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Consumer Advertising During the Great Depression: A Resource Guide

Consumer Protection and Government Regulation of Advertising

Harris & Ewing, photographer. "Chamber of horrors." Washington, D.C., Dec. 20. 1937. Harris & Ewing Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The 1930s had a robust consumer movement that tapped into a vein of popular discontent with economic inequality, false and misleading advertising, and the grim economic state of the country. Activist work backed by popular support led to an increase in the government regulation of advertising claims. Herbert Hoover, who had been the Secretary of Commerce during the Harding and Coolidge Administrations of the 1920s, praised the Better Business Bureau's attempts to enforce limited self-regulation of advertising in a speech to the nation.1 Legal scholars like Milton Handler thought regulation a step in the right direction, but not especially effective.2 During Hoover's presidency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Commerce, Bureau of Standards, and Federal Trade Commission were all involved in regulation of advertising and marketing. The Federal Trade Commission created a special board of investigation to handle complaints against advertisers on May 6, 1929, although the number of cases this board heard remained consistent and relatively low throughout Hoover's presidency.3

As this guide primarily covers consumer advertising from 1929 through 1933, during the years of Herbert Hoover's presidency, it does not cover government agencies or programs that were instituted during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first term in office from 1933 through 1937 with any degree of detail.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Historical Books

These historical books influenced the consumer protection movement and are primary sources published shortly before or during the Great Depression.

Recent Books

These are books published more recently about the consumer protection movement of the 1930s, as well as consumer activism in general.

The following links are articles and websites of primary source material. Articles are linked to their location on their journal's homepage or other stable URL. At times, a subscription may be required to access the full text of the article. When available, a link is provided to the journal's Library of Congress catalog record and/or subscription where the article can be found.

Select Historical Articles and Websites

Recent Articles and Websites

These articles were published more recently about the consumer protection movement of the 1930s, as well as consumer activism in general.


  1. Remarks of President Hoover at the Dinner of the Association of National Advertisers. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, November 10, 1930. Back to text
  2. Handler, Milton. "False and Misleading Advertising." Yale Law Journal 39 (1929-30): 22-51. Back to text
  3. Federal Trade Commission. Annual Reports, 1929-1933. Back to text