he rederick . lanchard crapbook roject
He was an ordinary soldier. Not of distinguishing rank, average built of average height for the time period. You will not find his name connected to any famous battles or campaigns. You will not find him listed in any of the over sixty thousand books written about the Civil War. Yet Frederick C. Blanchard served his nation during the bloodiest war in American history, and left behind a legacy that only now is beginning to be recognized for it’s historical importance; a scrapbook. A scrapbook covering the time of, and immediately following the American Civil War.
The forerunner of the Scrapbook, or Commonplace Book as they have been called, was first compiled during the Greek and Roman era. The word “album” meaning white tablet, referring to the various sources of information that was recorded on paper tables that were white. (Buckler, Patricia. “From the Personal to the Historical.” The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity Magazine. Summer 2003. Page 5) During the Medieval and Renaissance eras, scribes began to bind drawings, writings, scientific & religious notations, as well as interpretations of allegorical meanings into books, and by the 1600s Commonplace Books were established as “books in which good sayings and notable observations are recorded.” (Ibid.) It would not however, be until 1706 and the publication of John Locke’s “A New Method of Making Common-Place-Books,” that the use of these books would become popular, and by the early nineteenth century, “friendship albums,” as they were now called (in which autographs, poetry, invitations, and letters were kept), had become part of everyday life. However these books were mostly seen as commonplace items, with many late nineteenth-century advice books referring to them not for their value as historical documents, but rather as a nice craft for children to engage in. But as Patricia Prandini Buckler, associate professor of English at Purdue North Central in Westville Indiana points out, “years ago scrapbooks gave meaning to the lives of their creators; today they continue to help historians understand those lives.” (Buckler, Patricia Prandini. “From the Personal to the Historical.” The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity. Summer 2003. Page 13.)
The serious study of the scrapbook as an historical document is a fairly recent one. Most books published on the subject in the eighteen and early 1900s focused on the actual creation of said books, more in the line of “how-to” manuals than the importance of the information therein. Examples of this can be found in Janet E Ruutz-Rees’ Home Occupations, and Shaw G. Bernard’s My Expensive Scrap Book, published in 1883 and 1915 respectfully. Ruutz-Rees’ work, published by D. Appleton and Company of New York, looks at the materials best used for creating these books, the best way to organize said books, as well as instructions on creating inset books, “books with the margins wide enough to allow the insertion of material from other books.” (Bias, Danielle & Black, Rebecca & Tucker, Susan. Scrapbooks and Albums, Theories and Practice. <www.tulane.edu/~welib/susan.html> Page 13.) Bernard’s “book,” which was in reality a nineteen-page pamphlet for the Hemstreet Clipping Bureau, describes the creditability in using clippings to “establish oneself as a credible witness in law proceedings or as a learned person.” (Ibid.) While this approach is slightly more important than the “how-to” manuals printed at the time, the author creates the pamphlet more for commercial, rather than historical importance.
It would not be until the later half of the twentieth century that the scrapbook as an historical document began to be considered seriously. In 1988 Ackbar Abbas published an article for the New Literary History magazine, entitled “Walter Benjamin’s Collector: The Fate of the Modern Experience,” in which the author chronicles the history of scrapbooks, but also examines the relationship between the individual creating the scrapbook and the person later examining it. 1991 saw Patricia Prandini Buckler publish “A Silent Women Speaks: The Poetry in a Women’s Scrapbook of the 1840s,” for issue sixteen of the magazine Prospects, in which the author examines the pomes placed in the scrapbook of Ann Elizabeth Buckler, produced from 1832 to 1855. In examining the pomes Buckler claims that one can get an insight into the many issues faced by women of early nineteenth century, and that the “scrapbook served not only as one of the few ways women could express themselves, but also as [an] autobiographical testament…of an individual who would otherwise remain anonymous.” (Bias, Danielle & Black, Rebecca & Tucker, Susan. Scrapbooks and Albums, Theories and Practice. <www.tulane.edu/~welib/susan.html> Page 3.) Writing for the Archival and Bibliographic Series of the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, author Jennifer Bruing examines the social life of women in the early part of the twentieth century “through the use of eleven scrapbooks held in the Newcomb College collection.” (Bruning, Jennifer. “Pages of History.” Archival and Bibliographic Series of the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women. Issue #4, 1993) In 1995 Jim Burant, in his paper, “More Than A File Cabinet: Scrapbooks as Personal Expression” (presented at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivist), argued, “that scrapbooks are among the most ubiquitous form of family record keeping” (Bias, Danielle & Black, Rebecca & Tucker, Susan. Scrapbooks and Albums, Theories and Practice. <www.tulane.edu/~welib/susan.html> Page 3.), comparing the scrapbook to modern day videotapes of family events.
The early part of the twenty-first century saw several articles published expounding the importance of the scrapbook in relation to both historical memory and material culture. In her article for the Journal of Archival Organization, “Scrapbooks: Intrinsic Value and Material Culture,” author Juliana Kuipers states the importance that the formatting and arrangements of a scrapbook play to researchers looking at this material as historical documents. (Kuiper, Juliana. “Scrapbooks: Intrinsic Value and Material Culture.” Journal of Archival Organization, Volume 2, Number 3, 2004. Pages 83 – 91) Patricia Prandi Buckler again enters the fray with her 2003 article; “From the Personal to the Historical,” published in The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity magazine. In it the author traces the history of scrap booking from a nineteenth century exercise for children, to the more serious aspects the “hobby” took on in the mid to late twentieth century. As the author points out, “many nineteenth-century keepers of scrapbooks were keenly aware of the historical nature of their compositions…[as] scrapbooks frequently documented lives not documented elsewhere.” (Buckler, Patricia Prandini. “From the Personal to the Historical.” The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity. Summer 2003. Page 12.)
The scrapbook today plays a very important part in understanding the past, not only for the primary documents contained within its pages, but also for the material culture its represents. The scrapbook not only let’s one see into the past, but it lets one see into the past through the eyes of its author. The author or creator of the scrapbook decides what is of importance to his or her personal recollections, and in doing so we may gain an understanding of the author himself. The Blanchard scrapbook is no exception. By exploring and analyzing its contents, we will present the material as both a collection of individual documents, and as a single complete document and how it relates to both historical memory and material culture. The paper will be divided into three sections:
In the end its is hoped that by examining this reference source, we will not only gain a better understanding of the dynamics which when into creating said scrapbook, but also into what was, and was not, important to the author, in addition to how the author viewed his own life. At the very least, through the transcription and examination of the original unreleased documents, we may shed new light into that greatest struggle of the American past.
The role of historical memory plays a large part in American society today. How we view ourselves in great part depends on how we view our past. The American Civil War is considered a watershed in the development of the American identity, as is the most singled researched event in American history. This work is important because it examines an otherwise overlooked source of information: the scrapbook. Considered a exercise for children in the nineteenth-century, and a source of family memory in the twentieth, it is only within the confines of the twenty-first century that the material collected within its pages is finally being considered not only for its value in historic documents, but for providing a look into the mind of an individual long since passed. How a person views his own time in the memorabilia one keeps is just as important as the material that allows us to piece together the past. And the scrapbook, taken in both lights, presents an opportunity to explore that past.
rimary and Secondary Sources
The primary sources that will be used in compiling the paper will include the scrapbook of Captain Frederick C. Blancahrd, complied during the later years of the nineteenth-century and entrusted to the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) sometime during the 1930s. The collection came into the position of this author in the early 1980s, when said author’s father (having been an employee of the BPL for 47 years), found the scrapbook on a discard pile. In addition several documents from the National Archives will be used to present a limited biographical profile of Captain Blanchard and his tenure within the Union Army. The use of secondary material will be kept to a minim, and used only to support the argument that scrapbooks present a viable source of historical importance. The sources and documents that will be referenced include but are not limited to:
Civil War history, like history itself, is not static. As noted Civil War historian William C. Davis writes, “Oddly, history changes…history is a fluid process in which little remains certain for long.” (General Edward J. Stackpole. “Chancellorsville: Lee’s Greatest Battle.” Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1988. Page ii.) The material of today builds upon and supplements the material of yesterday. It is not that the early history of the Civil War has become useless, but has been redefined as new information has been brought to light. Therefore any new information, however humbled, adds to the overall knowledge of the topic. By looking into the material one collected in the “scrapbook,” one may not only see the picture of the individual author come to life, but also a very different picture that differs from the general view that has been presented on a subject over the years.
The Frederick C. Blancahrd Scrapbook Project © 2006 John Rocco Roberto.
All original photographs of scrapbook and text © 2005/2006 John Rocco Roberto.