Back Number Budd talk Feb. 18, 1 pm, Astoria, Queens – note corrected time

Back Number Budd

Back Number Budd

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

Astoria Map

1891 Astoria Map

American history.

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’m excited to be speaking about Back Number Budd on Feb. 18, 1 pm at the Greater Astoria Historical Society, not far from where Budd had has warehouse, in Ravenswood, Astoria, Long Island City.

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.

Thanks to the Public Scholars in the Humanities, Humanities New York, for sponsoring this!

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Ink and Electricity: Speaking at Monmouth University Thursday Nov. 12

Vertical filing cabinet, c. 1890, from the American Library Association: http://www.ala.org/lhrt/popularresources/lhrtnewsletters/spring2011

Vertical filing cabinet, c. 1890, from the American Library Association: http://www.ala.org/lhrt/popularresources/lhrtnewsletters/spring2011

Monmouth’s great title for their series on print culture, Ink and Electricity, is a reminder of how our perceptions of media are shaped by the technology of the moment. For 19th century scrapbook makers, scrapbooks were a new technology — as were the 1890s file folders and vertical files, that eventually displaced a swath of newspaper clipping scrapbook making. I’ll be speaking on how 19th century activists repurposed media in their scrapbooks. 6-7:30, Wilson Hall, Room 104. Arrive early for refreshments. Thanks to Kristin Bluemel for arranging this.

Speaking on repurposed books at UMD College Park Friday Nov. 14

I’ll be speaking on repurposed books at the Local Americanists series at UMD College poster for talk 11 14 14Park on Friday.  I have to find out where the picture on this gorgeous poster came from! Come if you’re in the area. Thanks to Ingrid Satelmajer and Bob Levine for the invitation. This will also give me a chance to revisit the amazing Joseph W. H. Cathcart scrapbooks at Howard University. These are the over 100 scrapbooks made by a 19th century African American janitor who stamped some of his books “GSBM” for the Great Scrapbook Maker.

Radio days – with Kate Raphael

I’ve made it to the west coast, virtually. Such a pleasure to talk with Kate Raphael of KPFA’s Women’s Magazine, broadcast on Oct. 21. A real conversation, in a tiny hotel room, when she was in NYC for a wedding. And it’s now on their blog. Lots on African American scrapbook makers, women’s rights scrapbooks, and of course Mark Twain.

Speaking on Scrapbooks at Philadelphia Ephemera event Sept. 20, 2013

Album of clippings of human hair on display at the Library Company

Album of clippings of human hair on display at the Library Company

Looking forward to speaking Friday at Unmediated History — a conference jointly sponsored by the Ephemera Society of America and the Library Company of Philadelphia — Ben Franklin’s old stomping grounds. It will be great to be back there, and to meet some of the ephemera enthusiasts I talked to when I was working on The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture.

You can visit the Library Company on Facebook as well.

NYC talk on scrapbooks – Feb 13

Wed. Feb. 13 informal talk on scrapbooks – New York Metro American Studies Association, at Hunter College. Plenty of pictures!

Jan. 29 Reading in NYC — St. Mark’s Bookshop

New Yorkers — A reading from Writing with Scissors at St. Mark’s Bookshop coming up — help save this revered independent bookstore while hearing about 19th century scrapbooks! 7 pm Tuesday January 29. More information via the link. Invite your friends!  St. Marks Bookshop reading