Archives Center, National Museum of American History

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Scope & Content

This portion of the collection represents a significant accumulation of one type of material rather than a mix of various types of ephemera. The bulk of this material is Business Records, Cinema Lobby Cards, Fire Insurance Maps and Sheet Music. The divisions are listed below in alphabetical order. A box and folder listing of the contents of these divisions follows.

        Business Records, ca. 1790-1895, (25 volumes) miscellaneous business records including ledgers, daybooks, cash books, letter press copy books, stock share books, minute books, waste books, memorandum books, patent books and household account books. These documents relate to patent medicine, clothing, perfume, scale, coal, dry goods, insurance, banking, railroad, and a number of other businesses. There are also some records from churches, fraternal organizations, schools, societies, leagues and personal households.  This portion of the collection remains unprocessed. An inventory of the material is available.   Container List only  available in repository at this time.

        Cinema Lobby Cards, 1910-1944, (3 boxes), consists of 11x14 inch placards advertising motion pictures. These cards were displayed in the theater lobby in the same manner that posters are used today. Lobby cards, along with posters and photographic stills, were issued by all the major movie studios to publicize their films. The cards were to be returned to the company that printed them after use. These materials are important because movie audiences got their first impression of coming attractions.  Some of the lobby cards in the collection are in complete sets. Many of these cards are tinted. A number of the cards include images of such stars as Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, and Mary Pickford from the teens and twenties. Most of the cards in the collection, however, are from the 1930s. The lobby cards are arranged alphabetically by name of film.

        Fire Insurance Maps, 1873-1896, (3 boxes) were designed to assist insurance companies assess the risk of manufacturing companies. A large majority of these maps were published by the Barlow Company. The insurance maps include the name of the company, location, a description of their foundries, interior features, fire appliances, manufacturing processes, and a diagram of each company. Maps are arranged in alphabetical order by name of company.

        Researchers interested in additional Barlow maps pertaining to the textile mills and related industries should consult the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum in North Andover, Massachusetts. The Museum has produced a geographical listing of its holdings. The Baker Library of Harvard's Graduate School of Business Administration holds about 1,600 maps and has produced a name index for its holdings. Another 25 maps are in the New York State Library. Both the Baker collection and the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum's collection originally came from the Warshaw Collection before the Smithsonian Institution purchased it.

        Liquor & Wine Labels and Advertisements, 1893-1905, (2 boxes) includes printed advertisements, dealers' receipts, labels and drink recipe books pasted in a scrapbook in no particular order. A number of well-known companies are represented, including Overholt, Charles Bellows, Whiterock, Acker, Merrall, and Condit.  Container List only available in repository at this time.

        Photographs, 1860s-1910, namely the carte-de-viste and cabinet prints, were probably collected by Warshaw for subject content or as examples of advertising ephemera rather than as photographic portraits. Researchers using the collection may be more interested in these images as documentation of clothing, hair styles, family life, leisure activities, women, or a particular studio. The photographs are divided into three groups: (1) those that have been re-housed as a separate series, namely the stereographs, (2) those that remain housed in their original locations within the main collection subject categories; and (3) photographs that have been transferred to the Photographic History Collection.

        A number of the photographs were re-housed as a separate series because of preservation concerns.  Originally stereographs were interfiled with the other materials in the business ephemera vertical files. It was felt, however, that this arrangement could be damaging to the stereographs. In 1991 they were re-housed to ensure their preservation and were reorganized to better facilitate their use as research tools. The stereographs have been arranged by subject. Whenever possible the same subject categories as the business ephemera vertical files have been maintained. Some new subject categories have been created that were more conducive to typical stereograph subject matter. The stereographs are organized first by topical divisions and then by geographical location.

        A number of photographs remain in the collection in the business ephemera vertical files. Most often these photographs were collected by Warshaw as documentation of the particular subject matter that they are housed with. These photographs tend to be grouped together and labeled as photographs at the end of the company names in the container list. If there are one or two photographs and a number of lithographs and engravings, these materials are often grouped together and labeled as general images.

        A number of the Warshaw photographs have been transferred to the Photographic History Collection.  A listing of these photographs is available in the Archives Center.

        Container List only  available in repository at this time.

        Reward and Wanted Posters, 1850-1957, are included in the oversize materials. Most are dated from 1875 and 1876. A number of the posters offer rewards for various responses, including information on capture and return of robbers, murderers, runaway slaves, escaped prisoners, thieves, lost objects, and prisoners of war. There is also a copy of the wanted poster for John Wilkes Booth reprinted in the April 1896 issue of Century Magazine. Victor Louis Mason, of the U. S. War Department, describes the various conspiracies against the life of Abraham Lincoln. Most of the posters have duplicates and negative numbers. (See photographic reference prints in the Archives Center). Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.

        Sheet Music, 1803-1947, in this collection is of greatest interest for the illustrations on the covers.  Occasionally the cover or the back of the sheet music would advertise a product such as medicine, furniture, and sewing machines. Images include romance, transportation, military, women, and African Americans. Themes often included war, automobile riding, airplane riding, love songs, death, childhood, patriotic songs, world's fairs and campaign songs. Such themes reflected contemporary society -- advances in aviation, changes in transportation from horses to trains and automobiles; the effect of war; courtship and romance; and the changing status of women in American society.   Even the art styles changed from the realism of the 1800s to the use of lithographs and Art Nouveau styles of the early 1920s. The later pieces often use photographs of the performers or composers to illustrate the music. The material is listed in alphabetical order by title.

The Archives Center also holds the SAM DeVINCENT COLLECTION OF ILLUSTRATED AMERICAN SHEET MUSIC, ca. 1790-1980.

Go to Isadore Warshaw Personal Papers


Revised: December 27, 2002