Category Archives: Ephemera

Joseph Low, word and image

Corresponding with artists can often mean translating decorative words and images into simple sentences. Beginning in 1952, Graphic Arts curator Gillett Griffin (1928-2016) wrote to the American artist Joseph Low (1911-2007), inviting him to Princeton University to give a demonstration in linoleum block and stencil printing. The two became good friends and a lively correspondence followed, many of the cards and letters archived in our vertical files.

In 1958, Low was invited back to exhibit his new print “The Burning of Nassau Hall in 1802,” in the main lobby of Firestone Library, seen below, and not long after that, Low established his own private press, Eden Hill Press in Newtown, Conn., named after the road on which he lived.

Our library holds many illustrated editions by Low that complement the illustrated letter collection to give a rich and entertaining sense of the artist and his work. Here are a few examples.

Joseph Low (1911-2007), Burning of Nassau Hall, 1802. No date [1958]. Linocut. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2007.01750.


Claud Lovat Fraser

Claud Lovat Fraser by Marion Neilson, gelatin silver print, 1913. National Portrait Gallery NPG P966

From 1911, when Claud Lovat Fraser left a law clerkship to devote himself to art, until 1921 when he died at the young age of 31, this prolific artist was responsible for dozens of poetry broadsheets, magazine and book designs, theatrical set and costume designs, and much more.

Princeton University Library holds 72 titles in various collections beginning with the broadsides published by Fraser, Holbrook Jackson, and the poet Ralph Hodgson under the imprint of the “Sign of the Flying Fame.” After World War I, Fraser’s designs were distributed by Harold Munro’s celebrated Poetry Bookshop at 35 Devonshire Street.


Graphic Arts holds Rhyme Sheets from both Fraser’s first and second series, along with many bound volumes from Munro’s shop.


It is difficult to get a sense of Fraser as a man until you see the two portraits held in London’s National Portrait Gallery. The first, above, is a charming Pictorialist headshot that leads one to assume he was a handsome, even dashing young man. The second, below, tells a different story of a large man in ill health, who aspired to an elegance in his work that he could not attain in real life.

Claud Lovat Fraser by Powys Evans, lithograph, 1922. National Portrait Gallery NPG D33422

Haldane Macfall wrote in The Book of Lovat (1923), that Fraser was “Romantically modern,” calling him “the last of the dandies.”  He goes on to say “His keen sense of Humour early warned him that his bulk, his stature, his heavy form, would have fitted ill with the slender elegancies of the powdered wig, brocaded coat, and knee-breeches; and with laughing philosophy he compromised before his frank mirror between art and God’s design of him by leaning towards the years of the Regency…”

Here are a few more of Fraser’s wonderful pochoir designs.

My Rolodex, no password needed


The Wheeldex (also called the Simplawheel), with its one central hole, did not hold the cards securely and so, Danish engineer Hildaur Neilson revised and improved it, rebranding his device the Rolodex (rolling index). First marketed in 1958 by his boss Arnold Neustadter (1910-1996) through their company Zephyr American, it was just one of many inventions Neustadter sold, along with the Autodex for phone numbers, the Swivodex [left] an inkwell that did not spill, the Punchodex, and the Clipodex for stenographers. These are all copyrighted brands and so, written with a capital letter.


There were a number of “card filing systems” applying for and receiving U.S. copyrights including Scholfield 2,046,655 July 7, 1936; Scholfield 2,205,932 June 25, 1940; Scholfield 2,231,029 February 11, 1941; Hayes 2,286,911 June 16, 1942; Scholfield 2,316,489 April 13, 1943; Scholfield 2,332,606 October 26, 1943; Scholfield 2,413,078 December 24, 1946; Scholfield Re.22,765 June 11, 1946; Scholfield 2,493,167 January 3, 1950; Houghtaling 2,484,033 October 11, 1949; and Scholfield 2,500,709 March 14, 1950. The “Wheeldex card file for all hand posted records” is dated in one source November 28, 1940.


New York Times April 19, 1996


No password needed, gloves not included

The Secret Out At Last

Here are a series of 19th-century metamorphosis trade cards from the Graphic Arts Collection. No more needs to be said.






LVxNBA: Printed or Woven?

In 2001, Spike Lee (born 1957) received an honorary degree from Princeton University alongside Bill (William Felton) Russell, the former professional basketball player who played for the Boston Celtics from 1956 to 1969. Last Saturday, serving as the president of the Cannes Film Festival jury, Lee appeared on the red carpet wearing a suit from the LVxNBA collection. Press photographs made it difficult to tell if the vibrant graphic design on the suit was printed or woven.

(Sebastien Nogier/EPA, via Shutterstock)

Last year, to commemorate the Los Angeles Lakers win of the NBA championship, Louis Vuitton formed a three-year partnership with the National Basketball Association and under designer Virgil Abloh, unveiled a line of limited edition clothing and accessories intersecting French craftsmanship and American sports. It became known as LVxNBA or Louis Vuitton x National Basketball Association.

Vitton’s site describes it: “The collection adapts the designer’s codes with the iconography of the basketball universe and honors the values of relatability and inclusion key to Virgil Abloh’s vision at Louis Vuitton.”

The clothing features the iconic NBA logo, which is a silhouette of the former Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Jerry West (born 1938), sometimes called “Mr. Clutch” and sometime “The Logo,” because of his ubiquitous image. Created in 1969 by brand consultant Alan Siegel, the NBA logo has been a staple of the association for over 50 years. West was never asked or compensated for his profile.

On the LVxNBA apparel, the repetition of the NBA logo forms a houndstooth appearance, which is a pattern you get when you combine a 2/2 twill weave (two threads over, two under) with simple alternations of color—four white, then four black, then four white, and so on—on both the warp and weft. In fact, the exclusive Vuitton clothing is made with a Jacquard weave, produced only on a special loom that creates complex woven-in repeated designs, producing the houndstooth-style effect.



Unfortunately, the line is only for men since women don’t watch basketball.


Rethinking hurtful iconography of indigenous people in American advertising

Our ephemera and advertising collection holds a number of boxes separated by particular iconography. Here are a few examples of American advertisements using Native American figures to sell various products. Hopefully all have been discontinued.

Some of these are also featured in “Americans,” a 2018 exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian, still seen online:

Here is the Museum’s statement calling for an end to racist mascots and images:

Les Ascensionnistes



Les Ascensionnistes. Nouveau jeu de Société très Attrayant, [The Mountaineers: An Attractive New Board Game]. (Paris: MD [Mauclair & Dacier]; Printed at Roches Frères, ca. 1885). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process

The game’s decorated box holds a folding chromolithographic board with 108 numbered squares; six hand painted die-cast figures; 32 white and coloured playing tokens in a bag; a shaped paper-mâché tray; a bone dice; and printed instructions. According to the online Game of the Goose database ( this is the same game published by Simonin-Cuny and similar game reset with different title (Jeu des Alpinistes. Nouveau Jeu très Amusant) also published by Simonin-Cuny.

The firm of Mauclair-Dacier, located on 5 rue Haudriette in Paris (with a factory on 148 avenue Daumesnil), specialized in manufacturing and selling toys and games. It was active from the 1880s until it was acquired by the firm of Les Jeux Réunis in 1904. Visit the Mauclair-Dacier game factory:




Illustrations from Henriette de Beaumont d’Angeville (1794-1871), My ascent of Mont Blanc; with a preface by Dervla Murphy ; translated from the French by Jennifer Barnes (London: HarperCollins, 1991). ReCAP, GV199.92.A54 A3 1991.

The Mountaineers game, exclusively designed around male climbers, reminds us of Henriette d’Angeville (1794–1871), “reported to have been the first woman to climb Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the French Alps. True, Marie Paradis, a local peasant, driven by the lure of financial gain and encouraged by fellow adventurers, had gone to the top in 1808. But unlike her, d’Angeville made the decision to attempt the feat without the encouragement of others, preparing and paying for the trip herself. Her success earned her recognition as the first climber of the “weaker sex” to reach the summit of Mont Blanc. Surprisingly, the feat received little commentary, except in books on the history of mountaineering where a few scattered passages mentioned her – sometimes in disparaging terms.”–Women in Trousers: Henriette d’Angeville, a French Pioneer? By Pascale Gorguet Ballesteros. 04 Nov 2016

Less distinguished but equally ambitious was Helen Henderson Chain, wife of James A. Chain. Both were artists and avid climbers as seen in the photographs of their 1888 trip to Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.

Helen Henderson Chain and James A. Chain, The Chain Gang Abroad: Around Europe with a Camera [photography album], 1888. Some photography by Helen Henderson Chain ( 1848-1892). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2008-0001E


“The Class Mark” from NYPL

The Graphic Arts Collection holds only one issue of The Class Mark, published by the Communist Party and Young Communist League Units of the New York Public Library, 42nd Street. Volume 1, no. 9 begins: “We, the Communists in the NYPL, are here to stay. We are here to grow in numbers. We work with you, our fellow employees. We talk to you. We hear your comments. Some of you have been misinformed. Some of you have made a wrong guess. No need for high pressure writers to mould undeniable facts into readable English. No “outside” or “alien agitators” dreaming of pointless destruction. We are Americans…”

The periodical is described in “Reading between the lions: A history of the New York Public Library” posted on Wed, May 23, 2018 by Lucie Levine:

When the Library opened May 23, 1911, crowds of 50,000 marked the occasion. So impressive was New York’s “splendid temple of the mind,” President Taft called its opening a day of Nation importance, declaring that the Library would be a model for other cities hoping to spread knowledge among the people.

Vladimir Lenin agreed. He touted NYPL as a model because the system made its “gigantic, boundless libraries available, not to a guild of scholars, professors and other such specialists, but to the masses.” (Lenin himself enriched the Library – NYPL acquired a large measure of the private collections of the Czars when the Soviet Union sold its treasures after the Revolution.)

…By the 1930s, the Library, built for the people, was practically the Popular Front: radical librarians published their own in-house quarterly called Class Mark, declaring, “We are the librarians, pages, and service workers in the New York Public Library system who are members of the Communist Party and of the young Communist League.”

The Class Mark was one of dozens of serials included in the Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States: Appendix from United States. Congress. House. Special Committee on Un-American Activities. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1941:

…Thousands of citations from the Daily Worker could be given to show its complete subservience to Moscow and its disloyalty to the United States. A single citation must suffice for the present report: In an article by Earl Browder, which appeared in the Daily Worker of January 14, 1933, the defeat of the United States is advocated in the event of this country’s involvement in war.

…The Communist Party employs a special technique in the promotion of the Daily Worker’s circulation. That technique is the use of shop and neighborhood papers. The major objectives of the shop and neighborhood papers of the Communist Party are (1) to propagandize directly for the Soviet Union, and (2) to promote the circulation of the Daily Worker. In Exhibits Nos. 21 and 22, the mastheads of the following shop and neighborhood papers appear:

RED CHART : Issued Monthly by the Communist Party Unit in Mount Sinai Hospital
POSTAL WORKER: Published by Postal Telegraph Branch of the Communist Party
WE THE PEOPLE: Published by the Communist Party-Branches of Sunnyside and Thompson Hill
COLUMBIA SPARK : Issued by the Columbia (University) Nucleus of the Communist Party and Young Communist League
CLOSE-UP: Issued by Communist Party Branches in Film Industry
RED PEN : Issued by the Communist Party Unit of the W. P. A. Federal Writers’ Project
CITY COLLEGE TEACHER WORKER: Issued Monthly by the Communist Party Unit of City College (New York)
BERGEN BEACON: Published by the Communist Party of Bergen County (New Jersey)
THE CLASS MARK: Published by the Communist Party Branch of the New York Public Library…

Decorative Fireboards

The Graphic Arts Collection is the fortunate new owner of two decorative fireboards with color woodblock prints from Zuber & cie. A fireboard or chimney board is a panel designed to cover a fireplace during the warm months of the year. Neither of these sheets are titled or dated and since the Zuber artisans preserve their woodblocks for continued use, it is difficult know where or when they were made. The blocks were likely carved in the early 19th century, while the sheets may be 20th century.

If the scenes look familiar, the design of the fireboard was often a repetition of the wallpaper and/or other design elements in the room. There are many definitions online, but most are similar:

In warm weather, a fireboard effectively reduced the number of mosquitoes and other insects, or even birds, that might enter a house through an open, damperless chimney. The board or shutterlike contrivance typically of wood or cast of sheet metal frequently decorated with painting and stencilling. Some fireboards have notches cut out of the lowest edge to accommodate andirons.

Fireboards are also called: chimney boards, chimney pieces, chimney stops, fire boards, summer boards. Store-bought chimney board papers and panels of wallpaper custom cut to match the paper chosen for walls received similar treatment. Pasted to heavy paper or canvas nailed over the edges of the frame, they were less durable than wood fireboards and therefore less popular.


See other Zuber designs here:

La Plus Forte Femme Porteur. Excentrics, Phenomenals, et Equilibrists.


A new archive of 96 advertising postcards has come to the Graphic Arts Collection, primarily featuring women performing acts of strength and balance. These European cards are meant for promotion and communication but few have actually been mailed. They date from the early twentieth century, most humorous, only a few with politically incorrect images.

Several are family acts or husband and wife combos. The performers are seen lifting a variety of animals, objects, and people. Most cards printed in France, Italy, or Spain as collotype or off-set, although there are a few photographic cards.


Here is just a tiny selection:

“Dick Carter” Detective Humoriste. [French]. Paris: Amax. Composite portrait photo of Carter in character and out, with various hand-cuffs (apparently an escape-art routine).

3 Arizona’s Latest Novelties. 2 Ladies 1 Gent Juggling. Russian Dancing While Juggling Unique Tricks. [French].

3 Arizona’s Latest Novelties. Juggling, with four while turning single & double, twists… 2 Ladies, I Gentleman. Russian, Dancing, Whole, Juggling.

3 Sandarows. Luft-Act. [German?] Illus by J.S. Brandoly of trio on a stage as well as various aerial routines depicted;

Aidas et Alex, Acrobates Olympiques. [Italy]. Large card featuring poster of the two—with Adas holding Alex aloft. With message on verso (1913) to a theatre in St. Etienne to see if there are any openings in the program there for the pair (then working in Naples).

Alfredo Chimenti. Camposanto de Ierez! Si ella en ti resuscitara… [Firenze: Susini.] Crude illus of Chimenti in uniform, clutching his heart, crying…

Alfredo Chimenti. Io canto le più belle Canzoni Napolitane. [Firenze: Susini.] Crude illus of Alfredo in a checkered sweet, over-sized hands… here promising that he will sing the most beautiful Neapolitan songs.

Anseroul et Cie, Double et Triple Saut Perilleaux/ The Great Anseroul’s, TheWorld’s Greatest Acrobats Introducing Double-and Treble Somersaults. 2 Ladies/ 4 Gentlemen. [Germany]. Illustrated postcard, send from the Troupe to someone in France.

August Arlys, Jockey-Gymnaste. [France?] Postcard featuring large half-tone of Monseiur Arlys dressed as a jockey, and standing under a giant horseshoe.

Baby Wilfrid, La Plus Forte Femme Porteur. Excentrics, Phenomenals, Equilibrists. [French]. Illus.
Bella Lygie et Carlys. Original. [French]