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Helen Baker Cushman picture collection

Creation: circa 1700-1993
Accession: 1998-270


Helen Baker Cushman (1922-) was the founder and manager of H.M. Baker Associates, consultants in business archives and records from 1958 to 1993, headquartered in Westfield, New Jersey. In the course of conducting her business, Cushman collected a wide variety of business publications, trade cards, ephemera, and other memorabilia with special emphasis on world expositions. She also assembled her own general picture archive for use in her business.


  • Creation: circa 1700-1993



4 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Helen Baker Cushman (1922-) was the founder and manager of H.M. Baker Associates, consultants in business archives and records from 1958 to 1993, headquartered in Westfield, New Jersey. The firm specialized in helping businesses celebrate their anniversaries. Its typical product was a publication based on the concept of a time line which blended facts from the client firm's history with general events in politics and popular culture, giving particular emphasis to the firm's founding year and its participation in world's fairs and expositions. Originally structured as a simple clipping service, most of the illustrations were drawn from Cushman's own collection of old popular magazines, photographs, letterheads and trade cards.

Cushman's service soon grew to include a series of copyrighted publications. The Anniversary Manual, Remember the Year and The Business History Letter, all based on the founding year concept. Remember the Year was designed as a promotional hand-out and was sold to business firms on a per-item basis with a royalty built into the cost per print. About 128 editions of Remember the Year, or the comparable four-page publication The Business History Letter were printed.

These initial contracts with companies led to Cushman's involvement in larger contracts, such as collaborating on several book-length company histories and serving as a consultant in the initial setting-up of in-house corporate archives.

As a public relations consultant, Cushman also assisted various companies with newspaper publicity, magazine features and other public relations services. From 1958 to her retirement in 1993, Cushman did consulting work for some 360 business firms. In the course of conducting her business, Cushman amassed extensive notes and collected a wide variety of business publications, trade cards, ephemera and other business memorabilia.

Cushman was the daughter of Ivan F. Baker (1887-1976) and Lucile Atkinson Baker (1892-1976). Ivan F. Baker was a vice president of Westinghouse Electric International Company.

Scope and Contents

The Helen Baker Cushman picture collection consists of two parts. The first is composed of miscellaneous illustrations and printed information (8 x 10 inch inches or smaller) which are arranged by subject and chronology; the second part is a collection of advertising trade cards and a small 4 x 6 inch research file that Cushman accumulated about world fairs. The subjects covered in the first part include automobiles, aviation, banks, baseball, books, famous buildings, calendar art, calligraphy, carpets, cities, Civil War generals, fashion, fishing, flags, golf, industrial history, insurance, kitchens, military equipment, portraits of United States presidents, Panama Canal, printing history, Statue of Liberty, stock certidicates, U.S. Navy ships and ordnance, among other topics. The cities are represented by nineteenth century French prints dated 1864. Graphic materials and printed information relating to clothing and fashion are especially plentiful in this part of the collection. Many types of clothing are illustrated: military uniforms, formal dress, bathing suits, and childrens clothing among others. A number of portraits of unidentified women and children are also in the fashion files. Most of these date to the late nineteenth century. A large number of maps from the early twentieth century are also part of the collection, the majority of which feature the United States in 1902.

The largest part of the collection is the chronological file, with miscellaneous images arranged by year, starting with "Before 1700." These cover a multitude of subjects, but especially contain items showing fashions, transportation, houses, public buildings, U.S. presidents and First Ladies, current events, inventions, entertainment, and housekeeping. A number of the folders also contain images and information about world fairs and other expositions held in the United States.

The trade cards that Cushman collected have been organized by the business type that distributed each card. The following are represented: agricultural, agricultural machinery and fertilizer; beverages; clothing and dry good stores; cosmetics and perfumes; coal and other fuel; entertainment and recreation; food and grocery; furniture and floor coverings; hair products; hardware; holidays (birthday, Christmas, Easter, New Year's, Valentine's Day); insurance; clocks, watches and jewelry; kitchen; laundry and starch; lighting; machinery; musical instruments; paint and wallpaper; patent medicines; printing and stationery; religious items; rewards of merit; sewing machines; shoes and shoe polish; soaps, glues and other chemicals; stoves, ovens, ranges; thread; tobacco; toys, dolls and games; transportation. Another group includes cards with African American images--some of them with racist subjects.

The small research files on world fairs include mostly research notes, but there are a few pieces of original ephemera. Call slips from the New York Public Library, microfiche, and postcards make up the balance of this portion of the Cushman collection. The files are organized alphabetically by place name and include both American and foreign exhibitions. An interesting aspect of her research notes is the compiled lists of exhibiting companies that still existed at the time of her research (approximately 1970). The New York World's Fair of 1939 is perhaps best represented with a small selection of matchbook covers and postcards including one showing the transparent car at the General Motors Building.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Some images require permission and possible license fee from outside agencies. See collection folders for information.

Related Materials

Helen Baker Cushman business papers (Accession 2175), Manuscripts and Archives, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials


Additional Description

Separated Materials

Helen Baker Cushman Collection (Accession 2130), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Christine Frederick, You and your kitchen : from experience (Newcastle, Ind., Hoosier Manufacturing Co., c1915). Trade Cat .H7886 1915 Published Collections Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Eliza Leslie, The house book : or, A manual of domestic economy, (Philadelphia, Carey & Hart, 1840). TX153.L634 H84 1840 Published Collections Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Helen Baker Cushman picture collection
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA