Jay T. Last Collection Highlights



The Jay T. Last Collection includes more than 185,000 printed paper artifacts. Several subjects are highlighted below and additional items can be found in the Huntington Digital Library. Some of the collection is still being catalogued.



American Civil War

One of the most influential events of 19th-century America was the Civil War. Its impact on American visual culture is hard to overstate as lithographers produced considerable pictorial material, including maps and documentary prints of battle scenes, portrait prints of military officers and politicians, and service certificates indicating soldiers’ tours of duty.


The Jay T. Last Collection of American Military Prints and Ephemera includes over 400 prints, posters, maps, and certificates, and approximately 4,500 items of ephemera. The bulk of the material spans the Civil War (1861-1865), with some commemorative items extending to the late 1890s. Notable holdings include a series of portrait prints by Ehrgott & Forbriger, dramatic battle scene prints and portraits by Kurz & Allison, and a large collection of patriotic envelopes.




Like many 19th century industries, the beverage industry experienced rapid growth and change. Brand name products developed and were marketed nationwide. Now a person could enter a tavern almost anywhere in the United States and choose from either local beers or a national label like Budweiser.


The Jay T. Last Collection of American Beverage Prints and Ephemera contains over 40 prints and 2,600 items of ephemera, from the 1840s through the 1940s. The collection consists largely of lithographed promotional material produced for American businesses affiliated with the manufacture, distribution, and sale of beverages such as coffee, tea, juice, milk, carbonated beverages, and alcoholic drinks including beer, wine, whiskey, and other liquors.



Cigar Box Labels

Cigars became the tobacco choice of Americans in the 1880s. Most towns had cigar factories by then, and cigar-making boomed in major cities: Brooklyn had more than 800 cigar factories in 1885 and New York City was home to more than 1,900 cigar makers one year later. In this burgeoning market of cigar choices, fierce brand competition developed. Manufacturers used colorful box labels to distinguish their product and to attract predominantly male consumers with images that ranged from sports and transportation to finance and beautiful women.


The Jay T. Last Collection of Cigar Box Labels contains over 17,000 American and foreign labels, as well as rare sample books assembled by lithographic companies to present their current selection of labels. Works by 65 American lithographers and more than 85 European lithographers are represented. In addition to cigar box labels, the tobacco collection has approximately 55 prints, 4,000 cigarette insert cards, 70 cigarette card albums, and 300 plug tobacco labels.




New and improved transportation methods in the late 19th century brought American circuses to more cities and towns across the United States and Europe. Brightly colored posters of clowns, exotic animals, and entertainers performing incredible feats announced that the circus was coming. Circuses such as Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Bros. partnered with printing firms like the Strobridge Lithographing Company to produce high quality advertising posters. These designs helped circuses become famous, and made Strobridge an industry leader of circus poster production.


The Jay T. Last Collection of Entertainment: Circus Prints and Ephemera contains over 200 posters, 130 broadsides and 340 items of ephemera including tickets, programs, billheads, and letterheads. The material dates from the 1860s through the 1980s.



Fairs & Expositions

The American Industrial Revolution of the 19th century spurred a massive growth of new inventions and products that impacted everyday life. The new items poured out of factories and were showcased at industrial fairs and expositions across the country. The largest and most well-known fair in America at the time was the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Like other world fairs, this fair attracted visitors from all over the globe to sample new goods, see new technology, and discover cultural curiosities from distant lands.


The Jay T. Last Collection of American Fairs & Expositions Prints and Ephemera contains nearly 90 lithographic posters and over 1,800 items of ephemera, including tickets, trade cards, programs, sheet music, and other souvenirs. Major emphasis is on the 1876 Centennial Exposition, but most fairs and expositions between 1834 and 1970 are represented.




19th century American clothing manufacturers and merchants used lithographs to advertise new styles, much like today’s television commercials promote fashion designers and department stores. They created fashion plates for each season, often depicting scenes of leisure enjoyed by people of means, including men, women and children. Models usually posed side-by-side with minimal background detail suggesting indoor or outdoor environments.


The Jay T. Last Collection of Fashion Prints and Ephemera contains approximately 225 prints and 6,650 items of ephemera, including advertisements for ready-made clothing, accessories, textiles, and sewing patterns, as well as trade cards for clothiers, tailors, and other services, from the 1820s to the 1900s. The ephemera portion of the collection includes about 100 items pertaining to merchant John Wanamaker.




As volunteer fire departments formed and grew in 19th-century American communities, visual materials recorded their progress. An array of prints and ephemera promoted products, services, events, and recruitment efforts to entire brigades and their individual members.


The Jay T. Last Collection of American Firefighting Prints and Ephemera contains more than 50 prints and 110 items of ephemera, including advertisements for fire engines and related equipment, membership certificates, tickets and programs for fire brigade events, and documentary images of major fires. Dates of creation range from 1820 to 1910.




When manufacturers and merchants recognized the powerful appeal of product packaging, 19th century American advertising changed dramatically. Generic goods sold in barrels, jars, bins, and sacks were replaced with brand-name products in boxes, cans, cartons, wrappers, and packets. Color lithographed labels helped producers identify and promote their brands in a sea of consumer choices.


The Jay T. Last Collection of American Food Prints and Ephemera contains approximately 60 prints and nearly 7,000 items of ephemera such as labels, trade cards, and illustrated stationery that advertised food products distributed throughout the United States from the 1850s to the 1960s.



Fruit and Vegetable Labels

As railroads expanded distribution systems, products like California fruits and vegetables found new markets in states far from home. Starting in the 1880s, fresh produce was shipped in large wooden boxes identified with labels at one end. Unlike most labels, these were intended not for consumers, but for vendors. The appealing designs helped sellers quickly find inventory when boxes were  stacked for shipping or for sale at auctions.


The Jay T. Last Collection of American Fruit and Vegetable Labels contains over 8,000 lithographed labels, from the 1880s through the 1960s. The majority of labels are printed by Los Angeles and San Francisco lithographers for growers, packers, and distributors in Southern California with smaller collections of labels from Arizona and Texas. Major holdings include California citrus box labels—the seminal collection within the entire graphic archive—and grape and apple box labels.




Lithographed advertisements helped many emerging 19th-century industries grow rapidly. This was especially evident in the field of horticulture, where businesses relied on the impact of vivid color illustrations in trade catalogs and specimen books to sell products and services. Color prints that were first stenciled by hand could now be made cheaply and quickly on lithographic presses.


The Jay T. Last Collection of American Horticulture Prints and Ephemera contains over 80 prints and 1,000 items of ephemera relating to products and services for growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, including the tools, equipment, and supplies used for planting and cultivating gardens and orchards by nurseries, florists, and fruit growers. Of special interest are trade cards for seed companies that depict anthropomorphic fruits, vegetables or flowers, and an archive of business correspondence from the Page Seed Company (Greene, NY) from 1900 to 1930.



Louis Prang Archive

Louis Prang (1824-1910) was one of the most influential American lithographers of the 19th century. Based in Boston for over four decades, Prang developed innovative lithographic printing and sales techniques, introduced the Christmas card to American consumers, and popularized the exchange of greeting cards for all occasions.


The Jay T. Last Collection of Louis Prang Prints and Ephemera spans Prang’s entire printing career—from the 1850s to 1910—and contains items from all aspects of his business, including catalogs, letters, expense books, printer’s proof sheets, and finished works. There are over 300 art prints, 12 sample and proof books, 70 publications including price catalogs, illustrated gift books and art instruction manuals, 1,150 greeting cards, 50 newspaper clippings, and 250 items of art publishers’ ephemera. Of special interest is a complete 10-folio set of Prang’s lithographic masterpiece, Oriental Ceramic Art, Collection of W.T. Walters, printed in 1897.




Maritime travel dominated the American transportation industry in the first half of the 19th century. Boats and ships moved goods, livestock, and people up and down the Atlantic coast and along inland rivers and canals (or “waterways”). Though supplanted by rail travel by the end of the century, maritime transportation played a key role in the nation’s economic growth throughout the period.


The Jay T. Last Collection of American Maritime Prints and Ephemera includes over 60 prints and posters, and 1,100 items of ephemera from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Major holdings include 19th-century bills of lading for U. S. inter-coastal excursions and transoceanic routes, as well as passes for steamship lines. This collection complements The Huntington’s extensive Kemble Collection of maritime ephemera.



Performing Arts

The Jay T. Last Collection of American Entertainment: Performing Arts Prints and Ephemera contains more than 2,800 printed items that primarily advertise theatrical and musical productions and related performers in the United States from 1839 to the 1940s. The majority of items date from the 1870s to the 1890s and consist of advertising and promotional materials, business records, and illustrations pertaining to a wide variety of performance genres. The performance genres have been grouped broadly: music and theater (including burlesque, comedy, dance, pantomime, and variety); minstrel (including shows and blackface entertainers); and magic and miscellaneous (including magicians, motion pictures, and Wild West shows). There is also a collection of over 1,000 broadsides and handbills from theatres across the United States, as well as some from Canada.




The American railroad industry of the 19th century generated more prints and ephemera than any other commercial sector. As new routes opened across the U.S., and existing railroads merged or expanded to create more new lines, a wide variety of printed material documented this progress including railroad passes, timetables, system maps, route advertising posters, stock certificates, engine construction prints, dining car menus, and trade cards selling railroad-related products and services.


The Jay T. Last Collection of American Transportation contains over 160 posters, maps and timetables; 1,150 stock or bond certificates; and 3,000 railroad passes. The bulk of the material dates from 1840 to 1900.




The development of lithography in America coincided with America’s rapid expansion in the 19th century. Established towns and cities grew as workers shifted from farms to factories and immigrants arrived from distant shores. New communities also formed as settlers moved across the frontier. This combination of an increasing population and a westward migration challenged residents to understand their changing communities and altered landscapes. Color lithographs of city and scenic views came to their aid, capturing the literal landscape as well as their aspirations for and visions of the growing nation. Business owners, community groups, land speculators, and eminent citizens commissioned city and town views to foster civic pride, promote local commerce, and attract newcomers.


The Jay T. Last Collection of Views Prints and Ephemera contains approximately 200 prints and 300 items of ephemera including streetscapes and building views, townscapes and cityscapes, and scenic prints from across the United States, with special emphasis on the Northeast. Some foreign scenic prints are also included. Dates for all materials range from 1813 to 1912.






Topics in the Jay T. Last Collection:



Art Posters







Entertainment (including Circus & Performing Arts)

Fairs & Exhibitions




Food (including Food & Vegetable labels)









Louis Prang Archive

Maps & Atlases 



Military (including American Civil War)


Office Supplies





Printing & Publishing


Rites & Ceremonies

Science & Technology

Sports & Leisure

Tobacco (including Cigar box labels)

Toys & Novelties

Transportation (including Railroads)



About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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