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October 5, 2023

Persinger’s Scrapbook: The 35-Pound Comic Scrapbook That Paints a Picture of Great Depression-Era Life

In 2020, Australian sculptor and collector Eric Oglander bought an old and cumbersome scrapbook at an auction and published the photos on his Instagram account. This 830-page, 12-inch-thick, 16-pound contraption is a scrapbook that belonged to a Kansas barber named I. A. Persinger.

Persinger (shown here in 1918) invited his barbershop customers to contribute to the scrapbook—as long as they handled it with care.

Persinger began the book in 1928 as a collection of Roy Crane’s “Wash Tubbs” comic strips for the entertainment of visitors to his barber shop called “Bungalow” in Fredonia (Kansas). The album evolved and was updated and reformatted (or rather patched up) over nearly a decade (1939) to become a sort of historical diary with notes and drawings of the barber and his customers.

Although most of the pages contain two “Wash Tubbs” strips, over the years, they became a place to comment on the state of the world or the length of the Depression, among many other topics, much like today’s social networking sites, but also in the traditional guest books of bars, museums, and so on.

Mr. Persinger repeatedly warns his readers to handle the book with care, and refers to it as a “relic.” On one page he notes that the “Depression is still here,” but “It’s not very hungry” and that “Only silliness (or humour, I suppose) seems to keep things going.” His inscriptions are also an interesting collection of testimonials and recollections from people who suffered various hardships because of the Great Depression.


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