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Jay T. Last Collection of American Entertainment: Circus Prints and Ephemera: Finding Aid
priJLC_ENT_Circus  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library include
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Jay T. Last Collection of American Entertainment: Circus Prints and Ephemera
    Dates (inclusive): 1850s-1990s
    Bulk dates: 1890-1960
    Collection Number: priJLC_ENT_Circus
    Collector: Last, Jay T.
    Extent: approximately 650 items
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Prints and Ephemera
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: 626-405-3473
    Email: lastcollection@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: The Jay T. Last Collection of American Entertainment: Circus Prints and Ephemera contains more than 650 printed items that relate to circuses in the United States from the 1850s to the 1990s. The collection consists of advertising and promotional materials, business records, and illustrations produced for or pertaining to circuses, their tours and shows, staff and performers, acts and exhibits, and animals.
    Language: English.
    Note:
    Finding aid last updated on July 18, 2014.

    Access

    The collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, please visit the Huntington's website: www.huntington.org.  

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Huntington as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Item title, Call number]. Jay T. Last Collection of American Entertainment: Circus Prints and Ephemera, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Provenance

    This collection forms part of the Jay T. Last Collection of Lithographic and Social History, which was donated to the Huntington Library by Jay T. Last in 2005 as a gift in progress. The bulk of the Circus Prints and Ephemera were transferred to the Library between 2010 and 2013.

    Background

    The Jay T. Last Collection is an unparalleled archive of printed paper artifacts that documents American lithographic, social, and business history. The collection began in the early 1970s when physicist and Silicon Valley pioneer Jay Last moved to Southern California and started collecting citrus box labels he found at local flea markets and rummage sales. As his collection grew, Last realized that these labels conveyed important information about commercial printing, graphic design, and social history, and he expanded his collection to include other forms of American visual culture. Today this collection contains more than 185,000 lithographic prints, posters, and ephemera of mostly nineteenth- and early twentieth- century American origin and represents works by more than five hundred lithographic companies.

    Scope and Content

    The Jay T. Last Collection of American Entertainment: Circus Prints and Ephemera contains more than 650 printed items that relate to circuses in the United States from the 1850s to the 1990s. The collection consists of advertising and promotional materials, business records, and illustrations produced for or pertaining to circuses, their tours and shows, staff and performers, acts and exhibits, and animals.
    Materials are arranged in three series: small-size prints and ephemera (11 x 14 inches or less); large-size prints and ephemera (more than 11 x 14 inches); and broadsides and handbills. The small-size items are described broadly at the series level; large-size items are fully inventoried and all printers, artists, and publishers are indexed by name; and the broadsides and handbills contain item-level entries that include the circus name, date, printer (when identified), and show location (when applicable).
    The collection has 206 large-size items comprised mainly of lithographic posters containing brightly colored images of featured circus acts, performers, and animals that were typically posted outdoors in advance of the circus coming to town.
    Small-size items in the collection number more than 320 and are comprised mainly of advertising and promotion ephemera and business documents such as trade cards, programs and souvenir books, route cards, envelopes, tickets, songsters, and printed billheads and letterheads.
    The 130 broadsides, handbills, and related advertisements consist primarily of long, narrow broadsides printed on newspaper paper in black ink using letterpress type that advertised upcoming circus shows and were intended to be distributed by hand, left in stacks in public places, or posted on walls, fences, or in windows in advance of the circus’s arrival in a town.
    This collection provides a resource for studying the history of the American circus and its impact on popular entertainment and advertising in the 19th and 20th centuries. As graphic materials, the items offer evidence of the development of printmaking techniques and trends, and of the artists, engraves, lithographers, printers, and publishers involved in the creation of these prints.

    Alternative Form of Materials Available

    Visit the Huntington Digital Library: Jay T. Last Collection   to view digitized items from this collection.

    Related materials in the Huntington Library include

    Note: The Huntington Library Historical Prints Collection contains one related item (priHHC_ENT_0000001) that is listed in the "Related Materials" section at the beginning of Series II in this finding aid.

    Arrangement

    Items are arranged in the following three series:
    • Series I. Circus Prints and Ephemera (small size)
    • Series II. Circus Prints and Ephemera (large size)
    • Series III. Circus Broadsides and Handbills

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Genres

    Advertisements.
    Billheads.
    Business cards.
    Business records.
    Business records -- United States -- 19th century.
    Business records -- United States -- 20th century.
    Chromolithographs.
    Circus posters.
    Ephemera.
    Engravings.
    Leaflets (printed works).
    Letterheads.
    Lithographs.
    Posters.
    Printed ephemera.
    Prints.
    Promotional materials.
    Relief prints.
    Tradecards.

    Subjects

    Acrobats -- Pictorial works.
    Advertising -- Circus.
    Animal trainers -- Pictorial works.
    Circus -- Pictorial works.
    Circus -- United States -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
    Circus -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Circus animals -- Pictorial works.
    Circus performers -- Pictorial works.
    Circus owners -- Pictorial works.
    Clowns -- Pictorial works.
    Curiosities and wonders -- Pictorial works.
    Entertainment events -- Pictorial works.
    Horsemen and horsewomen -- Pictorial works.
    Women circus performers -- Pictorial works.

    Printer, Publisher, Artist Index

    The following is a complete list of printers, publishers, and artists represented in the large-size prints and ephemera (Series II) in this collection.
    Acme Show Print (Firm)
    American Show Print (Firm)
    Bailey, Bill.
    Biggerstaff, Bill.
    Butler, Roland, 1887-1961.
    Central Ptg. and Illinois Litho. Co.
    Central Show Printing Co.
    Chicago Show Printing Co.
    Colorcraft Poster Co.
    Coplan, Maxwell Frederic.
    Courier Company.
    Courmont Freres.
    Currier & Ives.
    Donaldson Litho. Co.
    Erie Litho. & Ptg. Co.
    Freeland, Forrest Dean, -1975.
    Globe Poster Corp.
    Graphics 2000 (Las Vegas, Nev.)
    Howe, George, 1886-1955.
    J.H. & F.F. Farwell (Firm)
    Majestic Poster Press.
    Neal Walters Poster Corporation.
    Potthast, Edward Henry, 1857-1927.
    Rimanoczy, A., 1832-1910.
    Ripley, Robert L. (Robert LeRoy), 1890-1949.
    Riverside Printing Company
    Rothengatter, Emil, 1848-1939.
    Sharp, Howard Bird, 1877-1952.
    Strobridge Lithographing Company
    Triangle Poster & Printing Company
    Wood, Lawson, 1878-1957.