The Wanamaker Diary

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I confess: I am an inveterate yard sale, junk shop, used bookstore,  antique store, tag sale, estate sale, flea market  shopper.   I am forever on the lookout for the lost treasure–hidden from all eyes but mine. I have often wondered what attracts me…and with no other outstanding answer, have put it down to the love of the  smell of old paper; an appreciation of objects and people that have been a part of history; and a hopeless hope to find at least one piece of the family silver.   My uncle sold it decades ago, and I have always mourned its loss.

Each year the Orient, NY Congregational Church (founded in the early 19th c.) sponsors a yard sale featuring old books in excellent condition.   Working for a stationery company, I am always on the lookout for old agendas, diaries and journals.  On Saturday I went home with my latest find:   The Wanamaker Diary 1937. My book is unmarked. There’s a mystery – someone kept it all these years.

The Wanamaker Diary was issued by Wanamaker’s Department Store, Broadway & 8th Street, in Manhattan.   Intended as a recordkeeping book and souvenir, it is crammed with information, advice, and facts about New York, including seating charts for theaters and stadiums in the city.   It has whole sections on astronomy, astrology, legal holidays, receipts and payments pages. Ads, of course!  Each page is numbered. The binding is perfect and the pages have a slight tinge of yellow. Only its charm betrays its age.

I particularly enjoyed this piece of trivia on the page for January 19/20: “The paper on which Bank of England currency is printed is made from white linen rags, formerly obtained from English shirts when discarded. Today, however, practically every Englishman wears colored shirts. The result is foreign shirts, mostly from France, where white linen is still genteel, are relied upon in the making of bank notes. The worn out shirt of a French peasant is sent to the Laverstoke mill and turned into Bank of England notes.”

Wanamaker’s Department Store was founded in Philadelphia in 1887.     Wanamaker’s sent buyers overseas to Europe to scout for the latest trends and luxuries. They expanded to New York City in 1896.  News of the Titanic’s sinking was transmitted to Wanamaker’s wireless station on the roof of the New York store and given to anxious crowds waiting outside.   A famous landmark in Manhattan, the store was razed by fire in 1956, 34 years after the death of its founder, John Wanamaker.

The Wanamaker Diary was printed by Cary Press Corporation, 406 West 31st Street, New York.   That’s just two blocks from where I work at Exaclair.   I’ll have to walk over this week and see who’s there.

5 thoughts on “The Wanamaker Diary

  1. Was researching info on the Wanamaker Diary as my mother passed down 2 of them to me. they are 1914 and 1917 and some relative has written in them every day! I love all the old ads and information in them and they bring the past to life and to have personal writings from a relative of my past is such a blessed bonus! I wonder if there are alot of these out there in families attics!

  2. What a find! My first thought was to find a year in the future that exactly matches the pages of this book and use it yourself! I know-that would distroy the “historical” nature of the book, but what fun it would be to do so!

    Thanks for sharing.

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