Tag Archives: memorabilia

From Rebecca: A novel in pictures

I am reading a fascinating book, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston. As it says on the cover, it is “a novel in pictures” and has “full-color vintage memorabilia on every page.” I am most of the way through reading it.

The novel is about a woman’s life from 1920 to 1928. She wants a career in writing (although a husband might be nice along the way too) and she narrates the story about her life in pursuit of her goals. The style of the book is what I love most. It is set up as a scrapbook that the narrator Frankie Pratt, ( she hates Frances), put together with pictures, items, and other memorabilia of what she is telling us. The text is written in short sections on her Corona typewriter, which she then pasted on the pages with the relevant items.

This published book doesn’t actually have items pasted into it of course, since that would have been bulky and expensive to do; each page is a photograph of the assembled items and text. It still feels like a scrapbook, even though we cannot feel the textures of the paper and cloth or open the cards depicted.

All the items are from the 1920s and I feel like I am browsing through an old catalogue. On one of the pages about a picnic is a picture of a wrapper for a Hershey’s almond chocolate bar. I had no idea that Hershey’s put almonds in their chocolate bars that early in time. I am also amused by the price of five cents on the candy wrapper. On another page, page 37, is a list of “Vassar College Required Clothing for Freshman Students 1920” which includes, “5 skirts (no hemline above 8 inches from floor),” “Exercise tunic and bloomers,” and Corsets (no “Parisian chemises” or Teddies”)”. Memorabilia on this page are pictures of clothing items cut out of the Sears Catalog, including the prices, (I see that an all wool canton crepe skirt cost $6.98) with a text balloon stating, “I order my Vassar wardrobe from the Sears Catalog.”

The author information on the back flap mentions that Caroline Preston has collected scrapbooks from childhood and held a job as an archivist at the Peabody/Essex museum and at Harvard University. She put in the acknowledgements that she was inspired by the scrapbooks of her mother and the memorabilia of her Godmother. She also has a section on her webpage explaining that she collected the materials herself and describes how she put the book together.

I highly recommend this book by Caroline Preston, published in 2011 by HarperCollins, titled The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt. It makes me curious about non-fictional scrapbooks.