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Douglas Leigh papers, 1903-1999, bulk, 1924-1999

Douglas Leigh papers, 1903-1999, bulk, 1924-1999

Leigh, Douglas, 1907-1999

Businessperson

Collection Information

Size: 17.8 linear feet

Summary: The collection measures 17.8 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.

Biographical/Historical Note

Douglas Leigh (1907-1999) was an advertising designer and executive from New York, New York. 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 to 1967. These effects led to creating animated billboards, an innovation called the Leigh-EPOK animated, billboards matrix display, or EPOK. Leigh was also a pioneer in the illumination of city skylines and buildings.

Provenance

The Douglas Leigh papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Leigh's widow, Elsie M. Leigh, in 2000.

A Finding Aid to the Douglas Leigh Papers,
1903-1999
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.leigdoug
Finding aid prepared by Jean Fitzgerald
Scope and Content Note
The collection measures 17.8 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.
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.
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; 7 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; 8 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)
Provenance
The Douglas Leigh papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Leigh's widow, Elsie M. Leigh, in 2000.
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Jean Fitzgerald in August 2003.

Additional Forms Available

The collection has been filmed on microfilm reels 5840-5848, and is available through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Douglas Leigh papers, 1903-1999, bulk, 1924-1999. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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