The Z. Taylor Vinson Collection – Open to the Public on January 2nd

One example of the of the kinds of items found in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, a trade catalog for the Hupmobile Skylark, ca. 1939-1940.

One example of the of the kinds of items found in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, a trade catalog for the Hupmobile Skylark, ca. 1939-1940.

Attention readers! For a little more than 3 years, you have been patiently waiting for the day in which you could access the materials found in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection. Today, it gives me great me pleasure to notify you that the long wait is almost over. On January 2, 2014, the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection will be officially open to the general public. Beginning on January 2nd, researchers will be able to visit Hagley and take a first-hand look at the wonderful materials found in the collection.

Finding Aid for the Vinson Collection

By making the Z. Taylor Vinson collection available to you, we at Hagley have brought the project to its official conclusion. From our perspective, Vinson Collection Project was an enjoyable one to work on and satisfying to complete. The collection’s contents are truly fascinating and we learned a great deal about automobiles and automotive history over the course of the project. By working with the Vinson Collection, we also learned some immensely valuable lessons on how to best process very large imprint collections. This newly acquired knowledge will be applied to other processing projects at Hagley in the future.

Now that the project is completed, I am also writing to announce that this will be my final installment of the Vinson Collection Blog, and that I will soon be saying farewell to Hagley. I have accepted the position of Project Archivist at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My last day at Hagley will be on December 31st. Although I am sad to be leaving Hagley, I am very happy that the Vinson Collection is now being properly preserved and will soon be available to researchers. I will also be watching future developments regarding the collection with great interest.

Before I leave, I would like to use this opportunity to thank all of my colleagues at here at Hagley who made my stay here an enjoyable one and whose valuable contributions helped bring the Vinson Collection Project to its successful completion. I would also like to thank the readers for regularly tuning in to the Vinson Collection Blog and for patiently bearing with us while the collection was being processed. Once again, starting on January 2nd, we at Hagley cordially invite you to pay us a visit and have a first-hand look at the materials found in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection.

Goodbye and Good luck!


Saab 96, Fast Roomy Handsome – Built with Aircraft Quality: Saab: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 9X, 90, 92, 92X, 95, 96, Aero, Aero X, Granturismo 750, Shrike, Sonett II, Sonett III, Sonett V4, Special, Turbo, and V4, 1951-2006, n.d., Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

The Sensational Hupp Skylark, America’s Most Distinguished Low Priced Car: Hupmobile: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 417, 421-J, 427, 517, 518, 521, 527, Club Sedan, and Skylark, 1934-1935, n.d., Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

The complete finding aid for the Vinson Collection is available online

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

Introducing the Z. Taylor Vinson Manuscripts Series!

Greetings!  My name is Alison Kreitzer, and I am the Z. Taylor Vinson Graduate Assistant.  I am currently processing the Manuscripts Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, which will be available to researchers in 2014.  The Manuscripts Series document Mr. Vinson’s career as an attorney for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 1967-2003.  These materials provide insight into the development of Federal motor vehicle safety standards in the decades following the passage of the National Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.  Throughout his career, Mr. Vinson was instrumental in implementing safety regulations for passenger and commercial vehicles that we continue to benefit from today.  The Manuscripts Series of his collection is a notable resource for researchers interested in automobile design, automotive safety, and the history of consumer advocacy in the United States.

Lamborghini badge on the cover of the company’s 1975 certification petition for the Lamborghini Countach LP400.

Lamborghini badge on the cover of the company’s 1975 certification petition for the Lamborghini Countach LP400.

As an attorney-advisor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mr. Vinson corresponded extensively with automobile manufacturers, congressmen, citizens, and fellow NHTSA staff members to interpret and enforce Federal regulations for automobile safety.  His correspondence files make up the bulk of the Manuscripts Series.  These files predominately focus on issues of manufacturer compliance with Federal policies regarding the production, importation, and sale of automobiles and automotive equipment within the United States.  Mr. Vinson and his fellow legal staff members worked extensively to provide manufacturers and citizens with interpretations of the various safety standards that regulated everything from windshield wipers to braking systems.  The NHTSA’s litigation team also drafted and reviewed proposed amendments to these regulations before they were passed into law.  Unpublished and published copies of these Federal Register dockets pertaining to specific safety standard rule-making decisions are included within these correspondence folders.

Photograph of the Lamborghini LP400 from Lamborghini’s 1975 certification petition.

Photograph of the Lamborghini LP400 from Lamborghini’s 1975 certification petition.

A second substantive section within the Manuscripts Series documents petitions made by both foreign and domestic automobile manufacturers for exemption of their vehicle models from specific aspects of the Federal motor vehicle safety regulations.  Manufacturers requested exemptions due to financial hardship, limited production runs, and made arguments that elements of their automobile designs were inconsequential to the overall safety of their vehicles.

This section of the Manuscripts Series is predominately arranged by automotive manufacturer and will be of particular interest to scholars and enthusiasts of renowned automotive manufacturers.  For example, Lamborghini petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1975 for certification of their Countach LP 400, which influenced the shape and design of sports cars throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  The applications for exemption and certification includes over 90 pages of information, diagrams, and photographs documenting the various internal and external components of the Countach LP 400!

The Manuscripts Series also contains correspondence documenting Mr. Vinson’s involvement with the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) in the 1990s.  He held various positions on the Society’s executive committee during this period.  The files in this section document Mr. Vinson’s involvement in several administrative tasks for the organization, including planning of yearly meetings, organizing membership materials, and overseeing SAH finances.

Mr. Vinson was very successful at combining his personal interests in collecting automobile ephemera with his professional career working to implement vehicle safety standards as an attorney for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Not only did he leave Hagley a wonderful collection of automobile memorabilia, he also left behind a comprehensive record of his contributions to automobile safety.  The Manuscripts Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection promises to be a fascinating resource for years to come.

Alison Kreitzer is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Three New Faces Join the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection Project Staff

I am pleased to announce that some new faces have just joined the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection Project staff at the Hagley Museum and Library. Without further ado, I would like to use this week’s blog to introduce three new staff members who will be helping us process the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection this summer: Alison Kreitzer, Annalise Berdini, and Cassia Balogh.

Alison Kreitzer is the Z. Taylor Vinson Graduate Assistant. This summer, she will be responsible for processing the Vinson Collection’s manuscript materials, which document Mr. Vinson’s professional career with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ms. Kreitzer is a graduate student at the University of Delaware, where she is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History’s American Civilization Program. Her research interests include twentieth century cultural history, material culture, and the history of technology. She is currently working on her dissertation, which explores the history of American dirt track automobile racing in the mid-Atlantic region during the twentieth century. Ms. Kreitzer also has previous processing experience. In the summer of 2010, she processed the Collins J. Seitz Papers at the Delaware Historical Society in Wilmington, Delaware.

Annalise Berdini is one of two Z. Taylor Vinson Summer Interns. This summer, she will be responsible for processing the Vinson Collection’s visual materials, which consist of a wide variety of visual formats, including, but not limited to, photographs, photo negatives, slides, and postcards. Ms. Berdini is a graduate student at Drexel University, where she is working towards an MLIS with concentrations in digital libraries and archives. Previous to joining the Vinson Collection staff, she worked in public libraries and volunteered at Hagley in the Library’s Digital Collections. Ms. Berdini is also the President-elect of the Special Libraries Association’s Drexel Student Chapter.

Cassia Balogh is the other Z. Taylor Vinson Summer Intern. This summer she will be responsible for processing the Vinson Collection’s artifacts, which consist of a wide variety of three-dimensional objects, including, but not limited to, toy cars, model cars, numerous other types of automobile memorabilia, and award plaques. Ms. Balogh is a recent graduate of Marist University in Poughkeepsie, New York and Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, Italy, where she studied Conservation and Art History. Previous to joining the Vinson Collect staff, she gained experience working with artifacts at the Penn Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In her spare time, she enjoys all kinds of arts and crafts.

Please join me in welcoming Alison, Annalise, and Cassia to the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection Project. I will look forward to seeing them contribute to the project in a big way as the summer progresses!

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist 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.

Archival Processing Methodology: Part 6 – Dates

In our last methodology post, we discussed the challenge presented by the international scope of the collection and the wide array of languages which accompany that diversity. Today’s discussion will focus on another challenge in the collection: undated materials.

Depending on the era and the company, car catalogs and other printed materials contain important date information, sometimes even down to the month. These dates are often included as part of the literature code on the back cover, which identify the specific publication for a company. However, there are also many catalogs that do NOT provide this information. In an arrangement scheme where all the folders are dated and much of the material is being arranged chronologically, this can be somewhat problematic.

Often, the best context clues will be the style of the cars being advertised or even the format brochure itself (such as condition, type of paper, etc.). Additionally, the style of clothing on people can also be clues. This evidence often provides enough information to narrow it down to a decade or two. When this is the best we can do, the date will be listed on the folder and finding aid as “ca. 1960s” or “ca. 1970s-1980.”

Sometimes, if the material is for a particular model that we can use a reference work to determine the years during which it was produced. When this is a short span of years, this information allows us to achieve slightly better precision than just the decades. We can then use dates such as “ca. 1964-1968” or “ca. 1994-2000.” Other similar context clues suggest whether a particular company was only around for a few years. We can use such tentative information to narrow down the date range for the item.

Any of the estimated dates will always include “ca.” before the date to let you know that it is an estimate supplied during processing and not from the actual item itself.

Despite all of these available clues, sometimes the date span for an item cannot be easily discerned. In this case, instead of using a poor guess, the item is labeled “n.d.” which is short for no date. Undated materials are filed at the end of a chronological run. If a particular folder contains chronologically arranged materials, the dated materials come first and the undated ones at the back of the folder. The date will be written on the folder like this: “1970-1981, n.d.”

Another factor in trying to assign estimated dates comes down to available time. A large part of the More Product, Less Process strategy that we are implementing involves not getting bogged down in item level description. The scope of what we have to accomplish is so wide that often it’s not that we can’t find a date for an item but that the time value of such information is to low for the necessary investment of effort. Surely with enough time and research, most models or body styles can be discerned. However, we lack the time to do this, and instead must keep progress moving forward and use circa (ca.) or undated (n.d.).

Past methodology posts can be viewed here.

Don’t forget to come out to Winterthur Museum on Saturday for their Historic Autos and to hear a talk about the Vinson Collection!

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

Society of Automotive Historians Conference Recap

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) Ninth Biennial Automotive History Conference, which was held in Philadelphia from April 12-14.

Display cases featuring Vinson Collection items during Saturday's tour of the Library.

I immensely enjoyed meeting so many car enthusiasts and hope that the talk that I gave on Saturday morning answered some of the questions people had about the Vinson Collection. I also hope everyone that made the trip to Hagley enjoyed their tour of the museum and library.

I’d like to issue a special welcome to any of our new readers that are just joining us after hearing about this blog during the conference. Thanks for visiting and be sure to utilize the email sign-up to have a notification sent to your email when our weekly articles are published.

Thanks again to SAH for their hospitality and I look forward to seeing many of your at future events! If any readers couldn’t make it to the conference and would be interested in a recording of the presentation, please send me an email at

If you couldn’t make it to SAH, but would still like to learn more about the Vinson Collection, I will be giving another talk on May 19th just down the road from Hagley at Winterthur Museum as part of their Historic Autos at Winterthur series on Saturdays in May.

Below is the complete lecture schedule for each of the Saturdays:

  • May 5 – An Autocar Restored: Teaming Science with Automotive Craftsmanship
  • May 12 – Within the Covers of Vogue: Automobile Advertising in the 1930s
  • May 19 – The Z. Taylor Vinson Collection: Documenting the History of the Automobile Industry from 1891 to 2010
  • May 26 – Coachbuilt: The Derham Body Company

Lectures take place at 1:00 PM each Saturday and are held in the Rotunda. The lectures are included with admission and free for members.

For more information about the event, visit Winterthur’s website. I hope to see many of you there! Feel free to leave comments below with any questions you might have and I will be sure to address them in my talk.

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

Woods Dual Power: The World’s First Hybrid

The Toyota Prius has become the defining hybrid vehicle of today’s automobile market. Entering the market in 2003, the Prius spurred a revolution in alternative fuel technology. Continuing in that trajectory, contemporary automobile manufacturers are now producing even more hybrid and all-electric models to the public.

Hybrid technology, however, is not just a product of the 21st century. Hybrid and electric models have existed as long as gasoline-powered engine models. When first manufactured, automobiles were available with various power source options including gas, electric, and in 1915, a hybrid of the two. The Woods Dual Power claims to be one of the world’s first hybrid petrol-electric automobiles.

Page from the Woods Dual Power Catalog. Click to view the complete item in the Hagley Digital Archives.

The Woods Dual Power was at the forefront of hybrid technology that utilized two power sources: gasoline and electricity. Patent number 1303870 was issued to Roland S. Fend for this technology in May 1919, nearly four years after the initial application in June 1915. The Dual Power used only electrical power up to 15 mph and then switched to using its gas-powered engine when driven up to a maximum speed of 35 mph.

For more information on early electric vehicles, see a work by Clinton E. Woods, titled The Electric Automobile: Its Construction, Care and Operation published in 1900. In it, he provides the rather short history on the electric automobile, its operation, and how it compares to similar gasoline models available at the time. This title is available for use at Hagley Library.

So why did hybrid technology fail at first? For the Woods Dual Power it was a matter of comparable performance and maintenance standards. With a maximum speed of only 35 mph, the Dual Power was slower than most contemporary gasoline-powered engine models. Additionally, the dual technology of both an electric and gas engine required more maintenance than other models. Woods did release an updated version of the Dual Power in 1917, but the company met failure by 1919.

Approximately 80 years later, Toyota was able to perfect electric-gasoline hybrid technology with the Prius. Other companies such as Chevrolet and Honda currently produce hybrid models. What is curious to note is that both electric and hybrid technologies have existed since the first invention of automobiles. Why did gasoline-only models take over? What are your opinions?

Note: The collection does contain Prius materials, but copyright law prevents their digitization at this time.

C.E. Woods, The Electric Automobile: Its Construction, Care and Operation. Chicago: Herbert S. Stone & Company, 1900.

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.

Revisit our When Cars Fly! article from a few weeks ago, to see an update about the flying cars coming to this week’s 2012 New York Auto Show!

Revised April 17, 2012. Thanks to Jim Dalmas for your help in refining this post.

Archival Processing Methodology: Part 5 – Languages

One of the aspects of the Vinson Collection that make it such a valuable research tool is its international scope. However, this also presents one of its challenges because with that global scope comes a wide variety of languages! They include English, French, German, Italian, Afrikaans, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Spanish, Norwegian, Greek, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic, and even more. The variety in these languages presents a few different issues.

The first challenge in processing these materials is to identify which language it is. This job is made much simpler through the use of Google Translate. For those of you not familiar with this tool, one can enter the text they have and either select to translate it from Language A to Language B. Or even more helpfully in our case, it can be set on Detect Language and it will attempt identify the language based on the words that you input. Where even this impressive tool can sometimes fail you is with the languages using non-Latin character sets, since one cannot easily just type in the text to translate. In this case, one can utilize the “on screen keyboard” option, which is extremely helpful for Cyrillic languages.

However, if Google Translate fails us, all is not lost. Often based on our own knowledge, we can guess a region or potential country for the language. Then using the wealth of resources available online, we can pull up images of the characters and compare each language to the item we have. We also frequently consult with coworkers around the library to see if anyone else has the knowledge to identify a different language.

If all of these efforts fail (which, on rare occasions, they do), we resort to “unidentified languages” as the description in the finding aid. Then, once the collection is open, we hope that a patron might come in and be able to identify these few mystery languages.

The second challenge, once one identifies the language (or even if it can’t be), is to figure out what type of item it is. Though it is not necessary to get a full translation, one needs to be able to understand enough of it to get a sense of what it is. Is it a catalog? Great! But is it a catalog for one model? Multiple models? Fleet vehicles? Thankfully, the pictures are extremely helpful to identifying these distinctions. Though the distinctions sometimes grow fuzzier in a subseries like General Publications, one can still usually use context clues to infer what type of item at which one is looking.

Languages of materials are noted on the finding aid at the subseries level. For example, there will be a note that the Trade Catalogs: Specific Models are in languages X, Y, and Z or General Publications are all in language X. Additionally, an attempt is made to provide quantitative description, so that a researcher can tell that the material is almost all in English with one or two things in Dutch or something like that.

Past methodology posts discussing arrangement can be found here.

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

Hagley Video Minute Featuring the Vinson Collection

We pause from our regularly scheduled programming this week to bring you something a little bit different. Hagley Museum and Library has a YouTube channel featuring short videos containing interviews with staff and tours around the property. The latest Hagley Minute features two of the treasures of the Vinson Collection: the 1955 Ford Thunderbird catalog (which has already been the subject of a blog post) and a Lincoln V-12 showroom book (which will be the topic of a future post). The video is viewable below or on YouTube.

Stay tuned for future installments of the Hagley Minute featuring the Vinson Collection!

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


Archival Processing Methdology: Part 4

The last methodology post left off with a discussion of the General Publications subseries. The last two subseries to discuss are Media Information and Serials.

As usual, I’d like to start with a refresher of the arrangement hierarchy (click on the linked subseries names below to read more about their arrangements in our previous methodology posts):

Series 1. Automobile Makes
1.1 Car Make
1.1.1 Trade catalogs Specific Models Various Models Fleet Vehicles
1.1.2. General Publications
1.1.3. Media Information
1.1.4. Serials

The Media Information subseries contains press releases and media kits. These come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Many are just traditional folders containing printed press releases, with a selection of photographs and slides. Others are shaped like gas tanks or are wrapped in bandanas and contain electronic media such as floppy discs, CDs, or flash drives.

These kits are arranged by motor show, model, or subject. Motor shows represented prominently include North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Frankfurt Motor Show, Geneva Motor Show, Paris Motor Show, and New York International Auto Show, among others. If the kit is not indicated for a specific show, but instead a model, it is filed under that model’s name. If the kit is not for a show or a model, but instead discusses a particular subject, such as safety features or new hybrid or environmental advances, the kit will be filed under the subject (i.e. Safety Features or Environmental Initiatives). Lastly, if a kit covers multiple topics or models, it is simply filed under Press Releases and arranged chronologically. This is where you will find many kits advertising a company’s full line-up when kits were not designed for a specific motor show.

Serials are largely made up of reprints of articles from automotive magazines. Frequently represented titles include The Motor, Road & Track, Autocar, and Car and Driver. Also included in this group are complete issues of serials published by particular companies, often directed at owners of their vehicles. The number of issues varies from company to company. Sometimes decades are represented with every issue included; other times, there is just a scattered issue here or there.

Keep in mind that the serials contained in this section are only those that are produced by a specific company or about a specific company. General automotive serials will be cataloged in the regular Library Catalog.

This wraps up all of the subseries in the Automobile Makes series. Future methodology posts will highlight challenges such as foreign languages and undated materials. Use the comments section for any questions or comments.

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