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Willa Cather's scrapbook
Willa Cather, Author

Willa Cather, about 1890.
RG2639.PH:1-36 (scan 105918)

Willa Cather was born in Virginia in 1873 and moved with her family to Webster County, Nebraska, in 1883. She grew up in Red Cloud, and in 1891 moved to Lincoln to attend the University of Nebraska. Following her graduation in 1895 Cather briefly wrote for a Lincoln newspaper before moving east to Pittsburg to edit The Home Monthly. She taught school and was copy editor and music and drama critic for a Pittsburg newspaper until 1906, when she moved to New York to become managing editor of McClure's magazine. In 1912 she resigned to devote all of her time to writing. Cather was the author of twelve novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning One of Ours. Six of these novels are set, at least in part, in the Nebraska of her youth. Willa Cather died in 1947 in New York City.

We know very little about the actual creation of this scrapbook. Willa Cather's original verse on the inside front cover claims it as her own. (As a young girl she often went by "Willie" rather than Willa). The cover of the volume is a circus-themed fabric, and the pages are filled with advertising and Sunday School cards, some with notations in Cather's handwriting.
Complete copies of Willa's scrapbook pages as PDFs

This book was made by little Willie
When he was rather young & silley
He was of an artistic mind
And all his freinds (sic) inside you'll find
This book, made when he was a kid
Is the best thing he ever did
This book, with many sorrow rife
Is but a history of his life. . . .
Complete transcription of Willa's scrapbook covers verse

Cather's childhood scrapbook is remarkably similar in appearance to the scrapbook that she describes her character Jim Burden creating in her novel My Antonia.

"Grandmother took me into the ice-cold storeroom, where she had some bolts of gingham and sheeting. She cut squares of cotton cloth and we sewed them together into a book. We bound it between pasteboards, which I covered with brilliant calico, representing scenes from a circus. For two days I sat at the dining-room table, pasting this book full of pictures. We had files of those good old family magazines which used to publish coloured lithographs of popular paintings, and I was allowed to use some of these. On the white pages I grouped Sunday-School cards and advertising cards"
My Antonia, Willa Cather



Hide Paintings and
       Ledger Books

Diaries and Journals
  J.A. Hill, Civil War
  W. Richards, Surveyor
  J.S. Morton, Statesman
  Sara J. Price, Teacher
       & Homesteader
  W. Danley, Businessman
  J. & E. Green, Farmers        & Homesteaders
  S. Buck, Farm Wife

Autograph Albums
  S. & E. Allis, Missionaries
  E. & L. Correll, Suffragists
  W.J. Bryan, Orator
  Lucy Drexel, Student
  Viola Barnes, Student

  D. Canfield, Author
  Willa Cather, Author
  C. Calvert, Educator
  Fenton. B. Fleming,
  Myrtle Soulier, Student
  Verna Cort, Student
  Martha McKelvie,
       Movie Columnist
  Emogine Moor,
       Women's Army Corps
  Scrapbooking Today

Photograph Albums
  W. B. Watson, Porter
  Margaret and Edward
       Gehrke, Adventurers
  Nan Aspinwall,
  Frances M. Creech,

  Edith Withers Meyers,
  Sierra Nevada Bunnell,

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Last updated 10 May 2010  

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