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The Scrapbook

The Scrapbook

Click on the image to the left to view all the pages of Mr. Boller's scrapbook.

Nearly everyone in the 19th century created scrapbooks. Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, and Susan B. Anthony are some of the noteworthy celebrities that compiled such books. Perhaps more important than scrapbooks compiled by the famous, though, are the scrapbooks compiled by the common person.[1]

An ancestor to our present day digital favorites lists and social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest, scrapbooks made it possible for individuals to save, manage, and reprocess information. Whether using a mass produced blank book, like Mr. Boller’s, or repurposing a bound book, scrapbooks allowed the creator to collect and arrange newspaper clippings into some sort of order that made sense out of the world around him or her.

Scrapbooks are a construction of one’s own identity but at the same time, they are not transparent autobiographies.[2] The purchase of this blank book is evidence of a conscious effort on Mr. Boller’s part to collect and preserve scraps that were meaningful to him. It is a very intimate grouping of not only newspaper clippings but also ephemera. Ephemera being something created to convey information that was meant to exist only for the event itself.[3] This encompasses a wide range of materials; dance cards, menus, tickets, playbills, leaflets, bills, invoices, greeting cards, etc. Their existence within Mr. Boller’s book indicates that these events were important to him. He does not say why they were important; that we must deduce ourselves. This collection, his collection, shows the relationship between Mr. Boller and the world around him and he leave it to us, here in his future, to observe, interpret, and understand.

The experience of reading through this sophisticated businessman’s scrapbook has been intensely physical and sensual as each bit included within has weight and texture. It also physically crumbles with the turning of a page. It is, in short, a conservation nightmare and the only way to preserve it, aside from destroying its structure and taking it apart to save each page individually, is to digitize it here.

It is a prized possession of the Farmingdale State College Archives for its ability to carry the past into the future. It shows what it was like to have lived through historic moments like the assassination of President McKinley and momentous events in the life of the creator, like being the manager of the cloth cutting room at Montgomery Ward & Co. where events sparked the bloody 1905 Chicago Teamsters’ Strike.

To learn more about the history of scrapbooking in America see this video on C-Span by the author of Writing with Scissors, Ellen Garvey:

[1] Ellen Garvey, “History of Scrapbooking.” C-Span video, 57:01. May 23, 2013.

[2] Susan Tucker, Katherine Ott, and Patricia Buckler. The Scrapbook in American Life. (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2006), 2.

[3] Tucker, Ott, and Buckler. The Scrapbook in American Life, 18.