A JSB Christmas

Last week, in a quest for information on German-made Christmas ornaments for a patron, I turned to the J. Stanley Brothers Collection, or JSB as we call it, for the man responsible for building the collection. JSB was one of those people who managed to do an astounding number of things in his 80 years of life (1896-1976)—the kind of person who makes the rest of us look like slackers. He was a violinist, composer (first composition at age 12!), writer (of books, articles, sappy greeting cards—forgive me, JSB), and a researcher extraordinaire.

Black and white photographic portrait of JSB.

J. Stanley Brothers
Museography: Official Magazine of the Kalamazoo
Valley Museum, Summer 2006, p. 9

His primary research interest was glassware, mostly on American glass factories, but he collected information about foreign glass companies, glass decorating, glass technology, and many other topics. His collection (what we own of it) takes up over 10 shelves in our special collections.

If he couldn’t clip the original document, he transcribed it by hand and even sketched designs of glassware or machines from patent applications. These were the days before photocopy machines and scanners, of course. He traveled around the country gathering information, but he also wrote many letters soliciting brochures, documents, and trade catalogs from glass companies.

One of JSB’s typewritten transcriptions from a periodical. Kalamazoo Gazette, May 12, 1893. JSB Architecture folder CMGL 42491

Typewritten transcription. Kalamazoo Gazette, May 12, 1893. JSB Architecture folder CMGL 42491

In JSB’s Christmas folder were just the type of items I expect from this researcher: clippings from catalogs illustrating ornaments, magazine and newspaper stories on Christmas decorations and lighting, and JSB’s handwritten or typed notes, like the short entry on Coby Glass Products which produced ornaments, copied, he wrote on a card, from the “exterior of a packing carton.”

And then…an old, yellowed envelope containing a Christmas postcard. Entitled “A Loving Christmas Greeting” the card depicts a young child surrounded by greenery. On the back, someone had written: “Dear Cecilia, we all wish you a very Merry Xmas and hope that Santa Clause [sic] will bring you lots of presents.”

Postcard with young girl on front surrounded by holly. The postcard is dotted with small glass beads.

Postcard, JSB Christmas folder, ca 1918-1920 CMGL 42491

For a moment, I puzzled over why this card was in the folder. There were no pictures of ornaments or glass decorations anywhere that I could see. Then I noticed JSB’s thin, delicate handwriting penciled across the top: “This card has an over-layer of clear glass beads to improve luminosity. About 1918-1920.”

Back of postcard.

Back of postcard CMGL 42491

Ah, JSB, I can always count on you to overlook the sentimental in pursuit of your goal to document every aspect of glass history you could find.

In the words of J. Stanley Brothers:

Most ev'ry one's a Hobby, So I've a Hobby too, I'm sure that mine is most unique - My Hobby's LIKING YOU!

Greeting Card Verse, Museography: Official Magazine of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Summer 2006, p. 9

I can’t help but feel JSB’s hobby was fairly uncommon as well, and one that has helped answer a lot of glass questions for all of us and our patrons here at the Rakow Library.

The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.

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As manager of the Rakow Library’s public services team, Regan Brumagen coordinates reference, instruction, and outreach for the library and provides leadership in the assessment of user needs and services. Before joining the Museum staff in 2004, Brumagen worked as a reference librarian and instruction coordinator at several academic libraries. She received an M.A. in English and an M.L.S Library Science from the University of Kentucky. Currently, Regan is a member of several American Library Association divisions and has served on numerous committees for these divisions during her career.

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  1. Wow! I am so excited to find info about this man! He was a high school friend of my great aunt when they lived in Havelock, Nebraska. Perhaps even more than that, as she seemed to have been very fond of him. She was like a grandma to me and I have inherited all her photo albums and scrapbook. There are a LOT of photos and clippings about him and his family, so I was always curious if he had family still around, but I haven’t been able to find any. He appears to have gotten married later in life and had no children? She visited him when he moved to Kalamazoo, and he kept in touch with her throughout adulthood, visited her at least two times when she moved to southern CA…in the 1920s with his sister, and later on in the 40s or 50s with his wife. My great aunt had married twice but had no children. J. Stanley Brothers seemed like he should have been her soul mate. Like him, she was super into photography, playing music and Christmas. He really seemed like a fascinating guy, sad if he never had children to carry on his legacy. I would love to hear from anyone who is interested in or related to him! I have uploaded some photos she took of his family to the genealogical website DeadFred.

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