Car Show With a Twist Comes to Hagley

Vroom, vroom. Check out the museum’s latest exhibition, which focuses on classic automobile advertising used in the 20th century.

Car lovers, here’s a twist on the typical auto show: Hagley Museum and Library will present “Driving Desire: Automobile Advertising and the American Dream” on Oct. 2.

The exhibition focuses on six traditional themes used to sell cars in the 20th century: luxury, economy, performance, style, patriotism and safety. It asks the question: Did you buy the car you needed or were you sold the car you wanted?

“‘Driving Desire’ contains some amazing and rare items,” says curator Max Moeller, “including the only known copy of a ca. 1937 ‘Lincoln V-12, with Suggested Colors and Upholsteries’ presentation book that was displayed in Henry Ford II’s office, a 1942 promotional catalog called ‘Mechanized Mules of Victory’ that touts the patriotic efforts of the Autocar Company during World War II, and a 1908 ‘Model T Advance Catalog’ issued prior to the introduction of that revolutionary automobile.”

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The six themes are explored in separate sections of the exhibition, with original and oversized reproductions of advertisements on display, artifacts, photographs, books and manuscripts. “Driving Desire: Automobile Advertising and the American Dream” draws upon Hagley’s Z. Taylor Vinson collection of catalogs and print advertisements for more than 1,900 automobile manufacturers dating from 1893 to 2009. “Hagley’s Z. Taylor Vinson collection is considered the most comprehensive library collection of international car literature in the world,” Moeller says.

Most of Hagley’s information on automobile advertising is from catalogs and print advertisements donated by Z. Taylor Vinson. Vinson was a senior lawyer at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who avidly collected automobile literature. His interest in automobile literature began at the age of four, when he was given a 1938 Ford Trade catalogue. From there, Vinson expanded his collection, even writing to British, French, Italian, and Czech embassies in Washington, D.C., to request the addresses of automakers in those countries who he could obtain literature from.

By the time of his death in 2009, Vinson had amassed more than 1,200 linear feet of automotive memorabilia, and documents such as trade catalogs, books, artifacts and magazines. “Driving Desire” also includes artifacts from the collections of Ernest Dichter, a pioneer in motivational research, and Raymond Loewy, one of the top industrial designers of the 20th century, that will be highlighted in the exhibition. For more, call 658-2400 or visit


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