Category Archives: Ephemera

Black minstrel song sheets, 1850s

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired 10 small minstrel song sheets with lyrics and small vignettes. Many, not surprisingly, are racially charged and offensive. Here are a few. Massa’s In De Cold Ground (caption title above). London: Printed and published by H. Such, [ca. 1850]. British music sheet with a West India slave woodcut vignette at top, printing the words to a black minstrel song: “Round de meadows am a ringing / De darkies mournful song, / While de mocking birds are singing, / Happy as de day am long; / While de ivy am a creeping / O’er the grassy mound; / Dere de old man am a sleeping. / Sleeping in the cold, cold ground.”

Massa’s In De Cold Ground (caption title below). [N.p.]: W.S. Fortey, [ca. 1850]. Beehive woodcut vignette. British song sheet with black minstrel-style song.


Miss Lucy Long (caption title). Birmingham: Printed and Sold by T. Watts, [n.d. but ca. 1850]. English minstrel song sheet with woodcut vignette of a street peddlar surrounded by several children: “Since you wish to hear me, / Sing a little song, / I’ll sing a very pretty one, / Concerning Lucy Long, / She used to play the fiddle, / When to parties we did go, / And I used to charm the niggers, / Upon the old banjo.”


I’m Off To Charlestown (caption title above and below). [N.p.]: Disley, Printer, [ca. 1850]. British song sheet with black minstrel-style song: “My massa and my missus have both gone away, / Gone to the Sulphur springs the summer months to stay; / And while they’re off togedder on a little kind of spreee / I’ll go down to Charlestown de pretty gals to see.” With somewhat incongruous woodcut vignette of a cavalier at top.

“Air and dance tune (2/4 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. The first several bars of melody are shared with the American old-time song “Old Plank Road.” The tune is included in Kerr’s along with a hodgepodge of tunes, including several from America. “I’m Off to Charlestown” was popularized by Christy’s Minstrels, a blackface minstrel troupe, and was written by William B. Donaldson and dedicated to Charles White Esq. It was published in 1850.

My massa and my missus have both gone away,
Gone to the sulpher springs, the summer months to stay;
And while they’re off togedder, on a little kind of spree,
I’ll go down to Charlestown, the pretty gals to see.

William Donaldson (1822-1876) was a left-handed banjo-player who hailed from Poughkeepsie, New York, whose career alternated between clowning for the circuses (where he was the first to perform in black-face) and performing as a theatre minstrel. He made his debut in 1836 at the age of thirteen in Poughkeepsie, as “Young Jim Crow” (after the style of “Daddy” Rice) and ten years later was known mainly as a clown. According to E. Le Roy Rice (Monarchs of Minstrelsy), he “was the inventor of the jawbone as a musical instrument by black-face performers several years before the first minstrel performance was given…In June, 1847, he was one of the five original members of the first Campbell’s Minstrels. About three years before his death he became the proprietor of the Lockwood House in Poughkeepsie. The individual he dedicated the song to, Charles White, owned a minstrel company, White’s Melodeon on the Bowery in New York. William Donaldson, Dan Bryant, Lilly Coleman, and Dan Emmitt performed together for Charlie White in the mid-1850s.

There is an interesting story entitled “Capture of the Slave-Ship ‘Cora'” in the periodical The Century [2] (May, 1894, pp. 115-129) by Wilburn Hall that features Donaldson prominently in the role of Captain of the slave-ship Cora, the last slave ship captured by the United States. The story concludes with a chance meeting between the naval officer who captured him and Donaldson, performing as a clown. After the show the two talked: I met him as agreed–and what a change! Once more the tall handsome man, a little older, perhaps a little more rugged, but strong and manly in figure, and winning in manner and word. He told me much of himself now, and gave me his real name, which was Donaldson. He had been a sailor, lounger, and pseudo-gentleman of leisure on Broadway, negro minstrel, clown, slave-captain–perhaps the list had better be closed; but he had a faithful, generous heart. He was a brave man, even though a statutory pirate.” See also the march variant “Off to Charleston” in Hopkin’s American Veteran Fifer (1905). —


Billy Pattison (caption title). London: H. Disley, [n.d. but ca. 1850]. British song sheet with woodcut vignette of a Black man with pipe. “Oh, white folks listen unto me, / Oh, Billy Pattison, / The subject of my story, I’ll tell unto thee, / Don’t tell me, don’t tell me, / The name of my song I’ll tell unto thee, / Is oh, Billy Pattison… / Billy Pattison, good-bye, / I think your horse will die, / If he don’t I’ll ride again. / If he dies I’ll tan his hide. / I’ll lay ten dollars down, / I’ll leave it in my will, / Show me the man in this yer town, / That struck my brother Bill.”



W.I. Swain’s Jesse James

The American outlaw Jesse James (1847-1882) robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains until he was shot in 1882 by Robert Ford. Like Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley, James was celebrated as a legendary figure of the Wild West with multiple productions that traveled throughout the United States.

The W. I. Swain Jesse James show was one of the largest productions and at their height in the first decade of the 20th century. A recent reading room request brought out several lithographic posters held in the Graphic Arts Collection, announcing the variety of stories included in Swain’s three-hour production.

It is surprising to see black and white actors, male and female, together as members of the James gang, as well as Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, professional cowboys, ranchers, and clowns in the company. No race or occupation was exempt from exaggerated caricature and burlesque.


**Note, some of the images are openly racist and offensive.**


Similar stories ran in local newspapers to advertise Swain’s “one night only” productions, such as:

“JESSE JAMES. The Little Rock (Ark) Daily Democrat has this to say about the W.I. Swain Jesse James show that is to appear here Wednesday, April 10 [1906]: The citizens of Little Rock were royally entertained with a new form of amusement last night. The W.I. Swain Jesse James company presented a three hour show last night and it is safe to say that never in the history of Little Rock did so many people gather together to see a show except to the biggest of the big circuses. The entertainment was of the western character, portraying the James boys during their famous career covering the time from the war to the death of Jesse.

The show was moral, and of a much different character than one is led to believe before seeing the show. Instead of all shooting and dime novel play, it teaches a grand lesson, showing the hardships and deprivations of the outlaw and the sufferings of a man after becoming an outcast. Perhaps the happiest character in the production is Lige, the old negro, who follows “Marse Jesse” through thick and thin. However, the sleeping Indian caused Lige no little concern, until she succeeded in dispatching Mr. Injun to his happy hunting ground with the [ever] trusty razor. The tent, which is a huge one, was tested to its utmost capacity, many being turned away. The Swain company gives a good show and if they ever return to Little Rock they will be greeted by a big crowd.”

    “The Plot of this Sensational and Instructive Production is based upon the life of the Most Interesting Character American History has Furnished.”

(c) Library of Congress




Photography albums and scrapbooks of Mexico
Twenty-five boxes of Mexican ephemera were acquired several years ago with a wide variety of materials included. A recent request for the photography albums and scrapbooks has led to the individual cataloguing of these unique, unpublished items (in process). The images include such diversity of commercial and personal photography, along with stamps, labels, souvenirs, brochures, and other ephemeral material, many with handwritten captions, that a few quick images were captured here.

Eunice Burton Berger’s printing plates and illustrated music

When an author finishes a book or a poem, she sends the text off to a publisher. When a painter finishes an oil painting, it is hung in a gallery so buyers can see and hopefully, buy it. What happens to a composer who writes music for a marching band? How do you print the 35 parts and have them distributed to be copyrighted and played? The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a suitcase filled with the printing plates, proof sheets, and published music by Eunice Burton Berger (ca.1888-1966), a Dorchester, Massachusetts musician who did just that. Together with her husband, Louis H. Berger (1879-1965), an engineering and surveying instrument manufacturer, Berger wrote, printed, promoted, and sold her music to radio programs, military bands, and national music companies.

Note the initials, E.B.B. by the handle.

One of many examples of her self-promotion is a reply she received from Harvey S. Firestone Jr., Princeton University class of 1920 (1898-1973) and son of Harvey S. Firestone (1868-1938), in whose memory Princeton University’s Firestone Library is named. In addition to managing the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, both father and son sponsored The Voice of Firestone (originally called The Firestone Hour), a radio broadcast on NBC Radio beginning on December 3, 1928, featuring classical musicians and popular Broadway stars. The show later became the first series to be simulcast on both radio and television, and Harvey Jr. actively managed both the radio and television programs. [Broadcasts archived]It is unknown whether Berger’s music was ever included in one of the Firestone broadcasts.


Berger’s compositions include: “On the Brink,” “The Song of the Sea,” “The Spirit of Our Forefathers,” all copyrighted by her between 1939 and 1943, plus “Men of the Sea,” copyrighted in 1960. A few additional poems and partially completed musical scores are also found in her suitcase, along with correspondence between Berger and various members of the branches of the service thanking her for sending her scores. Copyright notices and certificates from the Library of Congress are present for each of her compositions along with paste-ups and proof at each stage of the printing process. There are contracts for royalties and research on the art to be included on the sheet music.

Engraved metal plates for “The Spirit of our Forefathers” come with instructions to the engraver as to what Berger wanted changed or improved. Although she shared credit with Charles E. George, bandmaster of the Irving Post of the American Legion in Roslindale, Massachusetts, on this and several other songs, it was Mr. and Mrs. Berger who produced sheet music and endlessly promoted the work.


The Spirit of Our Forefathers music by Charles E. George and lyrics by Eunice Burton Berger

The 35 marching band parts for “On the Brink,” copyright applied for October 31, 1939, include Berger’s notation additions and printed title laid down at the head of the page. There is a contract dated August 31, 1944, between Eunice Burton Berger and Broadcast Music wherein she gives them exclusive rights to perform “The Song of the Sea” for five years, and they agree to pay her royalties. Along with this are four small brass plaques commemorating relatives lost at sea, possibly the inspiration for several of her song.

The remainder of the material includes a family genealogy by Berger, a number of photographs, and love letters between the dedicated couple. Canadian-born Eunice Burton Berger was married twice, first to Charles Redmond in Canada, and then to Louis H. Berger, a partner in his father C.L. Berger’s firm in Boston, manufacturers of Engineering and Surveying Instruments. The couple lived in the Dorchester section of Boston.

Shipping, Boating, Sailing

Within the W. Allen Scheuch II, Class of 1976, collection of cartes porcelaine (trade cards made in Belgium between 1840 and 1888) are groups separated by a specific trade or product. The cards are beautifully designed and printed using metallic colored lithographic inks. Each one is finished with a high gloss by applying a coat of white lead and then, passing the card through steel cylinders. Here is a small selection from the group of shipping companies.

Several are designed and printed by the Belgian landscape painter and lithographer Augustus van den Steene (1803-1870).


The Graphic History of Manhattan in Five Medallions

Within the Thomas Paine Park in lower Manhattan rests the historic Foley Square. Renovated and redesigned in the 1990s, architect R.G. Roesch laid five large bronze medallions (each seven feet in diameter) into the ground throughout the park, designed by Rebecca Darr and fabricated by Gregg Lefevre.

Completed in 2000, the five medallions represent:

1. Before 1600: Lenape and Munsee Native Americans with three totem animals, the turtle, wolf, and turkey. According to author Will Grant, the Delaware People called Manhattan: Hay-la-py-ee-chen-quay-hee-lass or The Place Where the Sun is Born.


2. 1712-1794: The African Burial Ground with skeletons for Burial 336 and 354 of a mother and baby, along with the African Free School, Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” and Adinkra symbols of Ghana.


3.1700-1800: The Dutch presence and Dutch West India Company, Powder House for the city’s gun powder, gallows built in 1742 during the so called Negro Plot Conspiracy to hang eighteen Blacks and three Whites, and Bridewell city prison for American revolutionaries during British occupation.


4.1800-1900: A shot tower for making lead cannon balls, the site of Collect Pond, which was leveled and filled in, and the dangerous Five Points neighborhood that housed new immigrants.


5. 1900-2000: Construction of the subway or Interborough Rapid Transit, building the Civic Center, unearthing the African Burial Ground, the reconstruction of Foley Square described above, and Lorenzo Pace’s monument.

The African Burial Ground in New York City: Memory, Spirituality, and Space (Firestone Library F128.9.N4 F76 2015)

Rebecca Darr and R.G. Roesch, “Schematic of Medallions” Report of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, October 7, 1996.

Foley Square construction project and the historic African burial ground, New York, NY: hearings before the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, House of Representatives, One Hundred Second Congress, second session, July 27, 1992 (New York City, NY), September 24, 1992 (Washington, DC). Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1992. Forrestal Annex – Documents Off-Site Storage Y 4.P 96/11:102-80

Woodrow Wilson Saves Erasers and Other Pencil Dramas

In 1761, Kaspar Faber (1730-1784) started a pencil factory in Stein (outside Nuremberg, Germany), which he named “A.W. Faber” after his son Anton Wilhelm Faber (1758-1819).

A subsidiary of this firm, The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, had its first American office at 133 William Street in Manhattan. In 1858, Eberhard Faber (1822-1879) expanded its operations to include the manufacture of rubber bands and rubber erasers with a factory in Newark, New Jersey.

Three years later, the company opened its first U.S. pencil factory on 42nd Street near the East River. After a fire destroyed the factory in 1872, Faber moved its pencil company to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where it remained until 1956 when it moved to Wilkes-Barre, PA. In 1987, Eberhard Faber Pencil Company was sold to A.W Faber-Castell.– From the “Guide to the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Collection” ARC.028, Brooklyn Historical Society.

[above] Faber Rubber Company in 1912 where rubber erasers and rubber bands were made.

[below] The building still stands today, although it is not occupied.

In 1858, Hymen Lipman (1817-1893) patented the first pencil / eraser combination and hoping to make a fortune off this invention, Joseph Reckendorfer (1836-1883) bought the patent from Lipman for $100,000, The Faber company fought this patent (they had a similar attachment) and in 1875, the Supreme Court ruled that the eraser-tipped pencil wasn’t unique and didn’t warrant a patent.

This was only the first of many confrontations the Faber boys  had with government agencies.

During World War I, Eberhard Faber fought to separate his American firm from his German relatives, placing advertisements in newspapers and magazines, such as the one above in Walden’s Stationer and Printer 41 (1918). However, sale of the property on Dickerson Street was ordered under a ruling by the Alien Property Act and the American businessman Theodore Friedeburg bought the factory for $145,000.

This is where President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) stepped in and by executive order, demanded that the sale be cancelled because the bid was clearly below market value. Read more about that era:

Then, in 1938, the Federal Trade Commission charged Faber and other rubber eraser manufacturers (and later, thirteen pencil manufacturers) of price fixing. The eraser firms included the American Lead Pencil Company, in Hoboken; Eagle Pencil Company, New York; Joseph Dixon Crucible Company, Jersey City (today a condominium complex), and Weldon Roberts Rubber Company, Newark; along with both A.W. Faber and Eberhard Faber companies.

They all appear to have pleaded no contest.


See also:

Faber-Castell USA.

Habstritt, Mary. “Eberhard Faber’s Pencil Factory,” Archive of Industry.

O heart take notice! A transformation letter

Letter completely folded. Possible translation: A letter to me and you is easy to give. The postage is low, accept it eagerly. The content is about you, me, and everyone; the places we go, that is and means, O heart take notice!

First unfold

Second unfold

Third unfold

Side one

Side two

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired this religious transformation letter, divided into nine panels each front and back, with rhyming couplets to match the engraved illustrations.

Scenes include Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden; the crucifixion; and an overall message of the transience of life. The work is described in the August 2, 1835 issue of the Allgemeine Kitchenzeitung,  where it is called a wonderful new invention. The author writes, in part:

… Now you lift the lower and last cover of the letter, the same figures appeared, from the head to the loins in the same clothing, but from then on to the feet as the most hideous skeletons, with a few Symbols that are supposed to reinforce fear in the mind and imagination. For example, with a corpse lying in a coffin, eaten by greedy snakes seen everywhere …

Rare Books and Special Collections holds a number of similar books and prints–sometimes called Harlequinades or Turn-Ups or Metamorphosis or Transformation books–but this might be the first one in German. The English and French examples are much earlier. See a few more: See also Cotsen collection, Print case LA / Box 11465710.


Ein Brief an mich und Dich ist cito abzugeben. Das Porto ist gering, nimm ihn begierig an. Der Inhalt zielt auf Dich auf mich und Jedermann, der Ort wohin her soll, der ist und heisst, O Herz merk’s eben!. [No Place, no printer, 1835]. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2018- in process


The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired two Stanhopes, also called Bijoux Photomicroscopiques. Rene Dagron (1819-1900) patented these devices, using a variation of the process developed by John Benjamin Dancer (1812-1887) to affix images to a miniature magnifying convex lens. Dagron enhanced the novelty by hiding them inside pieces of jewelry, tiny monoculars, or other souvenirs.

Sir David Brewster (1781-1868) described the Stanhope in a piece titled “On the Photomicroscope,” The Photographic Journal, January 15, 1864:

Under the name of bijoux photomicroscopiques, M. Dagron, of Paris, sent to the Exhibition of 1861 a series of these beautiful little optical instruments, which consisted of a plano-convex lens of such a thickness that its anterior focus coincided with the plane side of the lens. By placing the eye behind the convex side, these photographs, invisible almost to the eye, were seen so distinctly and so highly magnified that they excited general admiration. M. Dagron had presented some of them to the Queen, who admired them greatly; and as he was the only exhibitor, he naturally expected that the ingenuity with which he had produced a new article of manufacture would have received a higher reward than ‘Honorable Mention.’ . . . In 1860 M. Dagron had taken out a patent in France for this combination of an elongated or cylinder lens with a photograph, under the name of Bijoux Photomicroscopiques. He placed the lens in brooches and other female ornaments; and the combination became so popular, and the sale so great, that fifteen opticians in Paris invaded the patent, and succeeded in reducing it.

The first newly acquired piece is a jeweled cross with lens at the center. When you look deep inside, you see a microscopic Lord’s Prayer.


The second Stanhope now in the Graphic Arts Collection is a tiny monocular, no more than two centimeters long, with a small ring so it can be attached to a watch chain or necklace.

If you look inside, you can see a tiny reproduction of the 1882 lithograph From the Cradle to the Grave. Scenes and Incidents in the Life of Gen. James A. Garfield, produced as a remembrance of the recently murdered President Garfield.

Stanhope with the miniature From the Cradle to the Grave. Scenes and Incidents in the Life of Gen. James A. Garfield (New York: J.W. Sheehy & Co.; printed by Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann, 1882). Miniature photograph of a lithograph with James A. Garfield (1831-1881) at the center, surrounded by his family and fifteen vignettes with scenes from Garfield’s life. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2018- in process.

Below is a reproduction of the original lithograph, a little easier to see.

Abolitionist Sewing Circles

Negro Woman who sittest pining in
captivity and weepest over thy sick
child though no one seeth thee.
God seeth thee though no one pitieth thee.
God pitieth thee; raise thy voice forlorn
and abandoned one; call upon him
from amidst thy bonds for assuredly
He will hear thee.

“Reticule” is the term used by the Victoria and Albert Museum to describe this type of small handbag, usually closed with a drawstring and decorated with embroidery or beading. Dating from the 1820s, the curators at the V&A attribute the design of the abolitionist reticules to Samuel Lines (1778-1863) and the production to the Female Society for Birmingham, originally called the Ladies Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves. While several variant images can be found printed on a similar silk bags, all have the same verse from Hymns in Prose for Children by Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743-1825), first published 1781 (Cotsen Children’s Library English 18 21076).

Women played a major role in the abolitionist movement and formed sewing circles where objects decorated with abolitionist emblems were produced, either for sale or to decorate their homes. Cups and saucers, ewers, pillows, and handbags were just a few of the items produced. While the anti-slavery movement found great momentum in England at the end of the 18th century, by the 1830s the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society and other American groups organized similar activities.

The reticule seen at the top is now in the Graphic Arts Collection but here [below] are some of the other versions of this abolitionist bag.

Victoria and Albert Museum National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

The Library of the Religious Society of Friends