The Vinson Pictorials Series: A Window to the Past

Hello, readers! My name is Annalise Berdini and I am the summer intern processing the Pictorials Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection. I’d like to give a little overview of what I have been doing since I started and highlight some of the interesting materials I’ve come across while working through the collection.

Postcard of a Baker electric car advertisement.

Postcard of a Baker electric car advertisement.

As a devoted collector of automotive literature and materials, Z. Taylor Vinson spent much of his life corresponding with other like-minded collectors across the globe, sharing tips, materials, and insights. Many of the items in the Pictorials Series, which consists of photographs, prints, postcards, and the like, include letters or notes from the collectors who sent them along to Vinson. This gives unique insight into the way Vinson was able to develop his collection, making global contacts, and often close friends, who sought out and shared the same items for which Vinson searched.

My job so far has been to process the Pictorials Series. This involves surveying the series’ contents, arranging the materials, and placing the materials in acid-free folders and protective sleeves. The images in the Pictorials Series depict the development and growth of the automobile, even including images of mockups, prototypes, or one-of-a-kind vehicles that never made it to the production line. Some of the images, especially the postcards, are as much an example of the automobiles of the period as the social and economic climate of that time period.

Henry J advertising postcard.

Henry J advertising postcard.

The Pictorials Series provides a fascinating look at how these early cars were marketed, and how those strategies evolved during each change that affected the countries in which they were made. For example, a Baker postcard of a reproduction of an ad from the early 1900s shows the car being marketed to “high society.” A set of Henry J. postcards from the 1950s includes images of the nuclear family ideal that was prevalent at the time. One item in the Chevrolet file is a photo of assorted ads depicting changes in attitudes towards women and the need for an economic car. Vinson’s pictorial materials also provide a unique window into the past, giving a taste of how automobiles developed and changed, along with the world itself.

Photograph of three Chevrolet advertisements.

Photograph of three Chevrolet advertisements.

Sometimes, the materials do not quite fit into the car make hierarchy, simply because they are not about cars! Vinson was a true collector, and as such, did not limit his acquisitions entirely to autos. The Pictorials Series contains materials depicting airplanes and airships, buses, trains, and ships. It also holds stamps depicting the royal families of some of the countries Vinson visited (he was extremely well-traveled) and postcards depicting scenes from various locales. An assortment of personal items that show Vinson and his family, and a few photos that capture the construction of his “Autotorium” are found in this series as well.

It is fascinating to have a collection of images that expand beyond automobiles into general transportation and travel, as well as to have a record of Vinson’s life and interests in images. Researchers and car enthusiasts alike will find the Pictorials Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson collection to be a valuable and exciting resource.

Annalise Berdini is a Summer Intern for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

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