In 1928, barber I.A. Persinger started compiling a collection of “Wash Tubbs” comics, artist Roy Crane’s daily newspaper strip. But he did something else: he had his friends and customers write in the scrapbook, as evidenced by its spine’s inscription, “Dear friends of mine, Please write a line / In this little Wash Tubbs book of mine. / Help me Keep you in my Mind.” The scrapbook became not just a comics collection, but a group-authored text on Great Depression-era life.
Now, the over-800-page scrapbook is housed by Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, about to undergo a time-consuming conservation process: conservators will disband the book in order to digitize the pages; the first 20 pages, the most heavily used, will undergo preservation treatment; and then the book will be reassembled.
Karen Green, Columbia’s Curator for Comics and Cartoons, told Atlas Obscura that the scrapbook is an incredible primary source. “Comics can be terrific conveyors of social norms, political movements—reflections of the concerns of the day,” said Green. “There are so many avenues of research that the Persinger scrapbook offers, from social history to rural social networks to outsider art. I’m also hoping, as we explore deeper in its pages, that we find messages that comment directly on the “Wash Tubbs” strips, which will speak to the reception of comics in daily life.”
Take a look at the scrapbook’s pages and exterior below: