Category Archives: Ephemera

Do You Have General Mercer’s Sword?


On May 31, 1929, The Princeton Alumni Weekly announced that Charles L. Burke, ’01, had presented General Hugh Mercer’s sword to the University. Today, we were asked if we still have it.

Rare Books and Special Collections does have a collection of rifles, swords, spears, and other armaments but Mercer’s sword is not specifically labeled.

Several of the collection’s swords have leather belts or other straps still attached. Several have curved blades. Several could be considered heavy and/or massive weapons. We are consulting with experts but in the meantime, do you recognize Mercer’s sword?

Hugh Mercer (1726-1777) was a soldier, a physician, and a close friend to George Washington. Mercer died as a result of his wounds received at the Battle of Princeton and became a fallen hero and rallying symbol of the American Revolution.

Here might be an answer to the question:


sword12aA detail of this sword’s engraved blade is below.



sword9Detail of tag below.









the_death_of_general_mercer_at_the_battle_of_princeton_january_3_1777The Death of Mercer, ca. 1789-ca. 1831, oil painting, Yale University. 1832.6.1

The Vote Album


suffragette-albumThe Vote Album ([London?]: Women’s Freedom League, no date [ca. 1910]). Album with 20 green paper leaves cut to house postcards. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2016- in process

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a rare copy of a postcard album sold by the Women’s Freedom League at the height of the “Votes for Women” campaign. The faded white and gold central panel contains the title The Vote Album with a design attributed to Eva Claire showing the Suffragists at the door of the State, which is barred and bolted against them. Seeking entrance are the Women of the Nation: graduates in academic dress standing side by side with working women.


This particular album once belonged to Mrs. Louisa Thomson-Price (nee Sowdon, 1864-1926). She was the daughter of a Tory military family but from an early age rebelled against their way of thinking and became a secularist and a Radical. She was impressed by Charles Bradlaugh of the National Secular Society (NSS) and in 1888, married John Sansom, who was a member of the NSS. Thomson-Price worked as a journalist from around 1886, as a political writer (then a very unusual area for women), and drew cartoons for a radical journal, Political World. She was also a member of the Council of the Society of Women Journalists. After the death of her first husband in 1907 she married George Thomson Price.

Thanks to Ed Smith and Elizabeth Crawford for their research on the album, repeated here.





Price was an early member of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL), became a consultant editor of its paper, The Vote, and then, a director of its firm: Minerva Publishing. Price took part in the WFL picket of the House of Commons and was very much in favor of this type of militancy. In her will she left £250 to the WFL and £1000 to endow a “Louisa Thomson Price bed” at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.

When she died Thomson-Price was living at 17 Belsize Park Gardens, Hampstead, and her will was witnessed by Edith Alexander, a professional nurse who ran a nursing home at that address. Also living there were Miss Edith Alexandra Hartley and Miss Martha Poles Hartley, the latter being the elder sister of the father of the novelist, L.P. Hartley. It is assumed that after Mrs. Thomson Price’s death The Vote Album remained in her home and was taken over by Miss Alexander as a place to put her own postcards, none of which have any suffrage relevance.

See also: Marion Holmes (died 1943), The A.B.C. of votes for women ([London]: Women’s Freedom League, [1912?])
Teresa Billington-Greig (1877-1964), Suffragist tactics (London: Women’s Freedom League, [191-]).

Am I Not a Man and a Brother

For the 1,000th post on this weblog, we are pleased to share the acquisition of a medal bearing the abolitionist design of a kneeling slave in chains. On one side is the text: “Am I not a man and a brother,” and on the other side, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you. Do ye even so to them.”

Manufactured around 1790, probably in London, the medals were issued to promote the message of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. They replicate the Jasperware (unglazed porcelain) medallion produced shortly after the Society was formed in 1787 by Josiah Wedgwood’s Staffordshire pottery firm. The image, attributed to sculptor Henry Webber and prepared for production by modeler William Hackwood, quickly became the iconic symbol of the Society and appeared in books, prints, broadsides, plates, tapestries, and more.

Princeton University Art Museum holds one of the Wedgwood medallions.09b29a690eb5d24ae5828f7934c240ddSlave, 1787. Porcelain. Manufactory: Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, English, established 1759. Trumbull Prime Collection, y1937-37

The library has many examples of this iconic symbol, including an embroidered sampler:

See also: Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, At a meeting held for the purpose of taking the slave trade into consideration: resolved, that it is the opinion of this meeting, that the slave trade is both impolitic and unjust … ([London: s.n., 1787]). EX Lapidus 4.17 and 4.17a



A bill for your dinner in the 1780s

english-bills6Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection holds a lovely collection of colorful printed menus from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (, along with a substantial collection of engraved change packets from nineteenth-century British shops ( Adding to this wealth, we recently acquired a group of 20 printed and handwritten bills from inns dating 1780 to 1830.

The businesses include: Foster, Loughborough [c.1780]; Charles McDonald, Blue-Bell, Belford [1787]; Charles McDonald, Belford [1789]; Mark Tool, Chelsea [c.1790]; Charles McDonald, Belford [1794]; George Nelson, Queen’s Head, Morpeth [1801]; Robert Coupland at the York Tavern & New Inn [1803]; David Winn, George Inn, York [1806]; Willm. Carver, The New Inn Easingwold [1809]; Richard Brown, King’s Arms, Temple-Sowerby, [printed by] John Ware, printer, Whitehaven [1813]; John Barnes, Lion and Lamb Inn, Carlile [printed by] Jollie, printer, Carlisle [c.1815]; Geo.r. Tyson, George & Dragon Inn, Penrith. [1815]; J. Broadbent, White Bear Inn, Barnsely. [c.1818]; George and Dragon, Sykes, Wakefield [c.1820]; H.C. Sharpin, Ripon [1822]; S. Twaite’s, Swan Inn Ferry-Bridge [1824]; Salkeld’s, Green Dragon, Workington. [1824]; Harrison, King’s Head Inn Barnard Castle. [1824]; T. Ferguson, George Inn, Catterick-Bridge [c.1825]; Matthew Bell, Fish Inn, Penrith. [1830].



Not only are the letterhead engravings of interest as printed ephemera but these records of food, drink, and other services offered to travelers at the end of the Georgian era are of value to researchers in many disciplines.

It is curious that the bills are often pre-printed with a list of drinks and services. The waiter simply checked off what each patron ordered and added up the total. Note the food for the horses and servants is included on each bill along with tobacco and postage.

A variety of long-forgotten drinks such as “negus” (concocted from a mixture of port, hot water and spices) and bumbo (a mixture of rum, water, sugar and nutmeg) are listed on these bills. The food is rarely described more than simply “eating.”



Marx Memorial Library

dscn7715-2In 1934 Viscount Hastings, who studied under Diego Rivera, executed a large fresco for the Marx Memorial Library’s first-floor reading room. A number of influential figures within the history of British labor are depicted in this painting, entitled The Worker of the Future Clearing Away the Chaos of Capitalism.

Here are a few more of the many graphic arts that decorate the walls of the library, along with a little of their history.


A Welsh Charity school was built on the site of Marx House in 1738. It educated boys and later a few girls, the children of Welsh artisans living in poverty in Clerkenwell. Gradually the intake became too large and the school moved to new premises in 1772. After this the building was divided into separate workshops one of which became the home to the London Patriotic Society from 1872 until 1892.


The Twentieth Century Press occupied what had by then been labelled as 37a and 38, and expanded into 37 by 1909 – thereby returning the site to single occupancy for the first time since its days as a charity school. The Twentieth Century Press was founded by the Social Democratic Federation as printer for its journal Justice and was the first socialist Press in Clerkenwell. An early benefactor was William Morris, who guaranteed the rent of the Patriotic Club to the Twentieth Century Press. During its time in Clerkenwell Green, the Twentieth Century Press produced several of the earliest English editions of the works of Marx and Engels. The Twentieth Century Press remained at the building until 1922.



Lenin was exiled in London and worked in the building from April 1902 to May 1903. During this period he shared the office of Harry Quelch, the director of the Twentieth Century Press, from there he edited and printed the journal ISKRA (The Spark), which was smuggled into Russia. The office is still preserved and open to visitors.



In 1933, the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, a delegate meeting comprising trade unionists, veteran socialists belonging to the Labour Party and Communist Party, and representatives of the Labour Research Department and Martin Lawrence Publishers Ltd., considered setting up a Permanent memorial to him. That year also saw the Nazis in Germany burning books. In these circumstances the meeting resolved that the most appropriate memorial would be a Library. Thus the Marx Memorial Library and Workers School (as it was then known) was established at 37a Clerkenwell Green that year. Study classes, held in the evenings, became the distinguishing feature of the Workers’ School, which was divided into faculties of science, history and political economy.

dscn7698-2Note that William Morris was one of the comrades present at this 1890 meeting.

See also How I Became a Socialist. A series of biographical sketches (London: Twentieth Century Press, [no date]). I. H.M. Hyndman. II. E. Belfort Bax. III. William Morris. IV. Walter Crane. V. J. Hunter Watts. VI. John E. Williams. VII. Andreas Scheu. VIII. H.W. Lee. IX. James Macdonald. X. R. Blatchford. XI H. Quelch. XII. Tom Mann. Firestone RECAP HX241.H83

Comparing Broadsides

picture2Only two copies of this enormous broadside can be found today in public collections around the world. One is at Princeton University [above]. Although it is not dated, I believe it was printed in the spring of 1867, two and a half years after the Morant Bay rebellion on the island of Jamaica.



The printer of the sheet was Edward Cornelius Osborne, who opened a Birmingham book and print shop in 1831. Osborne was also a strong supporter of the anti-slavery society and a member of the Jamaica Committee (pro-Gordon and anti-Eyre).

Why he printed such a large broadside, so long after the rebellion, is the subject of a paper at “Printers Unite!” this week at the Marx Memorial Library. For more information, see:

blibraryThis is one half of the enormous Rare Book reading room at the British Library on Euston Road. It is only one of many such spaces of equally impressive size at the main branch of the Library.

This is where I found the other copy of Osborne’s Jamaica broadside, so large it had to be printed in two sheets. So large it required the desk space usually allotted to three separate readers. Our sincere thanks to the entire staff of the rare book division, who all helped in the pursuit and retrieval of this item today.

blibrary2Thanks also to Linda Oliveira and AnnaLee Pauls [at the top] for their help photographing the broadside.

Caramels and Actors

actor-trade-cards5American Caramel Company. Trade cards featuring actors and actresses of the silent film era (Lancaster and York, PA: American Caramel Company, [1921]). 120 photolithographic cards. Graphic Arts Collection 2016- in process

The Graphic Arts Collection holds a collection of printed candy wrappers, begun as a joke by Princeton University students: Since then, we continue to add to the collection, such as cookie trading cards from the LU company:

We recently acquired actor trading cards distributed with caramels.
actor-trade-cardsAccording to the Hershey Community Archives, “Milton Hershey started the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1886 after he returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania following the failure of his New York City candy business. The Lancaster business would be his third confectionery venture. . . . When Milton Hershey sold the Lancaster Caramel Company on August 10, 1900 to the American Caramel Company for $1 million, he retained the rights to the Hershey Chocolate Company.”




In the 1920s, the American Caramel Company manufactured sets of photolithographic trade cards with collectable portraits of actors and actresses. Information about the current projects and studio are also included. Anyone who bought a caramel, also received a trade card. The more caramels you bought, the closer you got to acquiring a whole set.


The set was issued twice, one in a set of 80 cards and another in a set of 120. The set of 120 cards includes the same portraits as the set of 80 with 40 additional images. Unfortunately, we do not have the 15 cent album to hold our set.


Here’s a list of the actors and actresses:

1. William S. Hart; 2. Anita Stewart; 3. Wesley Barry; 4. Geraldine Farrar; 5. Buster Keaton; 6. May Allison; 7. Will Rogers; 8. Pearl White; 9. Jackie Coogan; 10. Dorothy Dalton; 11. Tom Moore; 12. Shirley Mason; 13. Theodore Roberts; 14. Eva Novak; 15. Thomas Meighan; 16. Bessie Barriscale; 17. George Beban; 18. Kathlyn Williams; 19. Mabel Normand; 20. Sessue Hayakawa; 21. Colleen Moore; 22. Jack W. Kerrigan; 23. Mary Alden; 24. Rudolph Valentino; 25. Priscilla Dean; 26. Wallace Reid; 27. Gladys Walton; 28. Pauline Frederick; 29. Irene Castle; 30. Bert Lytell; 31. Rubye De Remer; 32. Lois Weber; 33. Marshall Neilan; 34. Irene Rich; 35. Eileen Sedgwick; 36. Herbert Rawlinson; 37. Max Graf; 38. Erich Von Stroheim; 39. Texas Guinan; 40. William Russell; 41. Jack Holt; 42. Marie Prevost; 43. Eddie Polo; 44. Conrad Nagel; 45. Viola Dana; 46. Renee Adoree; 47. Hoot Gibson; 48. Agnes Ayres; 49. William Farnum; 50. Edna Murphy; 51. David Powell; 52. Clara Kimball Young; 53. Art Acord; 54. Ethel Clayton; 55. Harry Carey; 56. Betty Compson; 57. Buck Jones; 58. Helene Chadwick; 59. Elliott Dexter; 60. Ann Forrest; 61. Monte Blue; 62. Eileen Percy; 63. Dustin Farnum; 64. Miss Du Pont; 65. Lila Lee; 66. Jack Gilbert; 67. Hazel Daly; 68. Doris Kenyon; 69. James Kirkwood; 70. Lois Wilson; 71. Nell Shipman; 72. Naomi Childers; 73. Richard Dix; 74. Johnnie Walker; 75. Hope Hampton; 76. Tom Mix; 77. John Bowers; 78. Gloria Swanson; 79. Cullen Landis; 80. Frank Mayo; 81. Mae Busch; 82. Maude George; 83. June Caprice; 84. Tom Santschi; 85. Charlie Chaplin; 86. William De Mille; 87. Harold Lloyd; 88. Robert McKim; 89. Harry “Snub” Pollard; 90. Claire Adams; 91. Katherine Spencer; 92. Baby Peggy; 93. Mildred Davis; 94. Josephine Hill; 95. Alice Lake; 96. Virginia Brown Faire; 97. Nazimova; 98. Louise Lorraine; 99. Kathleen Meyers; 100. Gertrude Olmsted; 101. Elmo Lincoln; 102. Charles Ogle; 103. Pat O’Malley; 104. Jack Perrin; 105. Lee Moran; 106. Milton Sills; 107. Ben Turpin; 108. Cecil B De Mille; 109. Marcella Pershing; 110. Mabel Ballin; 111. Betty Ross Clarke; 112. Anna Q Nilsson; 113. Ina Claire; 114. Marie Mosquini; 115. Pola Negri; 116. Alice Terry; 117. Ruth Roland; 118. Virginia Warwick; 119. Mary Astor; 120. Mary Philbin; 121. Billie Dove; 122. Jack Mulhall; 123. Martha Mansfield; 124. Gareth Hughes; 125. Myrtle Lind; 126. Conrad Nagel; 127. Jane Novak; 128. Clarence Burton; 129. Mary Jane Sanderson; 130. George Larkin; 131. Dorothy Phillips; 132. Eugene O’Brien; 133. Mabel Juliene Scott; 134. Walter Hiers; 135. Mary Glynn; 136. Carl Gantvoort; 137. Constance Binney; 138. William Boyd; 139. Marguerite Courtot; 140. May McAvoy


Face powder envelopes, Kyoto 1815


The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a sample album holding nearly 200 colorful cosmetic packages of Oshiroi or white face powder. The ephemeral decorative envelopes are pasted onto 45 unnumbered leaves with various printed and manuscript labels. The final leaf holds a hand-written note indicating the album was produced in Kyoto in 1815.





“In Japan, beauty has long been associated with a light skin tone. During the Nara Period (710–94), women painted their face with a white powder called oshiroi, and in the Heian Period (794–1185), a white facial color continued to stand as a symbol of beauty. References to the beauty of light skin tone are found in the Diary of Lady Murasaki and Tale of Genji. More than a thousand years ago, cosmetics for whitening the skin had already become a status symbol among the aristocracy.”–Originally written in Japanese by Ushijima Bifue.


This marvelous sample book was assembled in 1815 for the Fujiwara Harima Ishizuka Face Powder Company and the Chikamaro Face Powder Company of Kyoto by a cosmetics distributor named Omi-ya.

The early pages hold thirty sets of three labels each: the first label tells in rapturous detail of the special qualities of the contents, the second gives the brand name, and the third the manufacturer’s name.

Following this are 107 color-printed labels for the envelopes (each including a brand name), then another 52 color-printed labels, and finally the actual face powder envelopes. The decorative designs are either color woodblock prints or made from special paper with metallic flakes including gold.



This album was once owned by Dr. Kokichi Kano (1865-1942), a Japanese literature scholar, who came from Oodate City, Akita Prefecture. Kano began his career as the principal of First Higher School (1898-1906) and was then named President of a liberal arts college, Kyoto Imperial University (1906-1908).






Illustrated Police News


police-newsThe Illustrated Police News, Law Courts and Weekly Record was founded in 1864. “Published in London by John Ransom and George Purkess and printed by Purkess and Richard Beard, the Illustrated Police News claimed to give attention to subjects of more than ordinary interest ranging from gory murders to courtroom dramas. The sensational weekly priced at 1d . . . Its circulation grew over its first 20 years of publication from 100,000 to 300,000.” –Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor, Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland (2009)

A pictorial front page of the January 14, 1882, issue was recently acquired by the Graphic Arts Collection, without the three text pages that followed. The top-most cells depict George Lamson, who was found guilty of murder, a sensational case covered by the paper almost daily from December 1881 through his hanging the following April.

George Henry Lamson (1850-1882) had become a morphine addict and needed money. On December 3, 1881, he poisoned his crippled brother-in-law using aconite or wolf’s bane, in the hope of receiving his inheritance. The transcript of Lamson’s trial is recorded in the Old Bailey Online database at:

Lamson insisted on his innocence and turned himself in to officials. “However, with the consciousness that I am an innocent and unjustly accused man, I am returning at once to London to face the matter out. If they wish to arrest me they will have ample opportunity of doing so. I shall attempt no concealment. I shall arrive at Waterloo Station about 9.15 tomorrow (Thursday) morning. Do try and meet me there. If I do not see you there I shall go straight to your house, trusting to the possibility of finding Kitty there.—In great haste, yours truly, GEO. H. LAMSON.—W. G. Chapman, Esq.”

Other events are also highlighted in this issue.police-news4


See also Giles St. Aubyn, Infamous Victorians: Palmer and Lamson, two notorious poisoners (London: Constable, 1971). RECAP HV6555.G7S35

NYCC. Rule 5: Naked is not a costume.

dscn7366Nearly 200,000 visitors attended New York Comic Con (NYCC) at the Jacob Javits Convention Center this week. The final numbers are not in but that’s roughly double the number of attendees of last year’s Super Bowl. All tickets for all week sold out last summer.


dscn7371471 artists participated in NYCC’s annex known as Artist Alley. A separate annex offered opportunities for Photo Ops with celebrities, but the entire schedule was sold out.


dscn7365A masked trio played at the Adult Swim booth, while crossword puzzles were completed on a public monitor. Visitors crawled in through a tunnel under the desk.

dscn7361Writer Ben Kahn signed a copy of Heavenly Blues, drawn by Bruno Hidalgo and lettered by Kathleen Kralowec. The book’s full title: “Heavenly Blues from the Pits of Perdition! Isaiah ‘Tommy Gun’ Jefferson & ‘Wicked’ Erin Foley.” The final page promises, “Next time, soulful sounds from the band of thieves.”


dscn7359Before you can attend NYCC, each visitor is given a list of rules they must follow. Rule 5 is “Naked is not a costume. Please wear appropriate (or at least enough) clothing while attending NYCC.”

There were, of course, plenty of cosplay outfits:


dscn7354Samples went quickly and the entire run of Kill Shakespeare (the book) was gone before we could buy one.


dscn7350The French Comics Framed festival offered an exhibition at The Cooper Union, rotating artists in the Artists Annex, and here, Nicolas Otero talked to the public. His graphic biography Le Roman de Boddah is being released in the United States as Who Killed Kurt Cobain? this month.

Nearby, the National Cartoonist Society booth was filled with different artists each day.