SCRAPBOOKS OF CENTENARY COLLEGE

Did you know that Taylor Memorial Library has a scrapbook collection? Probably not, because the albums haven’t seen the light of day in decades. Many of them are over one hundred years old, and are extremely fragile. We don’t handle them unless we have to. The archives staff has decided to display them for students, faculty, and staff members. We are excited to let people see them!

The origins of the modern scrapbook may be found in ‘commonplace books’, which were used as early as the 15th century. Commonplace books were used to compile information, like recipes, quotes, and poems. In the 16th century, friendship albums became popular. These albums resembled autograph books; friends or acquaintances would sign their names and add details to their page, like drawings or a poem. With the invention of photography, the average person was able to incorporate photos into their albums. Scrapbooking was a popular American pastime in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

These early scrapbooks were incredibly varied and often reflected the personal history of the individuals who created them. Some focused on news, while others covered sports or the lives of family members. Often the pages held news clippings, photographs, artwork, programs, ticket stubs, and written recollections. Old albums would be held together with tape or glue, and over the years they would deteriorate so completely that they would be discarded.

In recent years the practice of making or keeping scrapbooks has surged in popularity. In fact, it has become a multi-billion dollar business as companies have arisen to provide crafters with special papers, albums, trims, and decorative items in an almost unlimited array of colors and styles.

Millions of Americans consider themselves to be “scrapbookers.” It is considered the third most popular hobby or craft in the US.

The following four pictures are of an album from Taylor Memorial Library’s scrapbook collection, dated about 1900. This album is an early history of the college and includes photographs, recollections, college events, and newspaper articles.

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The pages of this album are brittle and damaged. There is a lot of discoloration due to sun exposure, damaging adhesives, and contact with newsprint.

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These programs are still in fairly good condition even though the pages are damaged.

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These pages of the album show views of Centenary College’s original main building, which was razed by fire in 1899.

Our scrapbooks look very different from what people today might consider a scrapbook. Most people might think of scrapbooks as photo albums with brightly colored pages, decorative cut-outs, and short descriptions.  Many of our scrapbooks look more like journals. Artwork, personal recollections, newspaper articles, and items decorate their pages.

There have been several different ‘authors’ for the Centenary scrapbooks. Students of the school, the wives of former presidents, and even the first President of Centenary, the Reverend George Whitney, put together scrapbooks chronicling Centenary College over the years.

The following pictures are from two albums created by a former student of Centenary Collegiate Institute (the original name of Centenary College) named Regina Baker. These albums are dated from 1906 to about 1910. She collected programs, napkins, sports score cards, letters, and other materials from her days at Centenary. She even included cigarette butts, a pill from when she was sick (which has since disintegrated and left a bad stain), and a baby’s bib.

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This page includes a fan that she once wore in her hair. Some items from her albums have gone missing, although we do not know if they fell apart or were removed.

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This album was left to the college by the family of Annie Blair Titman Cummins and George Cummins. It is more of a traditional photograph album, and has been decorated with cut out images of flowers. Image

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The scrapbooks of Centenary College give us a wonderful look at life in the Hackettstown area many years ago. Although the scrapbooks are seldom handled or viewed due to their delicacy, we will be putting them on display for a very short time on May 5th, 2014. Our albums are usually kept locked in the archives to preserve them from damage, and this will most likely be the first time they are ever viewed in public! We’re pretty excited to see what everyone thinks of them!

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