Scrapbooks have been the subject of this column in the past. Scrapbooks continue to arrive at the Fenton History Center to be added to the collection. As always scrapbooks contain wonderful information but many are either falling apart or very acidic and turning the pasted-in items yellow. Often scrapbooks are subject-oriented, such as the fire department scrapbooks we have or they contain newspaper clippings pertaining to one area or even one family.
The information can be important to the collection because we do not have the newspapers from which the articles were clipped or the subject covers many years that a researcher would have to search if it had not been collected into the scrapbook.
Scrapbooks themselves are as varied as the information contained in them. The 20th century provided many forms of oversized books, often loose leaf, so pages could be added, but these pages were highly acidic which contributes to the degrading of the items pasted to the page. The paste varied as well, so some clippings are discolored. Some glues did not last and now the clippings are coming loose and falling out of the scrapbook.
The 19th century saw many books, account books, journals and large ledgers have a second life as a scrapbook. One scrapbook with which I am now working started life as the Transactions of the American Institute of the City of New York for the year 1852. It is full of obituaries, death notices and wedding announcements. Because of the assorted quality of paper and the different type fonts of the clippings, these were from a variety of newspapers. Of course these newspapers are not identified nor are many dates included. Most of the clippings that have any date or can be figured out using the date of birth and the age at death in an obituary indicate that most of the clippings are from the 1870s although later ones had been included.
Included in the scrapbook is a clipping about Josephine Fenton’s wedding. She was the daughter of Gov. Reuben E. Fenton. It turns out to be the same clipping that we have a typescript of in the files. But at the end of the report in the actual clipping there was additional information that was not copied by whoever had typed it for the files. This was not specific to the wedding but did include some of the wedding guests, when they arrived and with whom they stayed while in town.
A researcher is always happy to find information about a person or event from different newspapers because additional information may be included in one of them. Always try to find newspapers from nearby towns to see what else is said. Often the small towns had newspapers but many of them have not survived or it is very hard to find copies. These smaller newspapers carried death notices and weddings from a number of surrounding towns and villages so they are a valuable source for areas outside larger cities. Many times these are the clippings that have been preserved in scrapbooks. To make these scrapbooks more useful, indexes need to be constructed so one does not have to read the entire scrapbook looking for a death or marriage.
And so continues the “love/hate” relationship of scrapbooks in the collection of the Fenton History Center.