I love scrapbooks. Unfortunately, I never have time to make my own. What’s the next best thing? Collect vintage scrapbooks! I recently found this one in the dank basement of a shady antique shop (in a godforsaken Upstate New York city that shall remain nameless).
From what I can tell, this scrapbook was owned by a woman in her early twenties. In it, she chronicled her adventures with her significant other, Joe. The album covers her travels to New York City, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, and New Orleans. It seems that Joe went to war mid-way through the album, as evidenced by a postcard he sent her from Paris. Meanwhile, the woman went away to college in Pittsburgh.
I want to focus on her trip to New York City in June, 1942. I had a lot of fun flipping through those pages, as the photographs reminded me of my own trip to the city last April. Below are a few comparisons: On the left are photos from the scrapbook. On the right are some of my photos.
The photographs in the scrapbook were not snapped by the young woman. Rather, they were purchased as a souvenir set and later pasted into the book. Souvenir photo sets were common in the WWII era. These particular images were taken by William Frange. It seems that Frange took several photographs of Coney Island and famous New York City sites from the 1920s to the 1940s. His work appeared in New York Times publications. If you know anything else about Frange, I’d love to hear it. He’s a difficult man to track down!
My favorite New York City photograph in the scrapbook might be this one, the Chrysler Building. The young woman’s caption, “A monument to industry,” says it all. Not only is the skyscraper a fabulous example of the Art Deco style, but it is a symbol of the manufacturing and infrastructure America was known for. The caption seems to validate the concept of the American Century.
In closing, here is the 1921 film by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler called Manhatta. I’ve been hooked on the film for a while now, and I think it really brings the photos in the scrapbook to life. Enjoy!