Bella C. Landauer Writings and Reference Collection
Language of Materials
Scrapbooks, indices, monographs, articles, and correspondence comprise an archive for the Bella C. Landauer Collection of Business and Advertising Ephemera at the New-York Historical Society as well as for other collections of Landauer's that she deposited at other institutions.
Bella Landauer was born Bella Clara Fackenthal in New York in 1874, the only child of a profitable corset manufacturer. She attended classes at Miss Hewitt's, and became proficient in several foreign languages. Her father disapproved of college for women, so Bella educated herself with her inquiring mind and interest in many different subjects, including opera and theater. In 1900 she married Ian Nathan Landauer, a fabric importer and salesman, and a first-generation immigrant from Germany. The Landauers' sons were born in 1902 and 1906, and Bella devoted her intense energy to the task wife and motherhood. During World War I Mrs. Landauer volunteered for the New York chapter of the American Volunteer Field Service, which took a toll on her health. A doctor ordered her to rest, and Landauer looked to find more suitable activities for herself.
Bella Landauer first began collecting ephemera in 1923, when she bought a portfolio of bookplates and other prints for one hundred dollars. Though that portfolio was later revealed to have been stolen from a dealer, Landauer was permanently hooked on the idea of collecting printed ephemera. She first embarked on a quest to discover and acquire new bookplates. The next year she added tradecards. Subsequently, as she encountered new genres of material, her interests expanded and her collections grew. She traveled to Europe in search of ephemera, and began to create special collections on specific advertising themes.
In 1926, when Landauer moved from her brownstone at 11 West 74th Street into an apartment in the Drake Hotel, she no longer had space to house her already quite large collection of ephemera. She offered part of her collection to the New-York Historical Society, initially presenting a group of trade cards and bookplates, but never stopped adding to and expanding the collection. Landauer was first given a former kitchen in which to store and organize her collections. However, when the Society's building was expanded in the late 1930s, a special room was created on the third floor to house the Landauer Collection.
Landauer was made an Honorary Curator of the collection but was never on the Society's payroll. She spent hours at the Society organizing her various materials, and members of the public were invited to view them on Sunday afternoons. Landauer continued to collect and donate items, including lottery tickets, posters, sheet music, cameo cards, and matchbooks, until her death in 1960. Her son James D. Landauer donated more items to her collections.
Landauer often referred to her collections as "scraps of old paper," but these ephemeral items have proven to be valuable graphic records of their times. The New-York Historical Society's Bella C. Landauer Collection of Business and Advertising Ephemera holds over eight hundred thousand items. Landauer also donated ephemera to many other institutions: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the New York Public Library, Dartmouth College library, Library of Congress, and Baker Library at Harvard University.
In 2001, Landauer's reference materials were separated from the ephemera collection material, and PR 149 was created. All three-dimensional items (such as milk cartons, matchbooks, and paperweights) were transferred to the New-York Historical Society's Department of Painting, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts, with the remainder of the Bella C. Landauer Collection of Business and Advertising Ephemera (PR 031) left intact and continuing to be administered by the Society's Library.
The collection is organized into six series.
- Series I. Collection Guides and Indices
- Series II. Correspondence
- Series III. Publications
- Series IV. Scrapbooks
- Series V. Reference Works
- Series VI. Papers of Aerial Advertising Inc.
Scope and Content Note
The Bella C. Landauer Writings and Reference Collection spans the period from 1856 to 1972 and serves as a reference archive for the Bella C. Landauer Collection of Business and Advertising Ephemera (PR 031), as well as for some material in collections that she deposited at other institutions. The collection is divided into six series: Collection Guides and Indices; Correspondence; Publications; Scrapbooks; Reference Works; and Papers of Aerial Advertising Inc. Many items in this collection are published monographs, meant to highlight ephemera from Landauer's collections. Landauer also compiled detailed indices in order to make her collections accessible to researchers (and perhaps to Landauer herself.) They have been separately cataloged, according to Library of Congress classification, into the New-York Historical Society's library catalog and are listed here but not fully described.
Each series is further described int he container listing.
Open to qualified researchers.
Photocopying will be undertaken by staff only, and is limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day.
Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from:
Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
Two West 77th Street
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282
Fax: (212) 579-8794
The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.
This collection should be cited as: Bella C. Landauer Writings and Reference Collection, PR 149, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.
Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 1926-1960, with later additions by her son, James D. Landauer.
- Black, Mary. American Advertising Posters of the Nineteenth Century from the Bella C. Landauer Collection of the New-York Historical Society. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1976.
- Landauer, Bella C. "Collecting and Recollecting." New-York Historical Society Quarterly Bulletin. Vol. XLIII, No. 3, July 1959. Pp. 335-349.
- Shadwell, Wendy. "Bella C. Landauer Collection of Business and Advertising Art at the New-York Historical Society." in Cameo Cards and Bella C. Landauer. Schoharie, NY: The Ephemera Society of America, 1992.