Date of Award

August 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Media Studies

First Advisor

Richard K. Popp

Committee Members

Elana Levine, Michael Z. Newman


Album Art, Cover, Graphic Design, Music, Packaging, Record


In the early 1930s, the popularity of radio and the economic austerity of the Great Depression threatened to make the phonograph record obsolete. However, by the time the United States entered World War II in 1941, records were returning to popularity. This return coincided with the first instances of the appearance of unique cover artwork on record albums. This thesis explores the cultural and industrial factors that converged in the late 1930s to make album artwork viable in ways that it would not have been earlier. This thesis also investigates how RCA Victor and Columbia, two record companies that had been acquired by national radio broadcasters, found increasingly visual ways to market records to potential audiences through magazine advertising, catalogs, and album artwork itself. An investigation of this historical moment provides insights that are relevant to contemporary concerns about the future of the recording industry.