More About Scrapbooks

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines a scrapbook as "A blank book in which pictures, newspaper cuttings, and the like are pasted for preservation." The dictionary gives the earliest known example of the word used in print dating from 1854.

With improved printing technologies in the second half of the 19th century, increasing quantities and varieties of printed paper items became available to ordinary people. By the late 19th century, color lithography added beauty and novelty to printed items. Printers and advertisers greatly expanded the range of printed items they disseminated: newspapers, calendars, leaflets, advertising trade cards, etc.

Creating scrapbooks became a popular pastime, especially for women and children. Scrapbooks were used as a way of teaching children to organize and classify information and to develop an artistic sense. Based on surviving examples of scrapbooks, it can be seen that people put them together sometimes as a craft project, and sometimes, to preserve letters, photos, and other aspects of their personal or family history. Nineteenth century scrapbooks vary about as widely as 20th century ones, though perhaps they contain more advertising items, given the prevalence, novelty, and popularity of trade cards at the time.

Printed items that 19th century scrapbook creators tended to paste into albums included many of the following, which are found in the scrapbooks in this project:

Advertising trade cards: Small brightly colored cards to promote stores or products, they were deliberately made interesting, funny, or attractive to encourage people to keep them. Their peak of popularity was 1876-1900, and many were pasted into scrapbooks along with non-commercial decorative items.

Business cards: Similar to today's business cards, in that they were printed usually in only one or two colors, on one side of the card only, and were more informational than promotional. They began to be used extensively in the 1850s.

Calling cards: Also called "name cards" or "visiting cards," they were small cards imprinted just with a man's or woman's name, sometimes printed in a fancy script. They were exchanged on social occasions and also as tokens of affection; they sometimes were saved as a measure of one's popularity.

Greeting cards: Holiday cards at first were sent only on New Year's, Valentine's Day, and Christmas. By the 1880s there were cards also for birthdays and Easter. Most cards of the period were not folded, as many are today, but were rectangles or shapes printed on stiff paper or cardboard. They usually had an illustration and either just a simple holiday greeting or a verse. Some were embossed or had a fancy edge of lace or fringe.

Postcards: Picture postcard collecting was extremely popular from about 1902 to 1915. Though postcards had existed on a modest scale earlier, it was the Columbian Exposition of 1893 that helped create interest in scenic cards. Changes in postal regulations and the appearance of American postcard publishers helped stimulate proliferation of the cards.

Rewards of merit: These cards were awarded to students in schools and Sunday schools and often found their way into scrapbooks.

Scraps: Scraps are multi-colored illustrations on embossed paper that were die-cut into shapes. A sheet of scraps might have a large number of individual items that could be torn or cut apart easily, because the images were held together by small paper tabs. A sheet might reflect a single theme, such as flowers or children or Christmas. Scraps date from the 1840s onward, and most in the 19th century came from Germany. They were inexpensive to buy and were widely used to decorate cards or to paste in decorative array into blank books, hence "scrapbooks." Their vogue seems to have been the predecessor to 20th century fads for "stickers."

Tickets, price lists, calendars, etc. - almost anything! As today, scrapbooks from the 19th century contain miscellaneous or perhaps unexpected items, many of which are the sort of ephemeral bits of printed paper that wouldn't have survived but for some hoarder's tendency to save everything!

Most 19th century scrapbooks were discarded long ago. Those that survive often are fragile because of the acidic paper on which their contents are mounted; that paper disintegrates very easily and messily. Sometimes glue has damaged or discolored the items in the book. Old scrapbooks that do survive sometimes remain in private hands. Many others have found their way to libraries and museums, where they are available to researchers and students and offer glimpses of the history of typography and printing, advertising, art, and design, as well as of lifestyles and cultural trends.

The pages shown on this site represent the complete contents of four scrapbooks from the collections of the Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library:

The Annie Grace Clarke Scrapbook. Clarke was a resident of Dunnsville (Essex Co.), Va. Her scrap album, not dated but presumably from the 1880s or 1890s, contains scrap pictures, album cards, trade cards, greeting cards, and token of affection cards. Many are chromolithographs and embossed prints. It is an excellent example of the pastime of combining attractive images of various sorts in decorative patterns on the page.

The James H. De Votie Scrapbook is found in the papers of De Votie, a Baptist minister of Alabama and Georgia. The scrapbook contains hundreds of business and social cards, railroad tickets, and social invitations and programs, largely from Columbus, Georgia, and other nearby places during the 1850s and 1860s. They are not arranged in a particularly artistic way, and it is obvious that some have been removed from pages in the past, leaving blank or torn areas.

The Hawley Family Scrapbook is part of a collection of miscellaneous papers of this family that appears to have been based in Alabama. The scrapbook contains a mixture of trade cards and other items of the sort often found in such volumes. It shows less effort to create attractive layouts than the Clarke scrapbook, but like that item probably dates mainly from the 1880s and 1890s.

The Emma Louise Saxton Pascoe Scrapbook probably was created between about 1890 and 1908. Emma Louise Saxton was born in 1880 in Viroqua, Wisconsin. She taught for several years in Wisconsin before moving to Michigan in 1904. While teaching in Bessemer, Michigan, she met and married Edward George Pascoe. Names of several relatives appear on name cards and reward of merit cards: Erma Favor, Fannie Favor, and Clement Saxton.


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Research and text by Ellen Gartrell

Sources:

Allen, Alistair and Joan Hoverstadt. The History of Printed Scraps. London: New Cavendish Books, 1983.

Cheadle, Dave. Victorian Trade Cards: Historical Reference & Value Guide. Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1998.

Jay, Robert. The Trade Card in Nineteenth-Century America. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987.

Kirsch, Francine. Chromos: A Guide to Paper Collectibles. San Diego: A.S. Barnes, 1981.

McCulloch, Lou W. Paper Americana: A Collector's Guide. San Diego: A.S. Barnes, 1980.
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