I noted when looking ahead at upcoming June holidays that May 7th is NATIONAL SCRAPBOOKING DAY…. So I decided to research that subject and write about it for my blog this month.  The holiday, initially created in 1994, is always celebrated on the first Saturday in May to “showcase scrapbooking.” The holiday was designed to introduce people to the craft and hobby of scrapbooking and even to define the art.

What exactly is scrapbooking by definition? It’s basically an activity that involves putting together keepsakes, photos, and other memorabilia into books, notebooks, diaries, and traditional scrapbooks of all kinds, and it is usually done in an organized and creative style or manner. The goal in part is to display special memories and to help people replay their individual life experiences.

Scrapbooking began in England before coming to the United States. The first scrapbooks emerged in the 1400s in personal diaries and booklets as a way to compile recipes, thoughts, poems, and quotations. The practice grew more with the invention of the printing press in the 1440s, and scholars soon used the scrapbooking idea as a way to preserve academic studies and later artwork and other written accounts on particular subjects. Ladies soon began to scrapbook, too, in order to save keepsakes, thoughts, and mementos. In the Victorian era, the practice of scrapbooking began to really grow with the invention of photography and the industrial printing press in the 1800s. Greeting cards, postcards, calling cards, family photos, and a variety of keepsakes began to be saved and preserved in scrapbooks, and the use of the word “scrapbook” evolved then, too.

In the twentieth century, with the development of the camera, like the early Brownie, allowing individuals to make their own photos, scrapbooking albums became even more popular. Old photos and records, often kept in family Bibles, began to be recorded and kept in other keepsake books. Mark Twain, a writer and inventor, actually created and patented a self-pasting scrapbook in 1872 and a variety of different scrapbooks followed. Brides soon began creating wedding scrapbooks, and individuals and families began to create family photo albums, school memory books, and travel books. In the 1940s, baby scrapbooks began to emerge, providing a place to save baby and toddler photos and to record early “baby life” notes.

In the 1960s, the introduction of color film made scrapbooks more “colorful” and as the 1970s began, scrapbooks with pull-up plastic pages emerged, inexpensive and soon very popular. Photos and memorabilia could be placed on the page and the plastic sheet sealed over all. My mother never did much with scrapbooking, putting most photos into boxes and drawers, but I loved it and started scrapbooking when J.L. and I got engaged and planned to marry.

The photo example here is from one of our early scrapbooks, with pictures of J.L. and I signing the register to get our marriage license downtown at the Knox County courthouse in Knoxville, Tennessee.

I began to document our lives through scrapbooks in those early years, as a way to tell and remember our story together. I tried to write notes to tuck into the albums with the pictures, recording the who, what, when, where important data, and often adding fun news articles, little keepsakes, or other memorabilia on each scrapbook page. It was fun and I love looking back at those early years in our marriage … at photos of our first apartment, first house, times with friends and with our families.

When the children came I made baby albums for each of them. These were big books with places for birth certificates, a place to list visitors to the hospital and baby gifts, fill-in pages for the family tree, pages for footprints and hand prints, weight and height charts. They also included an assortment of fill ins for baby “firsts” and memorable moments, and places to paste in photos of baby’s first home and other specific pictures. There were slots for keepsakes, too, like early birthday cards, baptism records, and art, with the back of the book filled with 8×10 photo sleeves for more pictures. I, admittedly, had many sentimental moments today looking through those books to write this blog.

Later, when our two children’s school years began, I bought these cute and colorful “School Years” books to continue recording their young memories. There are pages for every school year from first grade to eleventh grade, where I put their school photos each year, along with their teachers’ names, height, weight, school friends, awards and achievements, and special activities. I noticed today in Max’s book that he said in first grade, that when he grew up, he wanted to be an artist … And he is, an artist and an art teacher. Kate said she wanted to be an actress in first grade, two years later an artist, later a writer, and for several years a fashion designer and buyer. Perhaps now as a media librarian she’s been able to act out several of those roles!

A friend of mine said once I was “scrapbooking” before it became a popular craft and I probably was. By the 1990s, though, the “scrapbooking” craze sort of hit in America with scrapbooking stores, courses, scrapbooking magazines and even scrapbooking events, like quilting bees, where women met to work on their scrapbooks together. An extensive array of scrapbooking materials became available then, too, and still are available … but I just continued making my own books in my own way with clip-outs from magazines, quotes I liked,  and saved memory items like tickets from a theatre event, a special greeting card, or a newspaper article clipping.

For those who want to get into scrapbooking, there are many helpful websites you can check out full of ideas. One well-known one is scrapbook.com. Additionally, there are many YouTubes that show and teach visually “how to scrapbook,” chocked full of creative ideas. There is also a great “Everything About Scrapbooking” page online with a Step-by-Step Guide to making a scrapbook if you’re interested in a how-to article. However, you shouldn’t decide you’re not creative or gifted enough to scrapbook.  You really don’t have to be. Keep in mind people have been finding ways to scrapbook and save their photos and stories since the 1400s, and you can, too. It is a wonderful gift you can give yourself to organize your photos into special books with names, dates, and places  you can enjoy for years as “Memory Books” of your life.  These scrapbook albums will be a legacy for your children, too.

J.L. and I have been “scrapbooking” now for over 50 years of our marriage and our books are all kept in a downstairs bookshelf that once held our record albums. You can see that shelf in an earlier picture. One of my summer tasks will be to sit down and put the last batch of photos I had printed into scrapbooks. Then I need to decide which photos in my “online photos” I want to print and keep, dumping the rest. I know most people retain photos totally online today … but I think they miss a lot of pleasure only keeping their memories that way. I still love having something tangible I can look at, layered with all my little notes and extras, like bookmarks, newspaper articles about my books, pictures at book signings, photos of our hikes, explorations in the parks and outdoors, memories with friends, holiday gatherings, and more. My scrapbooks truly are J.L.’s and my life story, filled with all our special memories and adventures.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act

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