Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, ca. 1724-1977
Warshaw, Isadore d. 1969
Sears, Roebuck and Company
Approx. 1000 cu. ft.: approx. 2000 document boxes and approx. 120 map case drawers
Adirondack Mountains (N.Y.)
Although the Warshaw Collection contains the largest aggregate of business ephemera in the Archives Center, researchers may also wish to consult a separate, constantly growing, artificial collection of similar material, the Archives Center Collection of Business Americana (collection no. 404), which is affectionately called "Warshaw Junior" by the staff.
A New York bookseller, Warshaw assembled this collection over nearly fifty years. Beginning about 1920, Warshaw became concerned about the business community's lack of interest in its past and, sensing an opportunity for himself, began collecting materials many companies were discarding. He acquired business papers, advertisements, and other printed paper materials, often called ephemera, wherever he could. By the late 1960s his collection contained more than a million pieces, which he used to research copyright and trademark issues, create trade shows, and provide images to researchers for study and illustration. In 1967 he sold his collection to the Smithsonian Institution.
Vast numbers of advertising cards, catalogs, posters, pamphlets, labels, lithographs, business documents, business letterheads, and advertising artifacts such as packages and outdoor signs. Although most material is from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there are a few late-eighteenth-century items and substantial numbers from the 1930s-1950s. The collection offers glimpses into the advertising and business activities of thousands of enterprises over many decades.
Business Ephemera--Vertical Files: This is the largest portion of the collection and is divided into 538 subject and geographical categories.
Business Ephemera--Oversize: 213 flat oversize boxes and 34 map case drawers, divided into the same subject and geographical subject categories as materials in the Business Ephemera Vertical Files.
Other Collection Divisions: These represent a significant accumulation of one type of material, rather than a mix of various types of ephemera, including Business Records, Cinema Lobby Cards, Fire Insurance Maps, Liquor and Wine Labels and Advertisements, Photographs, Reward and Wanted Posters, and Sheet Music.
Isadore Warshaw Personal Papers: Materials relating to how Mr. Warshaw maintained his collection as a business.
Photographic Reference Materials: Serve as a quick reference source to some of the images found in the collection.
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Archives Center, National Museum of American History