Greetings to the Vinson Community!

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Kenton Jaehnig and I am the new Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library. I assumed my duties on July 6th from Emily Cottle, whom as you may already know, left us to become the University Archivist/Special Collections Librarian at Delaware State University. I feel much honored to have been chosen to continue the processing and cataloging of the Vinson Collection. I am truly excited to be granted the opportunity to work with this very significant collection of transportation materials.

A little bit about my background. I received my B.A. in history from the University of Pittsburgh and earned my M.A. in history from Wright State University, with a concentration in archives and historical administration. Professionally, I have over twelve years of archives processing experience and have processed a number of large twentieth-century archives collections over the course of my career. I arrived at Hagley Museum and Library in March 2011. Before coming to Hagley, I held processing archivist positions at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, the University of Wyoming, and the University of Virginia. At Hagley, prior to accepting the Vinson position, I served as the William Pahlmann Project Archivist.

In addition to my archives background, I have a longstanding personal and scholarly interest in automobiles. As with Vinson, my fascination with automobiles dates back to childhood. In recent years, I have developed a scholarly interest in imported cars that started arriving on American shores in the years following World War II. I am the author of a scholarly article on this subject entitled “History of Foreign Cars in Wyoming: 1946 to 1963,” which was published in the Spring 2006 issue of Annals of Wyoming.

We will continue to use the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection blog to highlight unique items, discuss our methodology, and to keep everyone informed of the progress of the project. We will also continue to update this blog on a weekly basis with features submitted by myself, interns, and volunteers. So stayed tuned for the latest developments on the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection project!

Alas, it is now time for me to get back to work on this ever-fascinating collection. Before I do, I would like to thank Emily Cottle for all of her hard work on Z. Taylor Vinson Collection project and to wish her the best of luck at Delaware State University. Emily’s contributions are, and will continue to be vital to the success of this project. For my part, I will strive to complete the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection project in accordance with the high standards established by Emily. I am also looking forward to hearing your responses to the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection blog.

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

Treasures: Lincoln Executive Book

Cover of the Lincoln Executive Book, including my hand for scale.

The following excerpt from pages 60-62 of A Collector’s Life: An Autobiography describes another of Mr. Vinson’s treasures: the 1938-1939 Lincoln Continental Executive book.

During the Spring ’98 SAH Board meeting in St. Louis, we went out to see the Hunter collection of classic cars. On the front seat of a ’38 Lincoln seven-passenger touring sedan lay a photocopy of what appeared to be a dealer book on the classic Lincolns of that period. I was fascinated by it, because the cars and their interiors were shown in photographs, whereas the sales literature contained only artistic renderings. Thus, it appeared significant to me.

I was told that the original belonged to Charlie Schalebaum, and had been sent out for approval several years ago; however, it was too expensive for them, and they photocopied it before returning it. I agreed about the expense.

Well, I had it in the back of my mind to ask Charlie about it the next time I saw him. Charlie is a dealer in fine automotive art built up the Ray Holland collection now at Blackhawk and literature is not his primary interest, though I had bought rare Leyat and Fageol catalogues from him. I hadn’t been at Fall ’98 Carlisle for an hour when I ran into him in the Z Building. Imagine my surprise when I found that he not only still had the piece but had brought it with him, the first time he had had it out in several years. The price was still the same, which meant it would be twice the price of the Ferrari 815 piece discussed below. One look at it and I was hooked: large page format (17 x 23), 19 pages of photos of cars and their interiors, one or two upholstery swatches per page plus a color chip, some with striping. And a 20th page of accessories. The prices of the cars had been penned in. “Bet you paid almost as much for this as one of the cars cost” dealer Stan Hurd astutely remarked to me. The item was bound in green leatherette with a bas relief of the Lincoln greyhound on a silver oval medallion inset into the cover. The weight of the item was 8-10 pounds and it came in its own black leather zippered carrying case. Bill White, the doyen of Lincoln literature dealers, later told me that this was only the third copy known to him. The National Auto History Collection has one and its late curator, Jim Bradley, once remarked that were the building to catch fire, this would be the item he would save first.

An interior page of the book.

There is a remarkable story behind my copy. When John Schaler III of Indianapolis was about 7 or 8 in ’39, he and his father went to Detroit to pick up a new Lincoln-Zephyr for his mother. According to a letter Schaler wrote 50 years later to the then-owner of the piece, the factory men were so amazed at the boy’s knowledge of cars that they introduced him to Henry and Edsel Ford. In Henry’s office, young John spotted the Lincoln executive book on a table. He couldn’t get it out of his mind, and four years later, in ’43, wrote Henry Ford about it. Next thing he knew, the local Ford Mercury Lincoln dealer phoned him, and asked him to come over as he had something for him. Thus, the treasure I now own came into his possession. I don’t know of many nicer stories than this.

According to the late Tom Solley, who knew him, John Schaler III grew up to become the Rolls-Royce dealer in Indianapolis, then moved to Texas.

Also check out the Hagley Video Minute featuring another glimpse of this rare item!

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

Why Collect Automobile Trade Catalogs?

The Z. Taylor Vinson Collection is an incredible collection of automobile trade catalogs. Mr. Vinson, a collector and one-time designer of automobile advertising literature, admired the beauty of them. He started collecting from an early age and continued collecting up until the end of his life. The catalogs he collected were mostly used for informative purposes, but their illustrations and photographs turned them into pieces of art.

While Mr. Vinson saw the exquisite nature of automobile trade catalogs, especially ones dating from the early twentieth century, he wasn’t the only one. In 1913, The Graphic Arts and Crafts Year Book published an article by F.E. Dayton, titled “Automobile Publicity.” In it, Dayton described the automobile trade catalog as a piece of art meant to advertise cars rather than just an advertisement that contained art. He writes that:

In the score of years in which the automobile has found its important place in the transportation of men and material, great investments have been made in literature illustrating and describing various types and makes of motor cars. […] No other of merchandising, perhaps, has made such large expenditures in quality printing as has the automobile industry. (Page 69)

Automobile manufacturers felt the need to invest “in high-quality printing” because they had to convince the public that automobiles were worth the investment. Some high-end automobile manufacturers included both highly detailed illustrations and photographs to depict their models. Automobile catalogs also utilized the power of information in their advertisements. Not only did they have to market the company and the models being sold, but they also had to inform the consumer on the technical aspects of their models, emphasize the difference from last year’s models, and why the consumer needed a new automobile in the first place.

Tear-out from the Vinson Collection.

An example was the Pierce Motor Co., which is the illustration featured on the tear-out that Vinson collected and filed under Pierce-Arrow. Dayton suggests that

The Pierce Motor Co. has always been a leader in fine motor car advertising. The specimen page from one of their recent books shows a retouched photo of a limousine car while above is a combination of photography and pencil drawing, giving a splendid idea of luxurious convenience in travel. The background of gray lines gives to the two pictures a page effect of artist’s drawing board (Page 73 with image on Page 70).

The dual nature of automobile catalogs, as both informative advertisements and art, gave them a unique place in the advertising world. It was clear that these catalogs were already considered extraordinary in 1913. The Z. Taylor Vinson Collection contains many excellent examples of early automobile advertising literature that will be waiting for researchers to discover when the collection opens in 2014.

Source:

Dayton, F.E. “Automobile Publicity.” The Graphic Arts and Crafts Year Book 6 (1913). http://books.google.com/books?id=GPJIAQAAIAAJ&pg=RA1-PA69&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed May 11, 2012).

Robin Valencia is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library .

Archival Processing Methodology: Part 7 – Big Company vs. Small Company

While the challenges presented by languages and dates in the Vinson collection have already been discussed, a remaining challenge to explore is the varied depth of the materials for each make. What I mean by this is that some companies have twenty or more boxes packed to the gills (think Audi, Ford, Chevy). Others, have just five items or sometimes just one item. How does one find an arrangement scheme that can accommodate both the small and large companies?

Well, what I’ve done is developed a distinction between what we call big companies and small companies. Big companies feature the regular arrangement detailed in previous methodology posts, where large numbers of items are broken down into folders by model or publication types and such. Small companies (those with just a handful of items) instead use the subseries names as the folder titles.

Let me explain by way of an example. A small company might have three brochures: two trade catalogs for different specific models and a color sample. We could give each of these separate folders. However, that would be wasteful, both in terms of supplies and wasted space in boxes through an overabundance of folders. This also creates subseries with just one item, which is simply unnecessary.

To combat this, the folder for that make will read: General Publication and Trade Catalogs: Specific Models, 1956-1970. Then, the narrative series description above will contain the usual information (languages, quantity of material) and also say: The general publication is a color sample and the trade catalogs are for model X and model Y. As you can see, the information that would have been your folder title, is now just moved to the series note.

There is no hard and fast rule about the size a company would be to be classified as big or small. It often comes down to the variety of materials present.  It is my hope that the consistent use of the same series names and sorting terms will help simplify access. It is important to keep in mind that both big and small companies will tell you the same information; you would just have to look to a folder title in a big company and the series note in a small company.

Previous methodology posts can be found here.

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

Treasures: Oldest American Item

Click to view the entire catalog in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Back in January, we brought you a post on Automobile Ancetres that highlighted some of Mr. Vinson’s earliest French treasures. Today, we bring you the promised post on the lone American item. We’ll start off with Mr. Vinson’s description of these pre-1900 items once again to refresh everyone’s memories:

I rather think of these as the incunabula of automotive literature, and, of late, have taken an interest in them. The French refer to cars of this era as “Ancetres.” Thus far, the oldest item in my collection is an 1893 Peugeot catalogue on bicycles, the last page of which shows two “voitures á gasoline.” I have the 1894 version as well. The oldest catalogue devoted purely to cars is a Panhard catalogue dated July 1895. My collection also includes, from 1896, an informative Amedee Bollee folder, an E. Roger folder, and a Panhard catalogue dated December 1896; folders on the Darracq and Gauthier-Wehrle cars from 1897 or so, and a lovely but incomplete 1898 Panhard catalogue and electric auto sheet. In age these are followed by an American item, the 1898 Barrow, then back to France for the 1899 de Dietrich, Mors, and Delahaye catalogues and a Decauville folder of the same vintage. Just making the 1800′s is a Peugeot catalogue dated November 1899. – A Collector’s Life: An Autobiography, page 63.

Mixed in with the mostly French pre-1900 catalogs is an American example. Buried in the middle and given a short phrase, “the 1898 Barrow” catalog was considered by Vinson to be one of his treasures. He doesn’t elaborate further on why it is a treasure beyond the fact that it dates pre-1900. Is there anything special about this American example besides its date?

The Barrows Vehicle Company published the above mentioned catalog in 1898. The catalog is very straightforward in its design with a light yellow cover, white pages, and simple black illustrations. On each page are models that vary from two to four-seaters to light delivery vehicles. All of the models shown contained electric engines, taking advantage of the electric technologies of the era.

Barrows specialized in battery powered engines and interchangeable body styles. The consumer could purchase a Power Equipment package and then choose which body style they wanted to attach. Calling their style of automobile, “practically a mechanical horse,” Barrows attempted to provide consumers with a tangible metaphor so that they could understand the new technology of self-propelled vehicles.

Click to view page 7 of the catalog in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Automobiles were new to the market in the late nineteenth century. Utilizing the image of a “mechanical horse” and comparing the cost and use of a horse to an automobile allowed consumers to understand what an automobile was and why they should purchase one. On page 7, Barrows points out “No cost when not used. Unlike horses, the Batteries eat only when they work,” giving an advantage to the Barrows automobile. This comparison runs throughout the whole of the catalog presenting evidence of the superiority of the electric automobile over the horse.

Though other companies didn’t use this exact metaphor to describe their vehicles, many companies used similar marketing methods. Likening automobiles to motorized bicycles or simply calling them self-propelled vehicles created an understanding that this new technology was a new method of transportation and could soon to replace the contemporary horse and carriage. Though the Barrows Vehicle Company only survived for four years (1895-1899), its literature represents the early era of American motoring and its place in the emerging automobile industry.

Sources:
Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of The Automobile (2 Volume Set) Volume 1: A-L; Volume 2: M-Z. Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000.

Robin Valencia is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.