NMAH Trade Literature and Special Collections

Columbia bicycle catalogTrade Literature Collection

The NMAH Library American Trade Literature Collection includes approximately 500,000 historical trade catalogs, representing 30,000 companies, and features predominantly American-manufactured products for industry, agriculture, business, and decorative arts. Primarily from 1880-1945, our collection includes product catalogs, technical manuals, advertising brochures, price lists, and company histories. Researchers use the collection to understand America’s technological and business heritage, learn about product manufacturers, the status of various manufactured items, their intended uses, and to establish manufacture dates.

NMAH Library's Trade Literature Collection is available to the public by appointment only. Because this collection is unique and irreplaceable, items do not circulate.

World's Fairs and Expositions Collection

This collection of published international exposition and world's fair materials is strongest from the early fairs (mid-19th century) until the First World War. The collection is microfilmed, and researchers can consult items onsite. Arranged by fair name, access to individual fairs is found by consulting the SIL publication, The Books of the Fairs, (1992) or searching the online catalog. Additional information about World's Fairs can be found in Revisiting the World's Fairs and International Expositions: A Selected Bibliography.

Serials Collection

The NMAH Library subscribes to many serials, including scholarly journals such as American Historical Review and Journal of Popular Culture. Other serials include Antiques Monthly, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. NMAH Library has many historical serials from the nineteenth century. All serials are searchable on SIRIS, and can be accessed by subject, title, or keyword. Records are clearly marked SERIAL in the upper left-hand corner. To determine holdings, contact the branch directly.

Microform Collection

Microform collections include Sears and Roebuck's catalogsThe Cox Library: County, State, & Local Histories, and The Trade Catalogs at Winterthur. Microform collections are searchable on SIRIS, and have unique call numbers. Outside researchers can review microforms in the National Museum of American History Library.