Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance

Book Award Author
Ellen Gruber Garvey, Professor of English, New Jersey City University
Book Award Year

In the days before Google and the blogosphere, Americans still valued interaction with media and preserving historical events that mattered to them, despite their lack of virtual tools to deal with the nascent age of information. So with the tenacity and ingenuity so typical of 19th century American spirit, a new method of recording and interacting with media came to the fore: scrap booking. This woefully neglected trend in American popular culture touched the lives of everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Susan B. Anthony, from emancipated slaves to confederate soldiers.

Ellen Garvey’s pioneering book explores the profoundly personal relationship Americans have had with media over the last 150 years through the lens of scrap booking, which was both an intensely personal and democratic exercise in information processing. By taking newspaper clippings, sermons and other pieces of information that they found relevant, Americans managed to interact with their media sources in a manner that would otherwise have been impossible due to race, sex, or class barriers. Garvey’s book provides a novel take on our familiar national history, recounting events, both major and minor, as told by the individuals who lived them and recorded them in their scrapbooks.