Raleigh’s Mad Men

Raleigh’s Mad Men

Cocktails, Smokes, and Brainstorming

August, 24, 2009, by Ladye Jane

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Above image (from left to right): James Mills - Vice President, George Myers - Creative Director, MacDonald Merrell - Account Executive, J.T. Howard - President, Donald Adams - Account Executive, Harry Zepp - Senior Art Director

Having just watched Mad Men for the first time yesterday, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite photo collections, the J.T. Howard Advertising Agency collection, in which most of the photos were taken in the hey day of cocktails, smokes, and brainstorming.

Raleigh’s first advertising agency (and first full-service agency in North Carolina) started back in 1945 when Jack Howard began J.T. Howard Advertising in an abandoned photography dark room on W. Martin Street. His first desk was made from an old door that he found lying around the space, but he was still able to get clients based on his reputation as a business man. After moving from multiple locations, one of which included a morgue, into a house on S. Dawson, his agency boasted it was the “only agency in the state with free baths for clients”. Considering the house was shared with the Girl Scouts, it wasn’t long before the boy’s club found a new spot.

In 1960 they moved to their large Morgan Street location, and began producing the work that made them the most renowned agency in the area. Even Chic McKinney and Mike Silver (who later formed McKinney-Silver out in Durham), got their start working for Howard. Their clients included the State of North Carolina, Pine State Creamery, Monk Tobacco, White Dairy, and Occidental to name a few. Jack Howard’s agency is still open today as Howard, Merrell & Partners in a different location.

1947 ad for White Dairy Ice Cream, one of the agency’s first clients

Brainstorming for car battery advertising

1957 Annual Report Cover for CP&L

Art department in an undated photo

Group shot of agency (Jack Howard second from left)

Designing for a Pine State Creamery campaign

On the Agency’s 22nd anniversary, Jack Howard was presented with his receptionist, Julia Willis, jumping out of a birthday cake. When asked to comment about the cake, Howard said, “That was the damnedest I ever saw. I feel ten years younger.”

Photos courtesy of Jack Howard’s family donation to the Raleigh City Museum.

Read More

Olde Raleigh, Other posts by Ladye Jane.


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  • mammalpants
    08/24 11:43 AM

    I know which one is Joan Holloway! HOLLLLAAAAAAA!

  • Ryal Curtis
    08/24 01:31 PM

    Ok, these guys are the definition of cool.  What a great snapshop of early advertising in Raleigh. Great photos! Thank you for sharing.

    - Ryal

  • Bruce DeBoer
    08/24 01:50 PM

    Awesome - thanks for the quick history lesson.

  • roi
    08/24 03:33 PM

    Very intersting.  In the fourth photo I recognize Mr. Silver.  He is the middle man standing with the dark rim eye glasses.
    Thanks for the history lesson.

  • Stephanie
    08/24 04:52 PM

    Fantastic (yet brief) photo history of advertising in Raleigh!!  Mac Merrell…looking spiffy!

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  • RaleighNative
    08/24 06:39 PM

    Cake Day sure isn’t what it used to be… Thanks for the walk down memory lane LJ. I might just slap on a skinny, black tie tomorrow in honor of these Raleigh ad men. And my Granddad. Great post.

  • Bill Hunter
    08/24 07:24 PM

    Interesting post. I grew up in Raleigh and now own a firm of my own in Wilmington. Great to see some Raleigh advertising history.

    Bill Hunter

  • HollisCGuerra
    08/25 06:33 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing! Especially as a huge Mad Men fan, it’s neat to read about Raleigh’s own ad men!

  • Sheila H. Ogle
    08/25 05:31 PM

    As a former JT Howard/HMP employee it is wonderful to relive some of these memories.  We were way better than “MadMen” could ever be!! And a lot more fun!!!

  • Karen Albritton
    08/26 09:07 AM

    Terrific photos and history. Is Lee Wellman in the fourth photo?

  • Sue Weiss
    08/27 07:04 AM

    What a wonderful trip down memory lane!  As a media person in the Raleigh market for over 40 years, I sincerely thank you for this posting.  It’s a wonderful reminder of some fun times in media.  I too spotted a dear friend who left us a few years ago, Mr. Mike Silver.

  • ErnstStarvoBlofield
    08/28 12:56 PM

    Thanks for the history.  I knew many of these people and knew Mr. Howard and especially Mac.  I always enjoyed talking to Mr. Howard as he was a very kind and generous man.  Mac was a hard worker and grew the business to national stature.  I am what I am today because of the agency and have gotten every job from the work I did there and was able to be part of.  Much more than an agency,  much more than the artwork that comes out of the backend.  Glad they are still around and led by a long time HM&P employee.

  • Charlie Brown
    09/03 04:14 AM

    Thanks Shawn! Fascinating bits’o'history there.

  • Lea R.
    09/15 06:43 PM

    Great feature! Thank you.


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