674 boxes…

So we’ve mentioned this collection is large, but how large is it? 700 cubic feet, which arrived at Hagley in approximately 674 boxes. The purpose of this post is to familiarize you with the types of materials present in this collection.

The collection contains both two-dimensional paper objects, like catalogs and photographs, and three-dimensional objects, like model cars and promotional freebies.

Sample of the model cars in the collection.

The bulk of the Z. Taylor Vinson collection consists of hundreds of thousands of trade catalogs from makes and models around the world. These companies include some that were only in existence very briefly. Catalogs date from the dawn of the automobile in 1891 all the way through to 2010.

In addition to trade catalogs, there are all of the other publications that the car companies released to advertise for their company and their products. Topics covered include: company histories, interior and exterior color and upholstery choices, accessory and options catalogs, internal salesman instructional publications, and much, much more. Also included are press kits for various motor shows, which include photographs, slides, and CDs. There are also calendars and posters.

The collection also contains a large number of serials. These include those published by particular automobile companies (i.e. Audi Magazine), in addition to those considered general automobile magazines (i.e. Motor Trend or Road & Track).

Mr. Vinson had a large collection of books which covered all topics of automobilia, as well as transportation in general, including books on planes, trains, blimps, and boats. (Don’t forget these books have already been cataloged and can be found by searching the library catalog for “The Z. Taylor Vinson Collection.”)

Volkswagen toilet paper holder.

Model cars and other three-dimensional objects, including everything from hubcaps to ice scrapers to toilet paper holders, round out the remainder of the collection.

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing some information about how these 674 boxes are being arranged and described to make them accessible to research. Come back next week for our first post highlighting one of the interesting items in the collection.

October is American Archives Month and Hagley Library is celebrating by holding a Z. Taylor Vinson Collection Information Day! Come to the library building on Saturday October 8th from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm to get a sneak peak at the collection.

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Hagley Car Show 2011

On Sunday I was very excited to attend Hagley’s annual car show, with its field of over 50 feature rumble seat cars and a general show field of nearly 600 cars. It was a beautiful day outside with over 4,500 people in attendance.

1931 du Pont Dual Cowl Phaeton

Richard E. Riegel’s 1931 du Pont Dual Cowl Phaeton.

The Vinson tables were set up in front of the library building and featured trade catalogs for many of the rumble seat cars present at the show. All of the rumble seat catalogs we had on display can be seen in the Z. Taylor Vinson Digital Library Preview.

Vinson tables from in front of the library building.

We also had a small case inside the library building displaying items about Mr. Vinson and his earliest recollections of cars (which happened to have rumble seats). If you did not get a chance to see it on the day of the show, the case is still in the library, so feel free to come by and see it.

Case exhibit about Z. Taylor Vinson and his collection.

It was great to get to talk to all of the car club members I had met before and even better to meet so many new people that are interested in the collection. I hope all our new visitors to the blog from the car show will continue to check back to see some of the unique and rare items that collection has to offer that we will be highlighting in the coming weeks.

If you were not able to make it out to the event, many people who did have shared their photos on Flickr.

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Who was Z. Taylor Vinson?

Zachary Taylor Vinson was born July 7, 1933 in Huntington, West Virginia.  He graduated from Princeton University in 1955.  He served in the Army in Germany and spent time in New York working in advertising until his 1961 graduation from the University of Virginia law school.

In 1967 when the new U.S. Department of Transportation opened, Mr. Vinson took a position as senior lawyer with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a position he held until his retirement in 2003.  He played a significant role in the drafting of regulations requiring high-mounted brake lights in the rear window of automobiles, which began with the 1986 model year.  Leading up to his retirement, he worked to draft new safety regulations governing tires.

His exposure to automobile literature began with a 1938 Ford catalog.  It was during the 1941 model year that he felts his passion for collecting literature began to thrive.   As a child, he would collect two copies of each catalog so that he could cut pictures out from both sides of the paper, an activity which he grew to deeply regret later in life.

At the age of 7½ he stopped passively accepting catalogs from friends and relatives and began going to the showrooms to collect.  He would request that his parents drive him down “Automobile Row” and wait while he ran in and out of each showroom collecting literature.

It was at the age of 14 that he began writing to British, French, Italian, and Czech embassies in Washington, DC to get addresses of automobile factories in these countries to request literature.

The collection grew over the years, eventually requiring a wing be added to his house to contain it all, which he referred to as the “Autotorium.”

Z. Taylor Vinson in his Autotorium

Z. Taylor Vinson in his Autotorium

In addition to collecting, Mr. Vinson was an active member of automotive organizations.  He was president of the Society of Automotive Historians from 1993 to 1995 and editor of its Automotive History Review from 1995 to 2009.

Mr. Vinson died at the age of 76 in 2009 and his collection was gifted to Hagley Library in January of 2010.

The collection contains a draft of an autobiography, entitled A Collector’s Life: An Autobiography, written by Mr. Vinson in November 2008.  In it, he discusses how he began collecting and how he acquired much of his collection.  Additionally, he highlights his prized features in the collection.  Future blog posts will highlight these treasures and feature excerpts from the autobiography.

To learn more, read a 2004 interview with Z. Taylor Vinson from The Automotive Chronicles in which he talks about his collection.

If you have any questions, contact the Imprints Reference Desk, 302-658-2400 x227 or send an email request using the online AskHagley form.

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.


Welcome to the blog for the Z. Taylor Vinson Transportation Collection at Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware. This project is being funded by a Cataloging Hidden Special Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). We will use this blog to highlight unique items, discuss our methodology, and to keep everyone informed of the progress of the project.

This three year project began in March 2011 and is under the direction of Max Moeller, Curator of the Imprints Department at Hagley. Processing is being completed by Project Archivist/Cataloger Emily Cottle. Throughout the course of the project there will also be graduate assistants and volunteers.  Read more about the project contributors

What remains of the unprocessed Vinson material as of July 2011. Just five months ago this entire aisle was almost completely full (two rows deep!).

These are the materials that have already been arranged and rehoused as of July 2011.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks to hear more about the creator of this collection, Z. Taylor Vinson, as well as a more in depth discussion of our methodology. Also stay tuned for the launch of our digital collection that will allow you to get a sneak peak at some of the exciting items in the collection.