Scrapbooking is all the rage these days. While the hobby incorporates all manner of stickers, artwork, photo holders, and captions, the idea of scrapbooks is quite old. One need only explore the collections of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Papers of William F. Cody to bear that out.
Scrap craft fans corral their greeting cards, letters, newspaper clippings, concert ticket stubs, receipts, theatre programs, fabric swatches, and the like between the covers of their scrapbooks. Folks have been doing the same for generations with their “scraps of life” providing a window on the past: fashion, economics, culture, social customs, entertainment, and more.
For example, the paragraph below is from the clipping in the Buffalo (NY) Courier, October 19, 1891 (left), referring to one of Buffalo Bill’s contemporaries, Captain Jack Crawford:
Capt. Jack Crawford, the poet scout, is again in Buffalo, but has surprised his old friends by appearing with shorn locks, having recently parted with the long, wavy tresses that were so much admired and which he had worn for 20 years…”in civilized communities, only the street fakirs [sic] and other humbugs wear long hair, and I have no desire to be mistaken for one of those mountebanks among people who do not know me” he quipped.
Another historic clipping is a news story about Buffalo Bill’s so-called “blood brother,” Dr. George E. “White Beaver” Powell. It sings the praises of the good doctor following cataract surgery on one Mrs. Frank Hass:
…the old lady is wild with delight and eagerly beseeching the doctor to operate upon the other eye, which is stone blind, and the doctor has promised to do it in the near future. She can see the time on a watch dial without a cataract glass, and can be seen at the City hotel by any one desirous of so doing. (MS6.1082)
Within the Center of the West’s collection are images sure to generate conversation. This photo, of the infamous Dalton gang, has a political correctness quotient of “zero” by today’s standards. The gang is deader than the doornails holding the planks together under them, but they’re spread out for all to see and learn that crime doesn’t pay—including the young face peering through the fence. A photo like this is not likely to make the front page in America today.
Scrapbooks and other memorabilia in our collections tell a multitude of stories of the past. In them are all manner of significant, historical documents such as many autographs of William B. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, a drawing of Buffalo Bill no doubt created by a young fan, news cartoons and telegrams about Buffalo Bill’s death, as well as innumerable letters, business records, and photographs, to name a few.
Scrapbooks with content like these historic images tell unique stories about the past. L-R, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s signature, 1912; a 1917 Union Pacific Railroad passenger ticket for a drover, one who accompanies cattle on the train; and Boston Evening Record, January 15, 1917, mourns the death of Buffalo Bill.