Long before I began working in museums, I studied photography as an undergraduate student. My interest began as a teenager, sparked by a love of black and white documentary photographs. I was captivated by the universal language the medium spoke and the idea that with the push of a button, a single moment could be captured, documented, and kept forever. You can imagine my delight when I recently found myself tasked with sorting through photographs from our collections here at The Strong.
A beautiful collie stands in a meadow of blue and yellow flowers. His brown and white fur blows in the wind. He looks well tempered and loyal. I affectionately call him Sammy, but when I roll him over to rub his belly, I am confronted with an advertisement for Butter-Krust Bread. What gives? Sammy’s more than just a dog; he’s an advertising toy, just one of hundreds of similar toys distributed by businesses as advertisements between 1895 and 1920.
The signs are everywhere: YARD SALE, GARAGE SALE, ESTATE SALE, MOVING SALE. Like the sirens of Greek mythology, their sweet song proves irresistible. My sister and I spend many a weekend chasing down sales—a favorite leisure activity. I don’t consider myself a collector but a treasure hunter caught by the whimsical item that seizes my attention, making an almost instantaneous connection for reasons both known and unknown. I enjoy the hunt and am equally pleased to find something for my brother or sister, both collectors with specific interests.