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Prize for Collecting Works on Paper

Steamship and Boat
A steamship and a boat on the Cape Cod Canal, Nina Heald Webber Cape Cod Canal Collection


Photographs, postcards, and ephemera can record a significant moment in history, document a fad, and provide entry points to the past. Recognizing that works on paper could provide vital information for future historians, Historic New England founder William Sumner Appleton began the collection that forms the vast holdings in our Library and Archives today.

The Prize for Collecting Works on Paper is awarded to a collector or dealer who has assembled or helped save a significant collection of historic material related to New England or to the nation as a whole that might otherwise have been lost or left unrecognized. The award recognizes collections of works on paper that reveal patterns of human thought and activity, ranging from books, manuscripts, photographs, prints, and drawings to all kinds of ephemera, such as trade cards, scrapbooks, or theater programs. The prize of $500 and a membership to Historic New England is awarded at an annual event.

2015 Prizes

Robert Fraker of Lanesborough, Massachusetts, has amassed an extraordinary collection of minor American verse dating from 1789 to 1900. Approximately five thousand books, pamphlets, broadsides, and manuscripts document the crucial position poetry held in popular expression in America from its national inception to the close of the nineteenth century. Formed over a period of more than twenty-five years, the collection includes examples of verse printed in every state or territory, verse by Americans printed abroad, and verse by Americans in five languages. It includes numerous unique or extremely rare items and a wealth of obscure imprints.

Nina Heald Webber of West Falmouth, Massachusetts, has collected a vast amount of material related to the history of the Cape Cod Canal. Thousands of postcards, photographs, books, maps, ephemera, and objects illuminate the story of this engineering marvel. In addition to the Cape Cod Canal archive, Mrs. Webber has built similar ones focusing on Southwest Colorado; Naples, Florida; and Worcester County, Massachusetts. All four are now part of institutional collections and have been the subjects of books and exhibitions.

2014 Prizes

Manny Diaz and Paul Poitras
Entertainer Manny Diaz and partner Paul Poitras, part of 2014 winner Dr. Mehmed Ali's collection of photographs documenting the history of Lowell, Massachusetts.

Dr. Jay T. Last of Beverly Hills, California, has collected American ephemera since the 1970s. He chose to transfer his collection of more than 140,000 paper objects to The Huntington Library in San Marino. Published in 2006, Last’s book The Color Explosion: Nineteenth-Century American Lithography, examines the European roots and American commercial development of lithography and features highlights from his collection.

Dr. Mehmed Ali is devoted to preserving the history of Lowell, Massachusetts. He has collected material documenting the city’s diverse communities, including Puerto Rican, African American, Lithuanian, Lao, Cambodian, French-Canadian, Italian, Syrian-Lebanese, and LGBT. When much of the contents of the Lowell Sun’s photographic archives was in danger of being discarded, Dr. Ali arranged for the collection of 120,000 photographs to be transferred and donated to the Lowell Historical Society. Similarly, he worked with the Center for Lowell History, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, on the acquisition of a collection of photographs by George Poirier, the city’s most prolific commercial photographer.

2013 Prizes

From the collection of Nelson Dionne
From the collection of Nelson Dionne

Dr. Charles Burden of Richmond, Maine, collects books, manuscripts, photographs, novelty items, ephemera, and other material related to Maine maritime history and the temperance movement as well as decorative arts and handcraft in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dr. Burden helped provide an authentic array of packaging for the 1942 Marden-Abbott House and Store exhibition at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He has donated extensive collections to the Maine Maritime Museum and Maine Historical Society.
Nelson Dionne, a retired Salem, Massachusetts, police officer, collects photographs, ephemera, postcards, stereoviews, and objects related to the history of Salem. Much of his collection focuses on the city’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrial history. He has spent more than forty years building his archive at second-hand shops, estate sales, and auctions. His collection will be divided between Gordon College’s new Salem Museum and Salem State University. He has authored two books about Salem, with a third forthcoming.

2012 Prizes

Shaker ephemera
Shaker ephemera from M. Stephen Miller's collection.

M. Stephen Miller has assembled the finest and most comprehensive collection of Shaker ephemera held anywhere. He has shared the collection and his extensive knowledge through four books and numerous articles as well as three exhibitions that he has curated and numerous individual loans. His research has broadened the knowledge of Shaker industries -- products of their lands and hands -- for an entire generation of scholars. Miller's Shaker collection is gradually being transferred to Hamilton College, where it will be accessible through the college's Digital Collections website.

DeWolfe & Wood Antiquarian Book Dealers specialize in Shaker material and Maine and New England history and literature. Scott DeWolfe and Frank Wood have assisted many institutions and collectors in assembling major collections since 1993. DeWolfe and Wood use their expertise to locate significant historical materials and place them with appropriate owners, including Historic New England, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and Hamilton College, as well as many private collectors.

2011 Prize

View from Mount Washington
View from Mount Washington. Drawn by W. H. Bartlett, engraved by S. Bradshaw. London, 1838

Dr. Bryant F. Tolles, Jr., spent more than thirty years assembling a comprehensive collection documenting the history, culture, and natural beauty of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. His collection consists of maps, books, illustrated booklets, ephemera, guide books, atlases, engravings, lithographs, and other archival materials. His dedication is reflected not only in his collection but in the care he has taken to conserve and share it. Tolles served as Director of Museum Studies; Chair, Art Conservation Department; and Professor of History and Art History at the University of Delaware. His publications on the White Mountains include The Grand Resort Hotels of the White Mountains, Summer Cottages in the White Mountains, and New Hampshire Architecture: An Illustrated Guide.

2010 Prizes

Philip H. Jones, a lifelong collector of paper materials, developed a notable archive of of the work of Charles Magnus, a nineteenth-century New York print publisher, map dealer, bookseller, and stationer. Jones established the Jones Fund, a yearly scholarship awarded to a researcher working on ephemera, at the Ephemera Society of America.

Kenneth W. Rendell is a preeminent dealer in autographs and historical documents. In 1959, he published his first catalogue of autograph material of American presidents and to date has issued more than 300 catalogues. He amassed one of the most comprehensive collections of World War II artifacts, and created the Museum of World War II in Natick, Massachusetts, to share these extraordinary artifacts with the public.

Prize for Collecting Works on Paper