|Ca. 1906 Horn and Hardart’s Automat Postcard from the Library Company’s Postcard Collection on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/library-company-of-philadelphia/6648420107/in/photostream|
I’m an intern at the Library Company, working here for the first two weeks of January in the Print Department, doing various tasks relating to the Library Company’s collections of lithographs, drawings, cartoons, photographs, and other types of graphical images.
One of my largest tasks has been with several collections of ephemera which the Library Company has been digitizing, with help from a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Ephemera—printed material not intended to be preserved—can include items like paper dolls, playbills, movie tickets, playing cards, or even airsickness bags. The collections of ephemera that I am working with, though, consist of postcards and trade cards.
The Library Company’s postcard collection includes the George Brightbill Collection and separately received postcards housed as the Library Company Collection. Brightbill, a retired archivist at Temple University, gave his collection of 6,500 postcard images of Philadelphia, including many one-of-a-kind photograph postcards, to the Library Company in 2000. The Library Company Collection includes various views in and around the Philadelphia region.
Trade cards are small cards, the size of a postcard or smaller, that feature advertisements for businesses. The Library Company’s trade card collection consists of more than 1,000 early advertising cards for Philadelphia businesses and manufacturers, and products made by Philadelphia firms. The trade cards were primarily collected by Emily Phillips (1822-1909), who collected trade cards for local stores and businesses and presented them to the Library Company in 1882.
Through the funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, both of these collections have been scanned at high resolution. My task is to remove the extraneous parts of the image (consisting of technical information used in the scanning process) and to make each image a standard size. Eventually, these images will all be uploaded to ImPAC, the Library Company’s online database of images. I also posted a selection of images from the collections I was working with onto flickr.
|Ca. 1910 Postcard of Woodside Park from the George Brightbill Postcard Collection on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/library-company-of-philadelphia/6642937717/in/photostream|
While the cropping can sometimes get tedious, the cards themselves are fascinating. The postcards offer images of everything from automats, where five cents would buy you a full meal from a complex vending machine, to early amusement parks. Some of the trade cards, too, are unique. One offered a before-and-after image of the users of its product, Buckingham’s Dye for the Whiskers (see below). The poor fellow’s whiskers had improbably gone entirely white, while the hair on top of his head remained brown. As a remedy, he turns to the dye, which is “easy of application, safe and effectual, and is rapidly growing in public favor,” according to the advertising copy.
|Buckingham’s dye for the whiskers. Ca. 1885 tradecard on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/library-company-of-philadelphia/6669220303/in/photostream|
Check out these cards and others at the Library Company’s flickr page, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/library-company-of-philadelphia/.
Written by Jon William Sweitzer-Lamme
Library Company of Philadelphia Volunteer Intern