Saturday, November 29, 2008

Classics in Washington History 3: Delightful Ephemera

(This is the third post in a series, see the others here: 1, 2, 2.5.)

One of the great strengths of any digitization project is that way it saves obscure and overlooked records and presents them to a broad audience. When a project such as Classics in Washington History puts a classic memoir such as Lawrence Kip's Army life on the Pacific online a great public service is performed. But it does not help advance the scholarship of northwest history--we already knew about Kip and his memoir.

So I am delighted to find that many of the items in the Classics in Washington History project are not merely obscure, but downright ephemeral. "Ephemera" is a term famously difficult to define, but is often used as a catchall for printed items that are not books, such as posters, postcards, sheet music, maps, timetables, pamphlets, programs, and the like. Many ephemeral items were produced for a specific and temporary purpose. When they survive at all it is in small quantities and often in obscure locations. They are perfect candidates for digitization.

Camp Lewis (cover image above) is a example of great digitized ephemera (though at 80 pages it might be stretching the definition and coming closer to something we should call a book). Published in 1917 in Seattle, Camp Lewis is something of a souvenir and patriotic yearbook for the Doughboys and their officers who passed through the camp in America's first year of involvement in the Great War. The anonymous author writes that the booklet "will furnish a better understanding of the seemingly intricate organization, of which the soldier is a vital part, that is using every means and method to make of him a good soldier-synonymous with good citizen-to provide for his comfort and welfare and to prove to him that it is the most meritorious, efficient and energetic Army on earth; to teach him that, as a member of that wonderful body, loyalty, obedience and confidence should and must be his rule of action always." Along with the names of many of the men at Camp Lewis the booklet provides descriptions of army life and quite a few pictures of the camp and its activities.

More ephemera after the bump. (Du'oh--the "More Inside" feature is not working for me today, so here it goes.)

This undated (but probably from the 1890s) railroad brochure tells us: "The completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad, spanning the northwestern portion of the United States between the headwaters of the Mississippi and the most westerly of the Great Lakes and Puget Sound , has developed in Washington Territory a region of such illimitable wealth of soil, iron, coal and lumber as fairly entitles it to the name of the "Pennsylvania of the West." Pennsylvania? See also the section on "Tacoma, the City of Destiny," and the nifty maps of Washington and of the route of the Northern Pacific in the back.

Another surprising RR brochure from the same era is Alaska via Northern Pacific R.R. by John Muir (!) published in 1891. The brochure is nicely illustrated with photographs of people and scenery along the way. There are also two more Northern Pacific RR pamphlets:
Washington the Evergreen State and Washington.

Other interesting ephemera include an epic poem, Annals of old Angeline : "Mika Yahoos delate klosch!" (see below) by Bertha Piper Venen; this very rare 1831 stock certificate from the American Society for Encouraging the Settlement of the Oregon Territory, and this 1939-40 Real property survey, Seattle, Washington.

Coming up next: Local History at the Classics in Washington History collection.

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