Sleeping on Air: A 19th Century Air Mattress

Would it surprise you to know that air mattresses existed in the nineteenth century? That thought never occurred to me until I came across this trade catalog from 1896 advertising the “Perfection” Air Mattress.

A deep dive in to the past

What would it look like to engage in a deep sea adventure in the early 20th century? The Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American History Library includes catalogs illustrating diving apparatus and equipment from right around that era.

Laurel Leaves from the Nineteenth Century

This post was written by Emily Daniel, Rebecca Durgin, and Shayla Wheat, graduate students in the Smithsonian-Mason History of Decorative Arts Masters Program. Emily, Rebecca, and Shayla were also Graduate Research Assistants in 2015-2016 at the National Museum of American History Library. In anticipation of the thirty-first modern Olympic Games being held in Rio de Janeiro starting this week, here is a look at the type of equipment that may have been more »

Batter Up: Early Twentieth Century Baseball Equipment

This post was written by Rebecca Durgin and Shayla Wheat, graduate students in the Smithsonian-Mason History of Decorative Arts Masters Program. Rebecca and Shayla were also Graduate Research Assistants in 2015-2016 at the National Museum of American History Library. Play ball! With baseball season underway across the United States, let’s take a look at early baseball equipment featured in a catalog from the Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American more »

The Season of Caps and Gowns

Graduation season is upon us! Some students have already graduated. Others are just about to graduate. Ever wonder if academic regalia looked any different in the past? Let’s take a look at caps, gowns, and hoods in a Cotrell & Leonard trade catalog from the early twentieth century. 

And a Book is Made…in 1892

It’s easy to take a book for granted and not think about the machines and time it took to make the book, especially in the nineteenth century. The Trade Literature Collection includes catalogs for bookbinding and printing machinery. Some of those machines are shown in this 1892 Montague & Fuller trade catalog.

The Challenge of Shelving Books

April 10-16 is National Library Week! In honor of the event, we invite you to explore some of the tools of the trade, circa 1894. Running out of space for your books? More books than space to shelve them? In the late nineteenth century, the Yost Circular Case Co. had just the thing for you. A revolving circular bookcase which allowed for the storage of more books in less space! This circa more »

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