“An Ideal Home”: A Scrapbook Guide to Setting Up Roots

Last December, we found a catalog description that intrigued us. When the item arrived, it was better than we imagined. A scrapbook filled with cut out images from newspapers and magazines, depicting everything you might need to get started as a new homemaker.

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This scrapbook, wonderful as it is, reflects one of the challenges for archivists. Sometimes, when we acquire an item or a collection, it’s obvious. We know the who, what, where, why, and when of it. Sometimes we think we know, discover we’re wrong, and find out something new. And other times, we get, well, a scrapbook like this.

As you may notice, the images in the gallery do not indicate anything about identity. Unfortunately, neither do any of the other pages. There’s no name of the compiler, who took the time to find and place the clipped items, no name of the person who came up with the lists and prices, and no name any owner. Without a clue to the creator, we’re left with the other questions of “why?” and “when?” This item may very well have been a gift to a new bride, a scrapbook full of advice about setting up a household for the first time. Alternatively, it may have been a school project, perhaps a home economics assignment for a student. Not all mysteries can be solved, but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean a few interesting facts or lessons from the scrapbook, either (though sadly, you won’t be able to buy a house and fill it for $12,500 today!):

  • Kitchen appliances and items never go out of style. (Well, they might go out of style, but whether it’s avocado green or stainless steel, you still need a refrigerator these days, as well as pots and pans and knives.)
  • Organized closets make it much easier to find things.
  • It never hurts to be over-prepared for the cocktail hour.
  • Plan your menu, especially if you’re having company.

We hope to be posting the whole scrapbook for online viewing in the near future, as we’re experimenting with some new software. (Currently, you can view the finding aid here.) Once it’s all set, we’ll be sure to post an update! Or, come by and see it in person!

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