Alabama, in 1907. After graduating from the University of Florida in 1928, he began his career as a salesman for the General Outdoor Advertising Company of Atlanta, Georgia. He moved to New York City in 1930 and developed his ideas for animated and illuminated advertising signs primarily in the vicinity of Times Square. He established his own advertising company, Douglas Leigh, Inc., in 1933 and created the popular Camel Cigarette billboard that featured a man's face exhaling smoke rings over Broadway.
Dubbed "The Man Who Lit Up New York" in his New York Times obituary, he was responsible for festooning Broadway with miles of spectacular electrical and animated signs, such as a steaming coffeepot, a winking penguin on a cake of ice for Kool cigarettes, and the giant Camel sign that puffed smoke rings from a Times Square sign from 1941 and 1967. These effects led to creating animated billboards, an innovation called the Leigh-EPOK animated, billboards matrix display, or EPOK. Leigh developed numerous dirigible advertising projects involving both painted logos and networks of lights over the surface of the dirigible. These sequentially-timed lights caused dramatic animated effects against the night sky.
Leigh was also a pioneer in the illumination of city skylines and buildings and thought of lighting up Manhattan's skyscrapers, beginning with the Empire State Building, in 1976 and continuing with the lighting and gilding of the Con Edison Building, the Helmsley Building, and the Crown Building. This idea was adopted by many other cities, including Cincinnati, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, New Orleans, and Baltimore with Leigh traveling there to supervise the final installation. Leigh was also involved with numerous urban improvement and renewal projects.
Leigh's career continued into the 1990's, and he died in 1999.

Administration
Alternative Forms Available
The collection is available on 35 mm microfilm reels 5840-5848 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the material described in the container inventory does not reflect the arrangement of the collection on microfilm.
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Jean Fitzgerald in August 2003.
Author
Jean Fitzgerald
Provenance
The Douglas Leigh papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Leigh's widow, Elsie M. Leigh, in 2000.

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
The collection is open for research. Patrons must use microfilm copy. Original scrapbooks are closed to researchers because of their fragile condition.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Douglas Leigh papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
Douglas Leigh Papers, 1903-1999. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Signs and signboards Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transcripts Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Awards Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
advertising Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Light in architecture Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Airships Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Designers -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blueprints Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Seven-Up Company Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
R.J. Reynolds Industries Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Eveready Battery Company Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pepsi-Cola Company Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Coca-Cola Company Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Amoco Oil Company. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/