Viewbooks : Window into America

The Midwest

Enter Into the Land of Peace, Progress and Plenty : New Holstein in the beautiful Lake Winnebago region of Eastern Wisconsin. Cover.

Enter into the land of peace, progress and plenty: New Holstein in the beautiful Lake Winnebago region of Eastern Wisconsin. New Holstein, [1915].

AA735 N451 N451 S

Click here for item information Enter Into the Land of Peace, Progress and Plenty : New Holstein in the beautiful Lake Winnebago region of Eastern Wisconsin. Opening.

AA735 N451 N451 S

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This is an excellent example of the viewbook-as-booster-booklet, a souvenir of a small town that describes itself as the “Home of Quality.” Like others of its kind, this viewbook is a glowing advertisement for all things New Holstein. The image at left is typical – a collage of the town’s agricultural and manufacturing products that communicate to the reader both New Holstein’s bounty and also its work ethic. Each caption includes the name of the person or company responsible for the product, should the reader happen to find herself in New Holstein with money to spare and an appetite for seed peas or cigars.

The title of this viewbook is also instructive. Peace, progress and plenty are three of the primary ways in which small towns sought to describe themselves in viewbooks. A peaceful place to live and raise a family, not like the crowded and dirty cities of the East. A progressive place, with new public facilities for self-improvement like schools, libraries and athletic and intellectual societies. A place of plenty, where the local economy and agriculture are thriving, and there is abundant opportunity for advancement.



St. Louis Exposition in a Nutshell. Detail of an interior foldout including an architect's name

Nutshell Novelty Company. St. Louis Exposition [in a nutshell]. Chicago, 1904.

AA6750 Sa2 1904 N8

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Produced by the Nutshell Novelty Company, this cleverly-packaged souvenir is another great example of the novelty viewbook format. Forty-four views of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, held in St. Louis in 1904, are pasted onto an accordion strip that fits inside of the walnut shell casing. Views from the exposition include the Palace of Manufactures, designed by Carrre & Hastings, and the Palace of Art, designed by Cass Gilbert. Many of the images include a short caption that lists the building’s dimensions and cost. While the large cost and scale of the Exposition buildings is meant to impress, so, too is the tiny size of this printed keepsake.



The world's only corn palace : Mitchell, South Dakota.

The world’s only corn palace: Mitchell, South Dakota. Chicago, 1949.

AA735 M692 ZW89 S

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Originally built in 1892, the Mitchell Corn Palace still stands today as a testament to the attempts of towns across the Great Plains to attract new residents through the advertising of local agricultural bounty. This viewbook gives the impression that residents of Mitchell, South Dakota had so much corn they were able to use corn husks to build a palace. “World’s only” is a somewhat spurious claim, as other crop and grain palaces were constructed in several Plains-states cities around the turn of the 20th century. However, as the text points out, “Sioux City, Iowa had abandoned their Corn Palace – why not build one here.” This accordion format, in which a series of postcard-sized images fold out from a decorated envelope, was typical of the publisher Curt Teich. Teich was a major producer of postcards, all in this distinct C.T. Art-Colortone style. Teich’s colortone printing process combined chromolithography with high linen content paper to produce a bright, durable image.



Eighty-Two Views of Cleveland. Cover.

Eighty-two views of Cleveland. Cleveland, [190-?].

AA735 C5 Ei44 S

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In contrast to the agricultural plenty described by New Holstein and other Midwestern towns, Rust Belt cities like Cleveland used viewbooks to highlight plenty of a different sort. The cover of Eighty-two views of Cleveland is in stark contrast to New Holstein’s cover scene of rural bliss. While the New Holstein cover does include two distant smokestacks, the Cleveland cover is dominated by skyline with puffs of industrial smoke in place of New Holstein’s wispy clouds. The gold-stamped letters that spell out Cleveland are also meant to spell out wealth, due in large part to steel manufacturing. To the modern-day viewer, viewbooks from cities like Cleveland and Detroit, produced during the pinnacle of their manufacturing prowess, serve as reminders of how quickly civic fortunes can change.

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