Sells Ltd


1869-, London

Sells Ltd was founded by Henry Sell in Bolt Court, Fleet Street in 1869. He was later joined by his brother Alfred, whose son, Charles, was subsequently head of the firm. It became a limited company in 1887, expanded and moved to larger premises in Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, in 1903. Further expansion led to a move to Brettenham House, off the Strand, in 1934. Olive Hirst joined the company in 1931 as secretary to the MD, Mr H. G. Wood, joined the board of directors in 1950 becoming Managing Director in 1951.

Olive Hirst was said to be the first woman MD (though not the first woman director) of a leading advertising agency. (Miss J. A. Reynolds, listed as MD of Samson Clark in 1937, was possibly an earlier claimant.) She was also the first female fellow of the IPA and first to be elected to its Council and was a leading figure in the Women's Advertising Club of London becoming its President 1959-60. She was the last head of Sells before it was absorbed by a merger in the mid-1960s.

Sell's Ltd was also well-known for publishing from the 1880s its Dictionary of the World's Press, a press directory with articles on advertising and related subjects.

Archive Content

Date range: 1880s -1960s


A varied collection of material giving a picture of the agency and leading figures from Victorian times to the 1960s. Olive Hirst's own collection includes both Sell's and personal cuttings, memorabilia and artefacts. There are several copies of 'Dictionary of the World's Press' and other publications of the period. There is correspondence from the Victorian period with advertisers and other business contacts. There are several files of specimen print ads and Sell's publicity material.


Artefacts, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, publicity leaflets and brochures and directories.

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