Monday, December 8, 2014

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS: Spotlight on San Francisco Ephemera and Posters

Ticket stubs, programs, menus, schedules, pamphlets, fliers, certificates-- small paper items known as “ephemera” that recall past occasions, activities, and people--hold an intimate place in an archives, particularly that of the San Francisco History Center.
Matchbook from Roundhouse Restaurant, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Matchbook from the Roundhouse Restaurant, undated

They offer glimpses into the daily life of our city across the generations. Their creases and marks and stains suggest the hands that held them at the event they were printed for, be it a bus trip, a performance, an exhibit, a grand opening, a dinner, or a protest.
r Village, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Cocktail napkin from Cable Car Village, undated

Ephemera such as this can be found throughout the San Francisco History Center’s archival collections; however, the bulk of this kind of material may be found in our San Francisco Ephemera Collection. This collection of subject files stored in 153 filing cabinet drawers, is also known as the “vertical file” because items are stored upright in folders rather than bound in a book, covers all sorts of San Francisco topics and entities, dating from 1850 to the present: buildings, businesses, clubs and associations, restaurants, neighborhoods, streets, and more. A guide to the San Francisco Ephemera Collection, which lists the folders we can pull for researchers, can be found here.

 Posters, a kind of super-sized ephemera, are also in the San Francisco History Center. Like ephemera, they are printed for use-in-the-moment. They publicize arts festivals, concerts, rallies, conventions, public services, and political causes. Our poster collection has over 800 posters dating from 1865-present, mostly from the 20th century.

Visit the San Francisco History Center on the 6th floor of the Main Library to explore these collections further. There’s nothing like paper-in-person!

d poster, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Old First Church Concerts poster, 1995

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Press Clippings of the Panama Pacific International Exposition

As the City prepares for next year's Centennial Celebration of the Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), the San Francisco History Center is surveying its archival collections for materials to help tell the story. One collection that has emerged out of the stacks is a set of twenty-one giant press clippings scrapbooks. Each volume is typically 12” x 18” x 7,” with 500 pages.

Who created these scrapbooks, and for what purpose, is a matter of conjecture, because there is little documentation remaining with them to tell us. Here is what we've discovered so far:

In 1924, R.B. Hale (one of several Vice Presidents on the PPIE Board of Directors) and George W. Kelham (Chief Architect) donated a large collection of official PPIE news clippings, photographs, documents and ephemera to the San Francisco Public Library. This was long before we had a San Francisco History Center, or even the predecessor Californiana Collection (created in 1964). So, while we don't have an accession record or deed of gift, we do have an announcement in the 1924 San Francisco Municipal Record:

Municipal Record, 1924
San Francisco Municipal Record, Thurs. May 1, 1924 (p. 141)

The 1924 San Francisco Public Library's annual report also mentions it:

San Francisco Public Library Annual Report for 1924, San Francisco Public Library

The hint: "Bound files of newspapers."

Based on this documentation, labels and markings on the scrapbooks themselves, and content of the clippings, we think these scrapbooks are the newsclippings portion of the Hale/Kelham donation.

The earliest clippings date back to Dec. 4, 1909, a few days before the first mass meeting to vet the idea of the PPIE with the public. Held at the Merchants Exchange Building, it was attended by over 500 people. By early January 1910, a 30-member Board of Directors had been established.

The scrapbooks have multiple compilers and more than one numbered series, at least one of which was re-numbered at some point. And there are missing volumes, so sometimes it's difficult to tell which books go in which series, and in what sequence. Because there are two volumes labeled "Lowell Hardy" and one "H. E. Cooley," we can guess that some were compiled by or for the Department of Special Days and Events, of which Hollis E. Cooley was the Chief and Lowell Hardy was Manager. We have a copy of that Department’s final report to the President of the PPIE, Charles C. Moore, in our stacks.

PPIE Special Publicity Scrapbook, Lowell Hardy
Front cover of Lowell Hardy No. 5
A few of the other books appear to have originated in the Division of Exploitation. This wing of the PPIE bureaucracy, located in the Press Building, had a plethora of bureaus and departments: Domestic Exploitation, Multigraphing, Publications, Printing, Tours, Records and Statistics, Art & Illustration, Editorial, Writers, and Hotel. Its charge was, as its Director’s final report puts it, “to secure the participation of the states and publicize the Exposition worldwide.” (A copy of the report is in our
San Francisco Ephemera Collection of PPIE files. We can surmise that many of these subject files, now combined with additional files of and about the PPIE from other sources, were also part of the 1924 accession).

The two Writers Bureau and one Bureau of Records scrapbooks in this collection are physical remnants of that endeavor.
PPIE Press building directory ephemera, San Francisco Public Library
Item from the PPIE subject files. The Writers Bureau was part of the Editorial Bureau.

The Writers Bureau was a corps of 8-10 writers / newspapermen (including two women) hired to publicize the Exposition via journalism rather than paid advertising. According to the aforementioned Director’s report, national and international newspaper advertising would have cost five million dollars; so instead, the Division decided to take the high, writerly road to get the word out. It worked, and their reach was much wider than it might have been otherwise. Many of the articles were syndicated and spread throughout the nation. Small town papers benefited particularly; towns, more than cities, were the main source of PPIE tourists to San Francisco. The Bureau of Records kept track of how many stories were printed in each newspaper; the volume we have consists of entirely San Francisco newspapers. Here's a tally inside:

PPIE Bureau of Records press clippings scrapbook, San Francisco Public LIbrary
Inside the Bureau of Records scrapbook

 Department press clippings scrapbook, San Francisco Public Library
Charles H. Green, Chief of Manufactures

Another volume is labeled "Manufactures Dept." on the cover and focuses on Charles H. Green, Chief of Manufactures and Varied Industries. It is possible that this scrapbook also came from the Writers Bureau, since the writers--according to Frank Morton Todd in his 5-volume opus, The story of the exposition; being the official history of the international celebration held at San Francisco in 1915 to commemorate the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the construction of the Panama Canal (v. 2 p. 36)-- each were assigned one of four “beats”: grounds and construction, concessions, exhibits, or executive departments. Perhaps this was compiled because one of the writers was assigned to the Manufactures Department. The Manufactures department encompassed exhibits and events pertaining to all manner of industry and “made things.”

These press clippings are one hundred years old, so most of the books are in a fragile physical state: several volumes contain piles of loose clippings tipped in and/or stuffed into envelopes glued to the page. The newspaper is acid-eaten and crumbling. The pages of the books themselves are brittle. For these reasons, access to these books is limited to a case-by-case basis. Please contact the San Francisco History Center directly if you are interested in using these materials. We hope to digitize at least some of them!

This scrapbook (May 18, 1914-March 7, 1915) is about a foot thick! You can see some envelopes peeking out the middle.