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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Gender, Race and Representation in Magazines and New Media conference

Thrilled to be giving a keynote at the fabulous Gender, Race and Representationcropped-barbie8_v_20jul09_vogueitalia_b in Magazines and New Media conference, at Cornell next week! Noliwe Rooks has done great work organizing it. It’s bringing together scholars and magazine and blog practitioners. Alexis De Veaux speaking on Essence! Kimberly N. Foster’s keynote, “Black Women Blogging Ourselves into Being”! And on a scrapbook note, Caroline Keyser is speaking on “Pure food prodigy: Philippa Schuyler, Celebrity Embodiment, and the Politics of Race.” I had a chance to look at the scrapbooks Schuyler’s mother compiled, now at Syracuse, and am very curious about what Keyser makes of this deeply strange story. My talk is “Hidden Histories: African American Community Resistance to the 19th Century Press” — discussing how black readers undermined and resisted the white newspapers’ and magazines’ attempts to segregate the imagined community of magazine and newspaper readership.

Talk in Manchester, UK Feb. 28

Pass the word to your Manchester friends — talk on Writing with Scissors at Manchester Metropolitan University coming up Thursday Feb. 28 at 4 pm.

Details on talk at Manchester Metropolitan University

Book Contest Honorable Mention: “Revelatory and Transformative” and “Witty”

I’m thrilled that Writing with Scissors has received the sole honorable mention in the EBSCOhost/Research Society for American Periodicals contest for the best book on periodicals for the past 2 years. The committee, which included the impressive scholars and editors Jean Lee Cole, Karen Roggencamp, Cynthia Patterson, and Craig Monk, judged it “revelatory and transformative” t the field of periodical studies, and praised it for delivering “nuanced readings” of primary materials in a “witty, conversational, yet erudite style.” Wow!

And I’m so pleased that Jared Gardner’s The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture won the prize — he seems to be doing a fine job of overturning assumptions about early magazines! I’ve ordered it for my school’s library. Increasingly, libraries don’t order even important books unless we ask them to.