Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana Subject Categories: Afro-Americana

Collection ID:
Warshaw, Isadore, 1900-1969
circa 1754-1963
Physical Description:
1.43 Cubic feet
consisting of 3 boxes, 2 folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 map case folder, plus digital images of some collection material.
A New York bookseller, Warshaw assembled this collection over nearly fifty years. The Warshaw Collection of Business Americana: Afro-Americana forms part of the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Subseries 1.1: Subject Categories. The Subject Categories subseries is divided into 470 subject categories based on those created by Mr. Warshaw. These subject categories include topical subjects, types or forms of material, people, organizations, historical events, and other categories. An overview to the entire Warshaw collection is available here: Warshaw Collection of Business Americana

Scope and Contents note
Scope and Contents note
This material consists primarily of information relating to significant events in the history of African Americans in the United States. Most of the materials relate to the issue of slavery, race relations and the Civil Rights Movement. Images of African Americans created for commercial use also comprise a large portion of these materials. There is a small amount of information relating to events in France. Although most of the materials are about African Americans, there are only a few created by them.
Materials are arranged by topic to include slavery, abolition, colonization, Reconstruction, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement. The earliest materials relate to slavery and consist primarily of receipts for truces paid on property, advertisements announcing the sale of slaves, passes, promissory notes and speeches questioning slavery.
Late nineteenth century materials relate to organizations created by African Americans in an effort to improve their quality of life. Such organizations include hospitals, homes for orphans, schools, and political associations. These materials aid in our understanding of African Americans as active members of society rather than as victims.
In contrast the largest amount of material from this time period consists of commercial images created by advertisers. Such commercial art reflects the political, social, economic and psychological concerns of the time. The perceptions and fears of the wider society were depicted primarily on advertising cards. Such advertising cards used stereotypical images of African Americans to sell products. These products often included soap, stove polish, tobacco, cosmetics, whiskey, cereal, flour, greeting cards, coffee, baking soda, blacking, bluing, paint, varnish, and music. Often there appears to be no connection between image and product. In those instances African Americans were used to supply the humor. Occasionally there was logic between the image and the product. The logic between the product and the image of African Americans generally was a reference to skin color or lack of education and or social skills.
There are also a number of advertisements portraying African Americans from magazines. These images differed from the ones used on advertising cards which is probably due to the national character of magazines. African Americans were generally portrayed as servants such as Ratus "Cream of Wheat", Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben.
Twentieth century materials cover events and organizations formed during the Civil Rights Movement. Ephemera from C.O.R.E., S.C.L.C. and N.A.A.C.P. represent types of materials that were circulated during the period. There is little or no commercial imagery from this time period.

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
Materials in box one through two are arranged by topic. Part of box two contains images of African Americans consisting of engravings, chromolithographs, photographs and a few commercial images not associated with a product.
Box three contains photocopies of stereotypical images of blacks used to sell specific products. The originals are found in the subject category that it represents.
  • History Topics
  • Miscellaneous Material
  • Images of African Americans

Vanessa Broussard-Simmons
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Afro-Americana is a portion of the Business Ephemera Series of the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Accession AC0060 purchased from Isadore Warshaw in 1967. Warshaw continued to accumulate similar material until his death, which was donated in 1971 by his widow, Augusta. For a period after acquisition, related materials from other sources (of mixed provenance) were added to the collection so there may be content produced or published after Warshaw's death in 1969. This practice has since ceased.

Digital Content
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Using the Collection
Preferred Citation note
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana Subject Categories: Afro-Americana, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Conditions Governing Access note
Collection is open for research. Some items may be restricted due to fragile condition.
Conditions Governing Use note
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Materials in the Archives Center
Materials in the Archives Center
Archives Center Collection of Business Americana (AC0404)

Forms Part Of

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Business ephemera Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ephemera Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012