There’s no other book like it.
If you’re a scrapbooker today you might fill a book with fun vignettes about your life or photos of vacations or mementos from your family get-togethers. But, for people in various historical eras scrapbooking often took on different meanings. We’ve written before about some of these incredible collections, like the World War I nurse’s scrapbook that detailed life during the war or the “friendship book” of 1795. But, now a scrapbook from the 1930s has been discovered and it weighs a whopping 36 pounds!
The hand-assembled volume begins in 1928 and continued through the Great Depression as the pages of the book filled up quickly over the decade. The tome has a stunning 830 pages and is largely based around the 1930s comic strip, Wash Tubbs. The strip ran from 1924-1949 and chronicled the times in what was to become the first action/adventure comic strip. The spinoff comic, Captain Easy, ran until 1981.
The scrapbook was complied by I.A. Persinger who owned a barbershop in Kansas and began the book as an entertainment for his customers. But, Persinger soon recorded some of the events of the day, such as people going hungry or questionable decisions made by lawmakers that he would hand write in an idiosyncratic vocabulary (“Depresion still here”) onto the same pages that the comic strips had been glued onto.
Customers also signed the book with quotes, thanks, or other anecdotes and often indicated where they were from – showing that some of Persinger’s customers traveled from 50 miles away just to have their hair trimmed at his shop.
The leather-bound scrapbook snowballed from there and eventually had to be held together with metal spikes because it was too heavy and unwieldy for any sort of conventional book binding.
The scrapbook is certainly a piece of Americana as it details many aspects of life in the Midwest at the time. But, the additions by Persinger could also be considered outsider art as he often made doodles and drawings to accompany his words.
The massive assemblage of personal and social tidbits was found by sculptor and collector, Eric Oglander, who posted the book to his Instagram account. Once word got out about this incredible book, the staff of the Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library reached out to him and made an offer to buy the volume.
The book is now in the collections of the university and there are plans to restore and document each and every page of the book. The process is being funded in part by noted comics collector and expert, Maggie Thompson, who was the editor for the Comics Buyer’s Guide for many years. Library staff expect that the work won’t be completed until 2022, at which point the extremely rare book will be viewable by appointment only.
You can flip through more pages of the unusual book below.