Last week I had the privilege of seeing my grandmother's 1935-1937 scrapbook. I had always thought she kept "journals," but on the first page she wrote that this was to be a "scrapbook." Reading that immediately brought to my mind that I also had kept a scrapbook when I was young. Not at all like a modern scrapbook—artistic displays of color photographs, these old scrapbooks were exactly that—a collection of scraps of information and memorabilia: a candy wrapper from a special day, an anecdote clipped from a magazine, accounts of daily life experiences.
When my grandmother started her scrapbook, her youngest child was nine years old. By then I imagine her life had a less harried routine, allowing her free moments to sit down with her scrapbook. Newspaper and magazine clippings included the deaths of acquaintances; big stories like the 1936 flood near Harper's Ferry, W VA; special church services and tent meetings; and pictures denoting holidays or changes in the seasons. In her own handwriting were information about the weather and how it affected my grandfather's work; what she planted in the garden; shopping trips; and visits to and from friends and family.
Modern scrapbooks are beautiful to look at and they do record important events, but they do not give insight into a person like an old-time scrapbook does. Today's scrapbooks are almost works of art, displaying the makers' talents more than their personal interests. I'm glad my grandmother left the kind of record she did.
Old-time scrapbooks are similar to what was once known as a "commonplace book." You may like to read quotes from Frances Rolleston's commonplace book (late 18th century).