Page 115 of C.V. Riley’s Scrapbook 8 from 1874. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7076, Image no. SIA2016-013580.

Not Your Average Scrapbook

A scrapbook isn’t always a collection of photographs and memorabilia. For C.V. Riley, it was a place to keep articles.

When you think of a scrapbook, I’m sure that what comes to mind is an album full of photographs and memorabilia. What probably doesn’t come to mind is a bound book full of newspaper clippings and correspondence, but that is exactly the kind of scrapbook that C.V. Riley created to trace the history of entomology.

Charles Valentine Riley

Charles Valentine Riley is often considered the founder of modern entomology, and in 1885, he became the first curator of insects at the Smithsonian Institution. Prior to that, he began compiling his unconventional scrapbooks. Riley would take a published work, such as the Fifth Annual Report of the State Board of Agriculture for Missouri from the year 1869, and pasted in articles, clippings, and correspondence, right over top of the printed text. He organized his scrapbooks topically from volume to volume, and usually included a written index at the beginning. 

Two pages of a book with an image of a butterfly pasted sideways on the lefthand page and an article

Riley’s eighth scrapbook covered entomological and educational topics. It includes an article he wrote on the Antheraea pernyi, a silkworm, for the fourth annual report in 1873 and another with tips for removing and keeping insects off of plants using common households goods like tobacco. Additionally, there are some pages that don’t have anything pasted over the original text, like those that include an address from Norman J. Colman to the Missouri Editors and Publishers’ Association. Since there are very few, if any, handwritten notations in the scrapbooks, it is hard to know why Riley chose to keep some articles in tact and paste over others, but it is certainly interesting to flip through the pages and see what he found relevant at the time.

Book opened to show two pages. The lefthand page is blank and the righthand page contains the beginn

Related Collections

  • Charles Valentine Riley Papers, Record Unit 7076, Smithsonian Institution Archives

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