If you’ve never been to New York’s Grolier Club, here’s your moment! I’ll be speaking there in person on the innovative African American newsdealer, Robert M. Budd, better known as Back Number Budd. In the business he ran for 50 years, his store was the only place to find thousands of titles of old newspapers, some of which we can no longer find at all. The Metropolitan chapter of the Victorian Society in America invited me, and is keeping attendance to 50 people. I’m hoping some of them will have new leads, since I’m continually thrilled to learn more about Back Number Budd, what it was like to be an African American businessman from the 1880s into the 1930s, and his world.
The elegant Grolier Club is a repository of rare books and printed matter — come see it. Wondering how Mr. Budd would have felt there. Join us.
Scrapbooks for the vote across the Atlantic! I’ve been delighted to learn more about how British suffragists, too, used scrapbooks to record their work and save their history. One remarkable collection in the British Library of 37 bulging hardback scrapbooks offers a personal history of suffrage activism created by Alice Maud Mary Arncliffe Sennett (1862-1936). This actor turned confectioner/businesswoman and activist public speaker saved plenty of newspaper clippings, but preserved significant memorabilia, too, like the key to the hotel room where her husband stayed when he picked her up from Holloway Prison, either from when she was detained for smashing the Daily Mail’s office windows or an earlier imprisonment.
Cherish Watton’s blog article highlights letters Arncliffe Sennett received about her speeches that she pasted down. Not surprising that she saved letters from movement leaders, but there’s one from her servant Bessie Punchard, who wrote, “Do you know you made a simply splendid speech, I was so proud of you,” and told her she would happily go to prison herself if it would help the cause. Arncliffe Sennett reciprocated Bessie Punchard’s regard, dedicating one of her scrapbook volumes to Bessie, “the only one true and trusted friend I have found…the star to which I have hitched by wagon of loneliness.”
Arncliffe Sennett’s scrapbooks reminds us that while historians may focus on the rifts between different suffrage factions, people inside a movement may not be so concerned with these divisions. Arncliffe Sennett saved membership cards and other materials that show she belonged – sometimes simultaneously – to two different wings of the suffrage movement, the British Library’s page about these scrapbooks explains.
This entry rounds out the Scrapbook History blog series on scrapbooks and voting. When I started the series in the fall, before the US election, I wanted to highlight how important the vote was to African Americans and women’s rights advocates who kept scrapbooks. African American men and women saved evidence of white supremacists trying to keep Black people from voting, and Black people worked hard and brought lawsuits to vote, saved items about their work and honored exemplary voters in their scrapbooks. Since when I post in this blog the items go to my Writing with Scissors Facebook page, I thought I could publicize the articles to present-day scrapbooking enthusiasts who might not realize that there is a real, long history of people being blocked from voting.
I tried to pay to use Facebook’s “boost post” feature to reach groups I wouldn’t know people in otherwise. But Facebook’s algorithms decided that the history of voter suppression and the history of women’s suffrage were politically partisan, and blocked me from publicizing the items, despite my attempts to reason with them. (One objection they or their bots raised was that Facebook users in other parts of the world might be offended by women’s suffrage.) Facebook also blocked me from tagging more than half a dozen teacher and professor friends who might have been interested in using the pieces in class. It was frustrating, but I will try to work out some way to re-engage the blog for the next election.
Please enjoy and share the posts here on how people used scrapbooks to save the history of the struggle for the vote.
Historic house museums appeal to our desires to imagine ourselves into different lives, lived in different surroundings. It’s always complicated – in extreme cases, when plantation recreations invite us to enjoy the spoils of slaveholders, and ignore the slave quarters, for example.
Scrapbook House, Strong Museum collection
Schoolroom in scrapbook house, Strong Museum collection
Scrapbook house parlor, including black servant, Strong Museum collection
But wandering through someone else’s house is intriguing. Nineteenth century children played with the desire to try out different homes in their house scrapbooks, where they created rooms and scenarios in them from catalog and magazine pictures.
On Sunday, March 29, 1 pm, you can visit a 19th century farmhouse and hear about historic scrapbooks. And if you have old scrapbooks in your family, bring them. I’ll bring some from my collection, too – and of course, lots of great pictures of how our ancestors used their newspaper clipping scrapbooks to save women’s history, black history, and more.
I’m looking forward to the first of my New Jersey Council for the Humanities scrapbook presentations, Sunday, March 29, 1 pm, at Hamilton House, Clifton, NJ 971 Valley Road, Clifton, NJ 07013.
I first saw a Beecher family-related scrapbook when Minton Brooks asked me to look at one now in the Brooklyn Historical Society, made by his ancestor Henry F. Minton. Henry Minton was Henry Ward Beecher’s parishioner, and had been riveted enough by
Harriet’s daughter Hattie Stowe made a cat scrapbook! (Schlesinger Library)
his minister’s doings in the unfolding Beecher Tilton sex scandal to compile clippings about them in his scrapbook, along with his own interests as a homeopathic doctor. It was the kind of unfolding news story that often inspired newspaper clipping scrapbook making. A scrapbook allowed you to collect all the sidepaths and follow them all across different newspapers.
But the Beechers and
Henry Minton scrapbook
Stowes and their friends themselves had different ideas of what to collect. And old newspapers could be turned into data, abolitionists realized in creating American Slavery as It Is – the book that Harriet Beecher Stowe kept under her pillow when writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
I’m looking forward to jumping into Oberlin’s special collections, since their alumnae/i
Mary Church Terrell, Oberlin alumna and scrapbook maker
were the leading lights of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements. They may have inherited the remains of the newspapers that Angelina and Sarah Grimke and Theodore Weld used in writing American Slavery As It Is — an extraordinary use of Southern newspapers to argue against slavery. I’ll be speaking on Hidden Histories: African American and Women’s Rights Scrapbooks on Thursday afternoon, March 13. And I’m looking forward to a faculty workshop about archives on Friday, where I hope we’ll have a chance to discuss Elizabeth Alexander’s extraordinary essay, “My Grandmother’s Hair,” from her collection Power and Possibility: Essays, Reviews, and Interviews. It engages the intimacy and violence of the archive.
So what was an advantage did 19th century media had over ours? Their users didn’t have to worry about lost passwords. I finally made my way back to this blog! Sorry for not posting here more often recently.
I spoke at the Mexico City’s immense Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), in the Seminario de Bibliología, last month and heard about some interesting filmmakers’ scrapbooks there from book history scholars who hadn’t thought about scrapbooks. I also learned that Spanish has a special word for a library of periodicals: hemeroteca.
I’ll be digging in the archives on fellowship at Yale University all through April (on a nonscrapbook project) but hope to post more about related findings.
Last minute announcement – Humanities NY and the Desmond-Fish Library in Garrison, NY have asked me to fill in tonight, June 29, 6:30 in the library’s suffrage series. Come hear my talk Scrapbooks and the Hidden Life of Suffrage:
Anti-suffragists’ scrapbooks reveal some of their tricks.
How did suffragists manage all the different arguments and strands of information to create a powerful and effective movement that spanned decades? They used scrapbooks: a form of distributed, decentralized information storage and history writing. In their scrapbooks, suffragists collected the history of their movement, strategized about public speaking, and explained their work to their families. Scrapbooks played a key role in transmitting tactics and stories. Susan B. Anthony fought to place her 13 volume scrapbook in the Library of Congress. Alice Dunbar Nelson clipping collection reveal her shaping her specifically African American vision of what women’s suffrage would do for the black community. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s scrapbook became a multi-generation collaboration. Lillie Devereux Blake used her clippings in her speeches against domestic violence, and taught her readers how to use scrapbooks.
In the 1910s, as the suffrage movement sped toward ratification, it became increasingly professionalized and ran its own clipping services. Scrapbooks supported its growing public relations campaigns. Anti-suffragists used the same materials, though the scrapbook of a dedicated anti-suffragist PR woman shows her busy inventing facts to get her stories noticed.
These scrapbooks open a window into the lives of the thousands of ordinary women who became suffragists. They let us see how these earlier generations of campaigners and supporters used the press, while they reveal an intimate side of well known suffragists.
We met back in August at Butler Library at Columbia University and talked about the hundred or so scrapbooks of L.S. Alexander Gumby, the great gay scrapbooker of the Harlem Renaissance, which are there, though I didn’t get to explicate them on camera. We also talked about others, not at Columbia — William Dorsey’s over 400; the scrapbook Mark Twain invented, suffrage scrapbooks like Elizabeth Boynton Harbert’s, and one pasted into a book of sermons. Jennifer asked great questions, and I’m very eager to see what made it into the show!
And why did it take so long to air? Oddly enough, they’ve been covering more about politics this year.
Thrilled to be heading to the University of Delaware to speak on African American scrapbooks.
April 27 talk
I’m heading there for a meeting of the 19th century women writers study group, and squeezing on a talk about African American scrapbooks along the way. (Listen for a mention of a slaveholding Gorsuch — an ancestor of the new Supreme Court judge? I wouldn’t be surprised.)
This time we’re discussing Alice Dunbar Nelson’s work (okay, the LONG 19th century). I wrote about a fascinating scrapbook Dunbar-Nelson made about her suffrage work in 1915, and will be talking about that for the study group on Saturday, too. (I wrote about it in Writing with Scissors, and again in more detail in Legacy’s special issue on Alice Dunbar Nelson. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/645636) She was a woman of remarkable energy, commitment, and political organizing interests.
If you didn’t have a scrapbook and didn’t have room for piles of newspapers in your house, how else could you find old news items in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? You could visit a form of offsite storage, flourishing first in a basement in midtown Manhattan, and then in an old horsecar barn in Astoria, Queens.
In the 1870s, an African American man known as Back Number Budd began sorting and organizing back issues of newspapers for sale to researchers, lawyers, and browsers. In a time before library newspaper collections or indexes, his business allowed his clients to find long lost information. Especially because he was black, buyers were suspicious of the high prices he charged for his work of sorting and saving old newspapers elsewhere considered trash. The story of his work offers a view into forgotten moments in African
1891 Astoria Map
Fire destroyed Robert Budd’s business, but competition from the New York Public Library, which started saving more newspapers, and clipping services, which came into use in the 1890s, also displaced it.
I already had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting some of his descendents in Massachusetts, and hope that someone in Astoria will have a lead on a photo of his business – or have other stories to share.