Scrapbook Surprises

This column has explored scrapbooks in the past. Recently some of the scrapbooks in the archives at the Fenton History Center have been rehoused and more information collected about them for cataloging purposes. These scrapbooks represent a wide variety of the types of scrapbooks kept in the past.

Today’s scrapbooking activities emphasis acid-free materials and the easily obtained copies of precious photographs that can then be shared in more than one scrapbook. Older scrapbooks have very acidic papers or even sticky areas or lines of glue dots that could be moistened and hold the items in the scrapbook.  Many scrapbooks from the Victorian era were books of “scraps”. These were often highly colored, glossy and sometimes embossed “pictures” of flowers, pets, children and other topics.  These were arranged however wanted on a page and glued.

Other scrapbooks contained newspaper clippings-often poetry from newspapers interspersed with obituaries and announcements of weddings. If family historians find such a scrapbook that was saved by a family member, there are many clues to friends and family in them by just what was kept.

The Research Center has two collections of scrapbooks that cover the Jamestown Fire Department and fires. One collection has five scrapbooks that cover earlier years from about 1904 to 1920. The other collection of eleven volumes covers the 1920s through about 1980. These are a great help for someone who is researching the fire department or looking for information on a certain fire. One does not then have to look through microfilm of the newspapers or the newspapers if they are available in hard copy. But at the same time the different sizes and the acidic paper and covers of the scrapbooks make it difficult to preserve and use these.

We have two collections of scrapbooks of the newspaper clippings of service men of World War II. The Post-Journal published many photos of soldiers and sailors, as they left for service or if they were promoted or were deployed to another area. One collection is roughly chronologically arranged. Undoubtedly this person clipped and pasted on a continuous basis during the war while the other collection is roughly alphabetically arranged. This person must have saved the clippings and arranged them or kept them alphabetically as they were clipped and then at the close of the war pasted them into the scrapbooks. We do have an alphabetic index to the clippings in these two collections so they are quite useable.

There are number of scrapbooks that were kept while one was in high school. These give us a look at the social life for teens of the various eras. For family historians this type of scrapbook kept by a family member will give information on friends and other family members.

And some scrapbooks contains real surprises. For some reason we have a scrapbook that contains a number of different items, from newspaper clippings to invitations to birth announcements, ranging from about 1808 through the 1920s. The one surprise is a piece of fabric with a note telling that it is a “Piece of plush covering of a sofa brought from France by Joseph Bonaparte-Ex-King of Spain & Italy- in 1815- To Col. A. B. Lawrence Dec. 1, 1881 From Major James F. Fitts.” It is not known who compiled this scrapbook. There are a number of names on the many different items and the items are from a wide range of dates and geographic places.

Another scrapbook tells a sad story in that a young couple appears in a number of photographs and their names and their friends are included in other items. Eventually the scrapbook has a number of letters saved in their envelopes and one can tell they are from the young man who is now a service man in World War II.  The scrapbook ends with the information about his death during the war.

Scrapbooks can be full of surprises, tell great stories, preserve memories, or just be a collection of stuff-interesting stuff to the collector but a puzzle to the eventual owner.

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