Antique Scrapbooks








Besides collecting old diaries, I have a small but growing scrapbook collection. If you’re familiar with the contemporary scrapbooking movement and all its accoutrements: special paper cutting machines, glossy stickers, trinkets; remove everything but the paper from your mind and you have old-school scrapbooking. Scrapbooking became popular around the time of the Civil War. Early scrapbooks were often repurposed books, see the images from my personal collection above. Some scrapbookers created books on one subject: gardening, recipes, the royal family; others included a sampling of newspaper articles from their moment in history. Many young women created personal scrapbooks filled with cards they received on different occasions. With a pot of glue and a pair of scissors, our historical counterparts created their own archives. My personal collection, above, includes a recipe and household tips book compiled in an 1866 Department of Agriculture report. The scrapbooker was a young, unmarried woman preparing herself for the years ahead with recipes and tips she cut from local newspapers, as though writing a letter to her older self. Another was compiled in the Fifth Registration Report of Vermont 1861. The original pages, still visible throughout the scrapbook are a kind of census report from 1861. This scrapbooker collected primarily designs for lacemaking and quilting, though she does include a remedy for ‘diphtheria and scarlet fever’ and newspaper advice on how to keep a sanitary house.  I also own a British scrapbook from 1936. This one was compiled in a book made for the purpose and is filled with newspaper clippings mourning the death of King Edward V and the coronation of Kind Edward VIII. My last scrapbook is the most intriguing to me. It’s compiled in a blank book and, again through newspaper clippings, recounts the saga of the ‘Holy Ghost and Us’ Society, an early 1900s Christian cult operating in New England. Replete with starvation, beatings, death and a ‘ghost ship’, this scrapbook doesn’t give the ‘author’s’ name but contains a thorough examination of its subject, one I wasn’t aware of before finding the book. I wonder if the author was in some way connected with the cult, through personal experience or a family member. I’m not an expert on old scrapbooks, I just know what I like. If you rummage around at antique stores and on Ebay you could come up with some interesting finds. The history of scrapbooking is fascinating. I’ve included some sources below.

Further Reading:

Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Rennaisance

The Scrapbook in American Life

Scrapbooks: An American History

and for fun, but it may be gone by the time you read this:) Vintage Mark Twain Adhesive Scrapbook