Thursday, January 3, 2013

Still More About Connecting People to Places

Continuing our discussion about items that help us place a person, business or site into context by connecting them to an address...The December 10 and December 27 posts featured business cards, matchbook covers, and general correspondence.

Advertising pays a key role in the material from which we can draw historical information, and it has been done in a variety of creative ways over the years.  Remember all of those receipts that you have organized by year, by the box, packed away in the attic?  Perhaps you have the business papers that belonged to your parents or grandparents showing where they bought their first car or the hardware store that they frequented.  In my case, I have every receipt since I was old enough to spend my own money, and my parents have their receipts back 60+ years.  Here's the clue as to where I get my tendency to keep things...

Some of the older receipts and invoices can be fun to look at.  In addition to identifying the business and its location, it likely has the purchaser information, a listing of the goods or services, and some have delightful artwork and logos.

Featured here is a receipt from the Lawrence Lyon manuscript collection.  The Biek Heating Supply Company in the 1950's was located at 212 West Railroad Street in Dowagiac.  Today, this address is occupied by Professional Management Systems.  Doubtless there were other business entities at this address in between.

Real Photo Postcard
If you collect postcards or postcard images, you have seen those that depict buildings, businesses, churches, schools, etc.  Especially fun and rare are the "real photo" postcards that were actually a photograph applied to a postcard backing.  You may have some of these in your family tree items.

Shown here is an example of a real photo postcard displaying several scenes from Thompson's Battery Shop that was located at 115-117 N. Church Street in Kalamazoo.  This one is nice in that it gives you several scenes, the names of the business, the address and the names of the proprietors. 

Advertising card
Something similar was the advertising card which was kind of a cross between a postcard and business card.  These might be a regular paper or card stock or oftentimes that were printed on the front of an ink blotter.  The 4 1/2 x 3 1/4-inch sample shown here is of the clothing store owned by Geo. W. Taylor & Co., located upstairs at 137 Main Street, Kalamazoo.

In addition to these formats, advertising can be seen in any of the following formats:
  • Wall & desk calendars
  • Pencils & pens
  • Bottles & cannisters
  • Magnets
  • Signs
  • Brochures & Pamphlets
  • Placemats & Napkins
  • Decals
  • Bookmarks
  • Wall Fixtures (example: thermometers)
  • Product Packaging
  • Buttons & Pins
  • Paid Advertising in books such as school yearbooks, church directories, plat books
The Local History Collection doesn't have the ability to store much in the line of three-dimensional artifacts, but photographs of the advertising information are just as useful for historical purposes. 

So, keep in mind while you're doing your pre-spring cleaning this winter, not to be over zealous with throwing things in the trash.  Check with local libraries & archives to see if they would be interested in a gift of some of these items.  Of course, we would love to hear about anything with Southwest Michigan ties.  Contact us to learn more.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman
Photographer - G. S. Wixson, Plainwell
From the private collection of Sarah (Adams) Jackson

Can you identify the young woman in this cabinet card?  Do you have knowledge of the photographer?  Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.   

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