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Welcome to 1924

cover image: People's Home Journal, March, 1924

As we previewed last month, this year sees the release of many creative works from 1924 into the public domain in the United States. We’ve started the year by digitizing a few issues from 1924 periodicals, and we plan to add more 1924 content to the collection as the year progresses.

Cover image: Weekly Ledger, v. LII, no. 21, Saturday, May 24, 1924

Our initial offerings are the March, 1924 People’s Home Journal, and two 1924 issues of the Weekly Ledger, a retitled successor to the long-running Chicago Ledger. Both of these publications began life in the 19th century as story papers, and our collection includes enough issues to show the significant changes they saw over the years. The twentieth century brought smaller formats, larger page counts, more use of color, and significant changes in advertising strategy. The ability to digitize and share these little-seen and sometimes-fragile issues will make it easier to support the study of the evolution of popular culture during a time of significant change.

Cover image: Weekly Ledger, v. LII, no. 24, Saturday, June 14, 1924


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Coming soon to a public domain near you!

A fun thing to do on New Year’s Day (after a good night’s rest…! 🥳😄) is to see what new stuff is now freely available in the public domain! 2019 saw the first batch of new stuff to enter the U.S. public domain in over 20 years and I’m excited to see more stuff entering the public domain in 2020. On January 1, 2020, most* works published in the U.S. in 1924 will enter the public domain.

If you are not a copyright nerd and/or public domain enthusiast, the public domain is made up of works (books, movies, music, etc.) that are not protected by copyright or other intellectual property laws and are therefore free for anyone to use or reuse. This means that you can build upon these freely available works to create new works. For example, Disney has made tons of movies based on materials in the public domain, especially fairy tales. (On the flip side, Disney has also been heavily involved in lobbying for copyright extensions to make sure that their works are protected for as long as possible.)

Lifehacker has noted a few of the highlights from 1924 that will be entering the public domain, including the Buster Keaton silent movie Sherlock Jr., George Gershwin’s musical score for Rhapsody in Blue, and Agatha Christie’s book Poirot Investigates. Here in Falvey’s Distinctive Collections, we’ve got 93 books in our catalog that will potentially be entering the public domain next year. We’ve always got a lot in our scanning queue, but we’ll make sure to get a few shorter issues of 1924 popular literature periodicals up in early January to celebrate their entry into the public domain!

*U.S. Copyright law is complicated, so you should always double-check the status of works! In particular, audio recordings are governed by an entirely separate set of copyright laws.

Bake a cake to celebrate new stuff in the public domain! This issue of The People’s Home Journal entered the public domain this year. The People’s Home Journal, v. XXXVIII, no. 4, April, 1923.

Further Reading:

Bacon, Thomas. “Characters That Should Be Public Domain (If It Wasn’t For Disney).” ScreenRant. 25 August 2019.

Middleton, Theodora. “Do bad things happen when works enter the Public Domain?” Open Knowledge Foundation Blog. 8 October 2012.

Redmond, Sean. “U.S. Copyright History 1923–1964.” The New York Public Library. 31 May 2019.

“Why the Public Domain Matters.” Duke University School of Law, Center for the Study of the Public Domain. 2019.

And finally, if you’ll be in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2020, you can attend a Public Domain Day party hosted at the American University Washington College of Law.


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Party like it’s 1923!

Two young boys playing in a body of water.

These boys are excited to frolic their way into the public domain! (From the cover of Grit (Story Section), August 26, 1923.)

You may have seen a bunch of articles around the beginning of the year eagerly talking about new things that entered the public domain on January 1st, such as this one from The Public Domain Review or this one from Smithsonian Magazine. The Atlantic was so excited about new stuff entering the public domain that they published an article about it all the way back in April 2018.

We joined in the celebrations by scanning a few items published in 1923 over the past couple of weeks. Here they are:

Celtic wonder tales / re-told by Ella Young ; with decorations by Maud Gonne.

Chicago Ledger, v. LI, no. 6, Saturday, February 10, 1923.

Chicago Ledger, v. LI, no. 24, Saturday, June 16, 1923.

Grit (Story Section), v. 41, no. 39, Story Section no. 1493, August 26, 1923.

These are just a few things that we moved to the top of our scanning queue to celebrate their freedom, but of course we have many more titles published in 1923 that can now be digitized when we have time. And we’re already looking forward to scanning titles from 1924 next year!

The first page of the story "The Earth-Shapers" with a decorative illustration of a black dragon and a white dragon at the top.

The opening page of Ella Young’s Celtic Wonder Tales.


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Last Modified: January 24, 2019