About the Collection

The Robert Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery was donated to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library by Robert Biggert in honor of Lisa Ann Riveaux. This unique collection of printed ephemera contains over 1,300 items with architectural imagery spanning the dates 1850 to 1920, in more than 350 cities and towns in forty-five states, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. possessions. New York City is particularly well-represented with over 100 items portraying structures below Houston Street alone.

The collection’s billheads, letterheads, envelopes, checks, and business cards document the rise of the United States as an industrial nation, in often elaborate vignettes of factories, warehouses, mines, offices, stores, banks, and hotels. Industries range from livestock, textiles, printing, roofing, and brewing to wagon works, cordage, and merchandising. The collection presents a unique view of the emerging American industrial scene with illustrations of buildings rarely illustrated elsewhere, including many buildings that have been demolished.

The material offers a wealth of possibilities for architectural historians, as well as students of commerce and graphic design. There are numerous images from the same businesses over successive decades, which show how their buildings grew over time in tandem with changes in typographic taste. Robert Biggert has conducted substantive research on the format and design aspects of the stationery vignette. “Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery” by Robert Biggert was first published in Job Printing in America, The Ephemera Journal, Volume 8, 1998 [PDF], a publication of The Ephemera Society of America, Inc. The article provides richly-documented analysis of the graphic design elements, compositions and formats used in commercial stationery over the 70 year period.

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