Introduction to the Collection Series: Photos, Ephemera, and Patents

For our latest installment in the Introduction to the Collection Series, I bring you three more categories of materials you can find at The Rakow Research Library: photographs, ephemera, and patents.

We have a sizeable photograph collection at the Library and many more photographs reside within our archives, such as the one pictured below.  You’ll soon see why it’s no surprise that I chose this photograph to feature.

Photograph of George Otis Gleason taking measurements of 200” disk, bib no. 117727

Photograph of George Otis Gleason taking measurements of 200” disk, bib no. 117727

A childhood memory combined with some luck led me to the discovery that the man in the middle of that 200 inch telescope mirror is my great, great-grandfather!  When I was a child, I visited the Museum many times; on one of those visits, I remember my mom pointing to that same disk (it’s still on display and you can see it for yourself!) and told me that a relative of mine was involved it its making.  Fast forward many years and – as luck would have it – I happened to be researching photographs for inclusion in the Library’s 2011 exhibition Mirror to Discovery: The 200-Inch Disk and the Hale Reflecting Telescope at Palomar.  I joked that the unidentified man inside the center of the disk had to be my relative and presented a photocopy of it to my mom who confirmed my hunch and promptly showed me an identical photograph in her possession.  What luck!

The second category of material is ephemera, the term used for various printed or written material intended for short-term use.  Some examples of ephemera include baseball cards, invitations, greeting cards, trade cards, menus, and advertisements.  If you’re interested in a quick etymology lesson, ephemera comes from the Greek word ephemeros which means lasting about a day.  The images below are of two advertising cards for Mishler’s herb bitters (which were sold in glass bottles, of course).  The cards proclaim that the bitters alleviated various digestive ailments, among other complaints.

Ephemera relating to bitters, bib no. 69482

bib no. 69482

Ephemera relating to bitters, bib no. 69482

Ephemera relating to bitters, bib no. 69482

Lastly, we have a growing collection of patents such as the one featured below.  This cut glass design was patented by George E. Hatch in 1886; Hatch owned a cutting shop in Brooklyn in the late 19th century.

Ornamentation of glassware patent, bib no. 119140

Ornamentation of glassware patent, bib no. 119140

Often, patents can provide unique historical insight because they showcase inventions and progress (and don’t forget popular taste) from a certain era.  The patents we have mostly fall within the 19th and 20th centuries.  Stop by and check out these collections for yourself!


This is the ninth installment of the Rakow Research Library’s Introduction to the Collection Series.
<< Glass Research at The Rakow Research Library | Auction Catalogs >>

The Rakow Research Library is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday
Telephone: 607.438.5300 | Email (general inquiries): rakow@cmog.org