Inventive and entrepreneurial Americans have left their
indelible mark on American history through the hundreds
of brand name products available on today's market shelves.
What are these products? How did they get their start? Why
have they endured over the course of history? Did their
success have to do with the quality of the product or its
Through primary source documents from the American Memory
collections, this activity introduces students to a sampling
of "famous" American brands originating in communities
across the United States and offers insight into their origin
and staying power.
Using the Activity
Branding of America product map:
The activity opens with a map featuring 25 mini billboards,
which represent products we recognize by their brand names.
Rolling over each mini billboard on the map reveals the
location of the represented product. Clicking the mini billboard
provides a preview image of a product that originated in
that location. Clicking on the preview image yields an enlarged
view of the primary source image as well as background information
about the product. This map can be used to introduce the
topic of branding and product awareness.
Did You Know? This section
introduces 20 additional brand name products through facts
and images. Clicking on the small image produces an enlarged
view of the primary source. Clicking on the caption below
the image leads to the bibliographic information. At the
end of this section are six additional images, accompanied
by questions. Students are encouraged to answer the questions
using the provided Internet links.
Teaching Ideas: Teachers,
use this activity to help your students: learn how
product advertisements have changed over time; consider
the impact of historic and economic eras on innovation and
product development; explore the economics of YOUR local
community; discuss the impact of branding on consumer awareness
today; investigate the history of trademarks, logos and
patents; study the concept of genericization; discuss the
ethical issues regarding the making and selling of "knock-off"
products; and recognize that media literacy influences one's
reaction to advertising.
Resources: This list of
resources can be used to further extend the activity. "Product
Links" can be used to access bibliographic information
and additional resources about the 25 products featured
on the Branding of America product map. "More Library
of Congress Links" provides other Library of Congress
online resources related to this activity. "Additional
Resources" provides links to excellent advertising
and brand name Web sites outside of the Library of Congress.