The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
T. Mead’s Splendid Assortment
The Smithsonian Institution Archives’ collections are peppered with beautiful examples of 19th century advertising art—brochures, letterheads, even bills of lading that were lavishly illustrated. T. Mead’s Free Museum, News Depot, and Specimen Store of Marquette, Michigan, catered to the tourist trade and also supplied the Smithsonian’s Ethnological collections with Native American crafts. This circular came with a shipment of 4 pairs of Indian- made snowshoes (total: $13).
In addition to illustrations, the circular provides reading entertainment—doggerel on the front, a stirring epic poem about a battle between the Iroquois & Chippewa on the reverse! In the verse, and highly appropriate for this season of gift giving, is this bit of 1870s hard sell:
“‘Twas down by a nook where willows grow
And forget-me-nots slyly are peeping
Where violets nestle and wild roses blow
A maiden set almost a weeping
With vexation because young Alfonso would not purchase her one of those elegant Bird Fans just received at the News Depot.”
In addition to being an example of vintage advertising strategies, the circular also provides us with a nice lesson in paper deterioration— notice the difference between the original color and the yellowed portion, which was exposed to light and pollutants. To learn more about avoiding this kind of damage, check out this blog post, in which our Paper Conservator, Nora Lockshin, gives some pointers about the best storage techniques for family papers and documents.