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Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Ellen Gruber Garvey (New Jersey City University), "Unstable Access to the Print Record: The Case of Back Number Budd and 19th Century Newspapers"

1913 photo of Budd
1913 photo of Budd in his office.

Monday, December 6, 2021, 5:15pm, in person and via Zoom*

*For Zoom information, please please contact Aylin Malcolm.

Our speaker writes:

Nineteenth century institutions did not consider old newspapers valuable and did not reliably save them. Researchers and others who needed outdated newspapers and even magazines had little chance of finding what they wanted unless they happened to learn of Robert M. Budd, better known as Back Number Budd. This African American dealer in old newspapers in New York City stockpiled millions of old newspapers, operating from around 1880 into the early 1930s. My talk will explore Budd’s pioneering work, his novel methods of obtaining materials, and how racism constrained his business and customers’ understanding of it. Growing out of my earlier work on newspaper clipping scrapbooks, this talk discusses varied ways people saved and used old newspapers. Our recent experiences as researchers and scholars who have been blocked from access to research materials during COVID lockdown and restrictions has sensitized us to questions of access. My talk will examine restrictions on newspaper access, and the difficulties people had finding and gaining access to information sources in the 19th century.

About our speaker:

Ellen Gruber Garvey’s two award-winning books are Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance and The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture (both Oxford UP). Her articles on print culture include work on abolitionists’ use of newspapers as data, women periodical editors, Alice Dunbar Nelson’s suffrage scrapbooks, the recirculation of newspaper items, book advertising, and zines. She is currently back at work on a project on late 19th century stories about slave ships. She is Professor Emerita at New Jersey City University. 

Talks will be held live, in person, in the Class of 78 Pavilion, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. They will also be available via Zoom (please contact us for details). All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on future talks, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press, Emeritus), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Aylin Malcolm.