|A page from one of Alice’s scrapbooks|
Just about everyone made scrapbooks—men and women, young and old, black and white, rich and poor—and Alice Miner was no exception. The museum’s archives hold three handsome cloth and leather-bound scrapbooks full of articles dating from the 1880s to the early 1900s. Alice saved articles and illustrations from Chicago’s daily papers and from monthly magazines like The Century, Scribner’s, The Critic, and Review of Reviews. Most of the items she collected related to the world of fine art, literature, and history, with occasional forays into religion and current events—thus giving us some useful insight into Alice’s interests in the years before she began the Colonial Collection.
|A commonplace book kept by the Rev. Thomas|
Austen in the 1770s, in the collection of the
Harvard University Library
As printed matter became more widely available in the second half of the nineteenth century, clipping and saving pieces of text emerged as an alternative to copying them out by hand. Many Americans began making scrapbooks during the Civil War, as a way of keeping a record of the momentous historical event they were living through. In the 1880s, technological changes in printing, paper-making, and transportation vastly increased the number and geographical range of newspapers and magazines. In 1880, there were 850 English-language daily papers; by 1900 there were 1,967. The large city daily papers might easily have half a million readers each.
|An Agricultural Report repurposed as a scrapbook|
|Page from Alice’s scrapbook with written|
For people who, for whatever reason, did not express themselves in their own writing, scrapbooks became a way of “writing with scissors.” Though Alice Miner obviously was highly literate and did write letters and diaries, most of them have not survived to the present day. Her scrapbooks, then, are an important piece of “writing” that helps to fill in our knowledge of her early life. The magazines she read, the articles she saved, and the ways she chose to organize them, all tell us something about her inner life, as well as the way she wished to present herself to the world. In future posts, we’ll take a closer look at Alice’s books.
E.W. Gurley, Scrap-books and How to Make Them: Containing Full Instructions for Making a Complete and Systematic Set of Useful Books (Author’s Publishing Company, 1880).
Carl F. Kaestle and Janice A. Radway, eds., A History of the Book in America, vol. 4 (University of North Carolina Press, 2009).
Ellen Gruber Garvey, Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance (Oxford University Press, 2013).