The graphic arts department houses many additional collections of what can be termed ephemera. Some of these collections, such as bookplates, clipper ship cards, and currency, contain items of great rarity. Others are essentially accumulations of materials that librarians and curators at the Society have assembled over the years.
In the summer of 2005, a team of students provided brief cataloging records for the collections of bill heads, Civil War Envelopes, clipper ship cards, invitations, menus, rewards of merit, stock certificates, trade cards, as well as several thousand programs for theater, music, circus, and other popular entertainments. Such materials now can be searched through the online catalog. These collections in addition to previously cataloged broadsides printed from 1821 through 1876 were also digitized and are available through terminals at AAS and at libraries subscribing to American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series I, 1760-1900, an Archive of Americana Collection issued by the Readex Division of NewsBank.
A frequently used collection is that of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century trade cards. Scholars interested in the history of American graphic arts consult them because many are engraved by individuals such as Paul Revere and James Turner. Others refer to the collection because of the interesting design of these small advertisements. Many are illustrated with vignettes of shops or of people working, depictions that are of interest to scholars in several disciplines. There is also a separately filed collection of small trade cards of the latter part of the nineteenth century. These are mainly stock cards that were printed by large commercial printing firms with blanks for the local firm's message. Many of these are printed in color with comical or sentimental illustrations. This collection is filed by type product advertised -- groceries, dry goods, medicines, etc.
Related to the trade cards is the collection of watch papers. These ephemeral pieces were inserted into the backs of watches, frequently with the date of the most recent servicing or repair. The most elegant are engraved, and the figure of Father Time appears with regularity. In 1951, the Society published a checklist of the collection compiled by Dorothea N. Spear. About 100 examples have been added to the collection since then, and an annotated copy of the checklist is shelved in the Society's bibliography section.
Colonial currency is a collection of major significance. The collection is mounted in twenty-two notebooks. The bibliography by Eric P. Newman, The Early Paper Money of America (Racine, Wis., 1976) is annotated to reflect the Society's holdings. Nineteenth-century banknotes are filed by state.
The valentine collection features early examples made by Esther Howland of Worcester, as well as examples printed later in the nineteenth century. It is a representative collection and incorporates some valentines printed in Europe. Related to these is the collection of Louis Prang salesmen's books of that firm's greeting cards. Arranged by function or by holiday, that collection numbers some fifty volumes. Additional lithographs by the Prang firm, which specialized in chromolithography, are cataloged in the lithograph collection. There is also one box of miscellaneous Christmas cards.
A large collection of rewards of merit is often interesting for the pictorial content of these nineteenth-century ephemeral pieces. They were awarded to students for good behavior or excellence in their studies. The collection is filed by iconography or pictorial content. There is also a group of rewards filed by printers' names.
The graphic arts department includes a number of other minor collections, some of which were described in detail by Brigham. They are national in scope and generally date before 1877. A partial listing of them will indicate to the researcher the riches of this department. In alphabetical order they are: billheads, bills of lading, calendars, calling cards, copybook covers, nineteenth-century currency, diplomas, election ballots, labels, lottery tickets, membership certificates, passports, sentiment cards, silhouettes, stock certificates, telegram forms, tickets (including railroad tickets and passes, dance cards, and lectures tickets), type-and-banknote-engraving specimen sheets, and wrappers for reams of paper. Other collections include the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition Collection and the William Allen Collection.
- Georgia B. Barnhill, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts Emerita