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New Exhibit — “Scraps for Keeps”: Scrapbooks and Photo Albums from Distinctive Collections

Exhibit sign featuring a decorative scrapbook cover with the title.

Our latest exhibit, “Scraps for Keeps”: Scrapbooks and Photo Albums from Distinctive Collections, is now on display on the 1st floor of Falvey Library. Scrapbooks have been a popular way of saving and organizing information and memories since the 19th century. This exhibit presents a selection of some of the many types of scrapbooks and photo albums from Falvey’s Distinctive Collections. There are seven sections organized around different themes: Making of a Scrapbook, Mark Twain’s Patented Scrap Book System, Cultural Memory, Family & Friends, Travel & Tourism, On the Job, and School Days.

Photo of an upright exhibit case with two shelves filled with materials.

This exhibit was curated by me, Laura Bang (Distinctive Collections Librarian). Scrapbooks and photo albums are some of my favorite types of materials in our collections because they tell the personal stories of ordinary people. I love to page through what people took the time to save in albums and see what traces of their lives remain in what they left behind.

To hear more about my love for scrapbooks, join me for a curator’s chat on Wednesday, October 2 at 11:00am in Speakers’ Corner.

The exhibit will be on view through February 2020, and a digital version is forthcoming as well.


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A Victorian family history in watercolors and prints

One of our recent acquisitions is a scrapbook compiled by Edith Isabella Good (1849-1922), accompanied by a few loose leaves from a scrapbook begun by her brother Frederick. Their father, Clements Good, served as the Consul General for Denmark in Hull, England for fifty years from 1846 to 1896, and was also the principal partner of a shipping firm.

Edith was a talented artist whose work was included in juried group exhibitions in England and Ireland. Her scrapbook includes some beautiful watercolors, pen & ink drawings, and silhouettes. The art primarily consists of portraits of women and children from her family, but there are also a few landscapes and floral studies.

Landscape showing a cabin near the top of a mountain with a dusting of snow, more mountains visible in the distance and an eagle flying overhead. Two profile portraits of women wearing hats.

Page [4] of Edith’s scrapbook, with a landscape and two portraits.

Among the portraits are three of young women dressed to play lawn tennis, which was just becoming popular at the time. The portraits are noteworthy for depicting the costumes worn for playing tennis, including early tennis shoes with India rubber soles and tennis rackets.

Young woman in a blue calf-length dress with small bustle, wearing a straw sunhat and early tennis shoes, holding a tennis racket in her left hand.

Page [20] of Edith’s scrapbook, with a portrait of a young woman in a tennis outfit.

Also of interest is a watercolor image depicting the family’s two Bengali nannies with a group of six white children.

Watercolor portraits of the heads of 2 white boys and a group portrait, also in watercolor, of 2 Bengali nannies with 6 white children.

Page [24] of Edith’s scrapbook, showing the family’s Bengali nannies.

Edith’s brother Frederick de Coninck Good (1852-1887) was a graphic artist in addition to joining his father in the family businesses. He enjoyed creating print illustrations for family and local occasions. Sadly, Frederick died by suicide at the age of 34. The loose leaves of his scrapbook include Frederick’s own works as well as contributions from his sister, Edith, and their father, Clements.

Line drawing of the Royal Royal Danish Warship Heimdal, with a Danish Navy escort, coming into port in Hull.

Page [8] of Frederick’s scrapbook leaves, with an illustrated printed menu in honor of the July 1884 visit of Prince Carl of Denmark to Hull.

You can browse through these scrapbooks in the Digital Library. Also included is a PDF containing further biographical notes compiled by the seller and included when they sent us the scrapbooks.


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“The Man Who Saved The Betsy Ross House”

Imagine you’ve come across a box or a forgotten drawer stuffed with photographs, old programs, or tickets from a time you do not want to forget. Maybe you go out to the store and buy an album with blank pages, colorful papers and embellishments, and then get to work with some scissors and glue. Today scrapbooking is a thriving hobby and industry with millions of products sold to help you preserve your memories. Scrapbooking is not a new phenomenon however, and before these modern conveniences were available it would not have been uncommon practice to reuse or repurpose an old unwanted book.[i]

One unique example from Villanova’s Distinctive Collections has just recently been scanned and is now available in our Digital Library. In this case, the book was not entirely unwanted – the compiler did save a good portion of the book, but cut out the middle section, inserted yet another book, and pasted over other pages to create an entirely new book “for keeps.” A handwritten “Note” on the front flyleaf explains the author’s discovery of forgotten documents and prints in a cupboard when preparing for a move.


“This book in store among forgotten lore, came to life once more.

It might have been consigned to the scrap heap – I chose to use it for my scraps for keeps.” (Front flyleaf 2, recto).

 

The book, a 1910 edition of the Register of Members of “one of Massachusetts honored societies – The Sons of the American Revolution” was probably chosen for its handsome blue binding with gold gilt (which the scrapbook author extra-embellished with a handmade clasp attachment), but also for its patriotic association.

The author of this scrapbook is Charles William Smith (1843 – 1934). We know from the many newspaper clippings he compiled here, that he was born in New Haven, CT, came to Philadelphia as a coal merchant, and was a member of the Union League, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Masonic Lodge, many other patriotic societies, and evidently how he most wished to be remembered – “the man who saved the Betsy Ross House.” A clipping near the end of the book suggests Smith’s motive in this scrapbook’s creation. A poem written by Smith, published in The Frankford Gazette, April 11, 1924, begins:

 

My dear Patriotic friend

Way back in the year 1892

I would not now mention my act

That happened then—not even to you,

I am prompted to do so however—I am told

There is some person this late day,

trying to rob me of my just dues[ii]

 

Indeed, the person most credited for saving the Betsy Ross House is Charles W. Weisgerber. You won’t find much about Charles William Smith.[iii] This is not for a lack of trying on his part. It seems that for several years on Smith’s birthday, or even Flag Day, the Philadelphia newspapers would reprint Smith’s story.[iv] In one case, Smith published a thank you to the Editor the next day.[v] As he tells it, Smith heard in 1892 that the house was to be torn down to build a factory. He then “awakened the interest of patriotic men and women,” raising money to eventually buy the house in 1905 by selling ten cent subscriptions to 1,040,270 persons. These certificates were sold through the American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association, of which both Smith and Weisgerber were founding members. But who had the initial idea to save the house? Did Betsy Ross even live at 239 Arch Street? Did she really sew the first flag? The legitimacy of Betsy’s story and the house has long been questioned. And this scrapbook is Charles William Smith’s personal attempt to stamp out any doubt of the answers to all three questions.

 

[Parry Scrapbook, 8-9]

Smith has gathered various publications in the form of newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and books. They are joined with signed letters, sworn statements and endorsements by historians, Betsy’s descendants, President Warren G. Harding, and even notarized documents.[vi] Some of the items may seem disparate, but to Smith they may all share a patriotic meaning, and an intent to authenticate his claims.

The assemblage of the scrapbook begins with the SAR Register book, which remains intact up until the List of Members. This is where Smith’s scrapbook begins. After eleven pages, a second book is inserted, Betsy Ross and the United States Flag, A Paper Read Before the Bucks County Historical Society, 1909, by Oliver Randolph Parry. This portion of the scrapbook is scanned open as two-page spreads, with page numbers identifying the published book as “Parry, #”, and the scrapbook pages within as [Parry Scrapbook, #]. When the Parry book ends, the Scrapbook pages of the outer book resume, and then we have the remainder of the SAR Register book preserved. The final pages contain some inserts of personal documents: Smith’s membership to The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (January 24, 1898); his acceptance degree as a Master Mason of St. Alban Lodge #529 (May 6, 1886); and membership to the Athletic Club of the Schuylkill Navy (November 12, 1892). Within these pages are also bits of wood from Valley Forge National Historic Park and Independence Hall; with mention of a gavel made of wood from the floorboards of the Betsy Ross House. There is correspondence with O.H. Oldroyd, collector and historian of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia. And there is of course the use of red, white, and blue colors throughout, and the lyrics and music sheet for The Star-Spangled Banner.

 

[Parry Scrapbook, 16-17]

By making this scrapbook, Smith has attempted to give permanence to these items by pasting them down and preserving them for posterity. The scrapbook has been in Villanova’s collection since 1956, when it was donated by an alum, Dr. Edward A. Mallon. The connection between Smith and Mallon (if there is one) is unclear, and how it came to be in Mallon’s possession is a current mystery.

I have missed Smith’s February 7th birthday by more than a week with this blog post, but he probably wouldn’t mind seeing his name in print once more anyway: Today, Charles William Smith, “the man who saved the Betsy Ross House,” would have been 176 years old.

 


[i] “As one scrapbook maker whose family was busy cutting and pasting papers in 1873 explained, they were not ‘using up good printed books’… rather “there is nothing in them that we want, and so we propose putting in something, rather than have them stand idle…. Some of them are old school-books, not much worn, but out of date. Almost every library has some useless books.” See “Writing and recording with scrapbooks,” Ellen Gruber Garvey, OUPblog, https://blog.oup.com/2012/05/writing-recording-with-scrapbooks-history/.

[ii] Page 229.

[iii] See newspaper columnist, James Smart’s history of the Betsy Ross House: http://www.jamessmartsphiladelphia.com/betsy-s-house.html.

[iv] Clippings in this scrapbook date from 1922-1924.

[v] Scrapbook, 2.

[vi] The Harding letter is a copy only, [Parry Scrapbook, 12-13].


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The Dog Days of Summer

The sunny, sultry days of July and August are often referred to as the “dog days” of summer. Ancient civilizations noticed what they thought was a correlation between the hottest days of summer and the heliacal (or, at sunrise) rising of the star Sirius in the constellation known as Canis Major (the “Big Dog”). Although Sirius does not actually have an effect on the temperature, its heliacal rising does coincide with some of the hottest days of summer in many parts of the northern hemisphere. “Canicular days” (from the Latin word for dog) made their first appearance in print in English in 1398. The Old Farmer’s Almanac puts the timing of the Dog Days as July 3 through August 11.

As we sweat our way through the dog days of summer, here is a selection of dog images from our collections!

From the Photo Album of Laird C. Robinson of Philadelphia, 1904:

Photo: Man with hunting rifle and dog Photo: The Whole Family and the Dog

(more…)


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How we spent our summer vacations

At the beginning of the summer, we acquired and digitized a scrapbook documenting a road trip across America in 1924. It’s a fascinating glimpse of cross-country motor vehicle travel in its early days as well as providing photographic peeks into average American towns. I love recreating old photos when the opportunity presents itself (as previously demonstrated by my Paris sojourn), so I was eager to recreate the scrapbook’s California photos when I headed out to the Golden State for a conference and vacation trip. When I learned that two of my colleagues would also be traveling to states featured in the scrapbook, I enlisted their help as well. Here are the photos we took along with the originals from the scrapbook. A lot of the photos were of generic landscapes or portraits, but we had fun finding similar perspectives, even if not always from the exact same place.

(Click the images to enlarge.)

Demian Katz, South Dakota:

A family portrait, 1924 and 2015:

A family in South Dakota, 1924 A family in South Dakota, 2015

“Some Boy,” 1924 and 2015:

"Some boy" in South Dakota, 1924 "Some boy" (South Dakota), 2015

The Badlands, 1924 and 2015:

Badlands (South Dakota), 1924 Badlands (South Dakota), 2015

“Some of the Road in S.D.,” 1924 and 2015:

Some of the road in South Dakota, 1924 Some of the road in South Dakota, 2015

 

Laura Bang, California:

Redwoods, 1924 and 2015:

CA redwoods, 1924

CA redwoods, 2015 CA redwoods, 2015

Bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, 1924 and 2015:

Japanese Tea Garden Bridge (San Francisco, CA), 1924 Japanese Tea Garden Bridge (San Francisco, CA), 2015

Atascadero Community House, 1924, and Atascadero City Hall, 2015:

Community House (Atascadero, CA), 1924 City Hall (Atascadero, CA), 2015

 

Laura Hutelmyer, Arizona:

The Grand Canyon, 1924 and 2015:

The Grand Canyon, 1924 The Grand Canyon, 2015

The Grand Canyon, 1924 The Grand Canyon, 2015

Bright Angel Trail (Grand Canyon), 1924 and 2015:

Bright Angel Trail, 1924 Bright Angel Trail, 2015

Bright Angel Trail, 1924 Bright Angel Trail, 2015

Fortunately none of us drove into in a ditch, like our 1924 predecessors!

"Our first hard luck," 1924

Take a look through the scrapbook to view all the adventures of Paul Haines, Warren Bridegam, and George Spang across 1924 America.


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DH in the Classroom: Aurelius Digital Humanities Launches Second Project

During the spring semester, the Aurelius Digital Humanities Initiative launched its second project, a digital edition of El Peru en sus tradiciones en su historia, en su arte. The project was commandeered by Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish Chad Leahy, PhD, who worked with his special-topics Spanish class to digitize and transcribe the text. Guidance was also provided by Laura Bang, digital and Special Collections curatorial assistant, and David Uspal, senior web specialist for library services and scholarly applications. Dr. Leahy explains that the materiality of text as object, the smell and feel of the item itself, has a story to tell us and digital humanities as a new technology has a way of opening this aspect of the text to the world.

chad-repl

  El Peru en sus tradiciones en su historia, en su arte is a 133 page multimedia scrapbook that contains postcards, newspaper clippings, drawings—more than 160 distinct visual objects in all. In many cases, these entries are copied without original sources, raising difficult questions regarding authorship, provenance and purpose. There is no way to prove authorship, but Dr. Leahy speculates that the text may have originated through the Augustinian missions in Peru and was probably a gift. The latest internal date, 1924, suggests that the scrapbook was produced in the latter half of the 1920s. In addition to studying the Peruvian text, Dr. Leahy’s class had the opportunity to develop hands-on digitizing skills while scanning the text Los dramas de la Guerra, a serialized account of the First World War published in Barcelona during the war years.

Phone

Participants loved the way the website reformatted for easy reading on hand held devices.

David Uspal wrapped up the event by explaining the development behind the website. Uspal said, “in addition to the transcription work by the undergraduate students, technical support for the project was provided by Falvey [Memorial] Library’s Technology Development Team, with a large contribution by technology graduate assistant Pragya Singhvi.  Pragya’s work on importing transcription documents and automatically producing TEI and HTML versions of these documents will both help reduce the work necessary on future translation projects (and thus, more likely to get more and varies projects approved) and allow these projects to adopt open standards which will allow for greater use in the academic community.”


Laura Hutelmyer is the photography coordinator for the Communication and Publications Team and special acquisitions coordinator in Resource Management


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Frank R. Steed in WWI Paris

We recently acquired a 2-volume set of scrapbooks created by Frank R. Steed, an Army Field Clerk in World War I. Both volumes have now been digitized and there are many interesting things to be found within the pages. The materials are not affixed to pages in chronological order, but dates noted range from May 1918 to November 1919. In addition, Steed was inconsistent with his labeling of materials, so there will be several pages with very detailed descriptions written in followed by a run of pages with no notes at all.

Steed's Certificate of Identity

Steed’s Certificate of Identity, issued in August 1918.

Frank R. Steed was discharged from the medical department at Camp Dix, New Jersey, and appointed as an Army Field Clerk in July 1918. A memo describes process for applying to become an Army field clerk: “A candidate to be eligible for appointment must … pass the required physical examination, be of good moral character and a citizen of the United States. Army field clerks have a military status, and as they are appointed to office by the Secretary of War, they are officers in the military service, although not commissioned officers.”

Steed was assigned to the Casualty Division of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. A letter from Steed’s superior, Lt. Col. Ernest G. Smith, details the work carried out by this division: “Our part in the Great Adventure concerned itself in large measure with the work of collecting and properly recording casualties of the A.E.F. This was one of the most trying as well as most important tasks of the war. How well it has been performed has been evinced from time to time by citations in orders as well as by favorable comment expressed by all who have investigated this work.” Smith goes on to thank Steed for his diligence and attitude: “Without these services so cheerfully, intelligently and dependably rendered, success would have been impossible.”

Steed posing as a statue

Steed posing as a statue on an empty pedestal in the Jardin des Tuileries.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the dismal nature of his job in the Casualties Division, Steed seems to have had a grand time in Paris and other French towns, as well as several other cities of Western Europe, including Brussels, London, and Dublin. The scrapbooks contain numerous photographs, postcards, programs, documents, menus, tickets, maps, tourist brochures, and even a few pen and pencil drawings. There is a lot to see and these bits of ephemera provide a fascinating glimpse back at Western European culture towards the end of and immediately after the Great War. There are also many postcards and notes from Steed’s friends and family and I am looking forward to looking at those more closely in the future.

Scrapbooks (and other types of hand-written/hand-made documents) are among the greatest pleasures of special collections and archives. Scrapbooks are especially challenging to digitize as there is no way to fully replicate the layers of paper and random objects (such as a bit of yarn or a toothpick) in digital form. Adding the metadata to these records was tedious, but I’m glad that we are able to share at least an approximation of these fascinating volumes. I hope that many more people will now have the pleasure of spending some time with Frank R. Steed in WWI Europe. It’s a bit like time travel, being able to share a personal perspective of life and events from almost 100 years ago.


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The one that got away…

Not all artifacts of material culture are able to be readily digitized; there are a number of physical and intellectual hurdles to be crossed before an item makes it to the scanner. Each candidate item must evaluated to determine if it can by scanned without damage to the object, at the same time each item is examined to see if it is even possible to scan the item due to some physical characteristic such as the nature of a very tight binding, or a binding that obscures the text. Finally each item is examined to determine the copyright status. Here are some sample items from Villanova’s Special Collections that are candidates for scanning but due to a physical or intellectual impediment scanning is not possible:

Too fragile
october08-010.jpg

Too tightly Bound
october08-001.jpg

Too small (and too tightly bound)
october08-002.jpg

In copyright
october08-011.jpg
(This copy of the Secret Life of Salvador Dali has the author’s distinctive signature with hand-drawn illustrations).

Scrapbooks and albums present unique challenges in digitization. Component parts of these works often are physically and intellectually possible to scan, but display and presentation issues make it difficult to show the interrelationships between distinct objects. As well, objects contained within other objects often are physically connected, making opening and closing the parts and pages and scanning the front and back of each item problematic. Below are 4 images from two scrapbooks in Special Collections that highlight these difficulties. Images 1 and 2 are pages from a scrapbook created to show the related early historic preservation efforts in the creation of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia and the U.S. National Park at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. This work contains bits of wood from buildings at both locations along with photographs, postcards, and pamphlets. Thus it is possible to scan all of the component parts of this work but showing the physical relationships of the component works in our existing digital library software is problematic. Another scrapbook from Special Collections, depicted in images 3 and 4, collects the hundreds of congratulatory letters (still contained in their stamped envelopes), and telegrams sent to Robert Maitland O’Reilly upon his appointment as Surgeon General of the United States on September 7, 1902, as well as the newspaper clippings announcing the appointment. Image 4 is one of these letters, authored and autographed by the then President of the United States – Theodore Roosevelt. The letters can be scanned individually but then they lose the relationship to the scrapbook as a collective whole. Some libraries have experimented with creating a distinctive scrapbook interface to present these works in a more complete and rich form; this is an area of future investigation and development for us at the digital library. For now these rare works must still be accessed in person.

[1]october08-003.jpg

[2]october08-004.jpg

[3]october08-0013.jpg

[4]october08-008.jpg


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Last Modified: October 31, 2008