NMAH Library's Trade Literature and Special Collections

The NMAH Library's Trade Literature Collection includes nearly 500,000 historical trade catalogs, representing about 40,000 companies, and features predominantly American-manufactured products for industry, agriculture, business, and decorative arts. Primarily dating from about 1880-1945, our collection includes product catalogs, technical manuals, advertising brochures, price lists, and company histories. Researchers use the collection to understand technological and business heritage, learn about product manufacturers, investigate the status of various manufactured items, explore their intended uses, and establish manufacture dates. 

You can explore the NMAH Library's Trade Literature Collection, along with other trade catalog materials from across the Smithsonian, using the search box on the general Trade Literature Collection page. The majority of the trade literature has not yet been digitized.

The 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. Research inquiries can be submitted by email to NMAHLibrary@si.edu

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 the microfilm onsite. Arranged by fair name, information on individual fair publications is found by consulting the Smithsonian Libraries publication The Books of the Fairs (1992) or searching the library 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 current serials, including scholarly journals and specialty magazines such as Public HistorianJournal of Military History, and Antiques. The NMAH Library also has many historical serials from the nineteenth century. All serials are findable using the library catalog 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 NMAH Library directly.

Microform Collection

The microform collection includes materials such as Sears and Roebuck's catalogsThe Cox Library: County, State, & Local Histories, The History of Photography, and The Trade Catalogs at Winterthur. Microform collection records are findable in the library catalog and have unique call numbers. Researchers can view microforms using equipment in the NMAH Library, which allows saving items as PDFs, JPGs, and TIFFs.