John Margolies collection of travel ephemeraCreation: 1870-2005 Creation: Majority of material found within 1920s-1960s
John Margolies (1940-2016) was an American photographer and architecture critic with a fondness for novelty architecture. This is his personal collection of travel ephemera that he collected from across North America. These materials primarily cover the United States’ most popular tourist spots with an emphasis on the Northeast region of the United States.
- Creation: 1870-2005
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1920s-1960s
- Margolies, John (Collector, Person)
45 Linear Feet
approximately 10,420 sleeved items; 22 scrapbooks, 459 cataloged books, pamphlets and articles.
In exploring this collection of roadside ephemera, the elements of commercial architecture and design and recreational travel and tourism in America are essential windows into the study of social history and popular culture in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The growing popularity of the automobile in the early twentieth century helped to conquer distance and changed everything; where we live; how and where we travel; and where we shop and spend money.
Before the Interstate Highway system was authorized in 1965, road travel took place on old local highways. The many options for gas, food, and lodging provided an atmosphere where creative entrepreneurs competed for customers with over the top features to entice travelers to stop and spend a little money before heading back on the road.
Starting in the 1970s, Margolies took to the road, scouring back roads in the largest car that he could afford to rent, usually a Cadillac, in pursuit of those vanishing emblems of midcentury enterprise. In combination with photographing these American icons, he collected the ephemera that advertised the alluring qualities of these attractions.
John Margolies (1940-2016) was an active photographer and architecture critic with a fondness for novelty architecture. Margolies was born in 1940 in New Canaan, Connecticut. When he was young, his interest in tourism and roadside architecture began with taking family trips through Connecticut, and he began exploring on his own when he was sixteen. He earned a Bachelor's degree in journalism and art history and a master's in communications from the University of Pennsylvania. Margolies was particularly fond of photographing novelty architecture, and was staunchly opposed to the so-called homogenization of the landscape across the United States. Throughout his career Margolies curated several exhibits of his photographic work, and wrote many books about travel and the roadside including: Ticket to Paradise : American Movie Theaters and How We Had Fun (1991), Signs of Our Time (1993), Pump and Circumstance : Glory Days of the Gas Station (1993), Home Away From Home : Motels in America (1996), Hitting the Road : the Art of the American Road Map (1996), Fun Along the Road : American Tourist Attractions (1998) and See the USA: the Art of the American Travel Brochure (2000).
The collection is arranged into fourteen series, with a detailed description accompanying each.
The series are: Brochures; Hotels; Motels; Attractions; Road maps; Main Street; Movie Theaters; State Fairs; Matchbooks; Travel letters; Book proposals; Miscellaneous ephemera; Oversize miscellaneous ephemera; and Portfolio.
Scope and Contents
This collection of ephemera was assembled by John Margolies as he traveled the country photographing and documenting American roadside businesses and attractions. The materials document the history of business and industry on the highways, backroads and Main Streets of America since the development of the automobile in the early nineteen hundreds through the twentieth century.
The materials highlight the gas, food, and lodging required for travel, as well as the entertainment that could be found in theaters, state fairs, and roadside attractions. The paper ephemera includes brochures, guidebooks, matchbooks, posters, letterheads, scrapbooks, maps, menus and other miscellanea.
The collection has been arranged into fourteen series, with a detailed description accompanying each. This arrangement is based upon the order that John Margolies organized in binders and other containers. The series names were taken from the labels that Margolies placed on the binder spines. The original order of the archival sleeves from these binders was maintained as they were found, while the order of the series in the collection was created by us for accessibility.
Some materials were disorganized and scattered upon accession and were divided between the Audiovisual Department and Published Collections.
This collection is open for research.
Language of Materials
John Margolies collection of travel photographs and postcards (Accession 2017.254), Audio Visual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
John Margolies collection of press clippings on published works, exhibitions, lectures and interviews (Margolies Box 170), Published Collections, Hagley Museum and Library.
John Margolies travel scrapbooks (Margolies Box 171-Margolies Box 183), Published Collections, Hagley Museum and Library.
John Margolies cataloged books, pamphlets, trade catalogs, and articles (search online catalog for 20171116.JT), Published Collections, Hagley Museum and Library.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- John Margolies collection of travel ephemera
- Linda Gross with assistance from Louise Cangelosi, Margaretta Colt, Fritz Getze, Melanie Grear, Alice Hanes, Max Moeller, Lee O'Brien, and Kevin Pistiner.
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description: