Imagined Geographies: Traveling by Page in the Early 20th Century

While lacking perfectly cut backing paper, bright stickers, and sunny vacation photos, there is one document in the Joseph Downs Collection at the Winterthur Library that makes scrapbooking a global endeavor.

The scrapbook was likely kept by druggist Jiří Havelka, whose stamp can be found on the first page. It contains many advertisements and labels from Prague businesses, which may point to his living there when the album was assembled. Most of the dated prints in the book come from between around 1900 and 1915, at the brink and into World War I.

The book contains over seventy leaves, which feature pasted-in stamps and advertisements along with notes and sketches. Some pages are themed or only contain one type of print, while others are mixed in media and content. A small version of the Austro-Hungarian Empire Coat of Arms (designed by Hugo Gerard Ströhl) is pasted on top of a soap label, on a page alongside advertisements for hair tonic, perfume, printing supplies, and international relief stamps.

Havelka could have used this scrapbook for any number of reasons, potentially simply collecting prints that he liked or seeking inspiration for advertising his own business. He may have used the book as a means of virtual travel, experiencing through prints the visual (and written) languages of locations ranging from dozens of cities across Europe to the United States, Egypt, India, Mexico, and Brazil. The juxtaposition of advertising, politics, and place could bring Havelka, and future viewers of the scrapbook, anywhere in the world.

Flip through the publication below to see a sample of some pages in the Havelka scrapbook. After selecting the red plus in the upper right, certain prints on each page (outlined in red), can be clicked for more information and translations.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 12.13.39 PMScreen shot of the publication on Issu. Notice the items surrounded by a red box with a comment and share button – click the comment button to find out more specific information about that item! 

The photographs in the digital scrapbook were taken by Emily Pazar of pages from “Labels and poster stamps scrapbook, ca.1901-ca.1915” (Doc. 1370) in the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera at the Winterthur Library.

By Emily Pazar, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, Class of 2016

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