Mendicant ephemera collection
Scope and Content of the Collection
Collection of more than 100 printed poems, postcards, photographs, and other ephemera with appeals to the public by people who are blind, deaf, or with other physical disabilities, offered in exchange for a small donation. The initial collection and later additions were purchased from antiquarian bookseller Marc Selvaggio, who acquired some of the materials directly from their creators or sellers. The collection materials were created and sold from the mid-19th century through the 21st century, primarily in the United States. Some of the materials were produced in Europe, including Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Spain.
Mendicant literature and ephemera include books, pamphlets, single-sheet poems, illustrated postcards, or other printed or handcrafted materials sold by people with disabilities or those living in poverty in order to make a living. The materials often tell the life stories of the creators or highlight their current struggles and successes. In some cases the individuals were born with a disability, while in other cases their disabilities resulted from accidents or occurred while on active duty in the Armed Forces. As the materials are offered in exchange for a small donation, the creators are not "begging" for money in a literal sense but offering something of value in exchange for financial assistance. Most of the items in this collection were produced and sold before the creation of the Social Security Administration in the United States and universal health care in Europe, at a time when no formal social safety net existed to provide income for individuals who could not work due to disability or injury. Some of the collection items represent original works while others are reprints of anonymous verses repurposed as appeals for assistance. Many of the contemporary 21st-century materials in the collection reflect homelessness or poverty rather than physical disability.
As most of the creators have highlighted their particular disability, much of the collection is divided into appeals by type of disability, including blindness, deafness, and other physical disabilities. Also included are materials created by or on behalf of American soldiers who were injured while serving in World War I or World War II and advertisements for people with disabilities who performed in sideshows.
The attached appendix includes 84 monographs, pieces of sheet music, and periodicals that formed part of the original collection purchased from Marc Selvaggio, and are cataloged separately under their own call numbers. See the Newberry's online catalog for access.
Harvard University's Countway Library of Medicine holds a similar collection of American mendicant ephemera also purchased from Marc Selvaggio.
- Creation: approximately 1850-approximately 2020
- Newberry Library (Organization)
- Chapellerie du Jockey Club (Creator, Organization)
- Hemmerlé, Emile (Author, Person)
- Holler, Jeanette (Author, Person)
- National Institute for the Blind (London, England) (Creator, Organization)
Materials are primarily in English; some are in Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Swedish.
Conditions Governing Access
The Mendicant ephemera collection is open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Mendicant ephemera collection is the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.
1.3 Linear Feet (3 boxes)
Collection of printed poems, postcards, photographs, and other ephemera with appeals to the public by people who are blind, deaf, or with other physical disabilities, offered in exchange for a small donation. Geographic coverage is focused primarily on the United States but also includes Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Spain.
Papers are organized alphabetically in the following series:
- Series 1: Appeals by People who are Blind, approximately 1870-approximately 1940
- Box 1, Folders 1-5
- Series 2: Appeals by People who are Deaf, 1884-2008
- Box 1, Folders 6-12
- Series 3: Appeals by People with Other Physical Disabilities, approximately 1890-approximately 2010
- Box 1, Folders 13-37
- Series 4: Appeals by Wounded Soldiers and Veterans with Disabilities, approximately 1920-approximately 1945
- Box 1, Folders 38-46
- Series 5: Miscellaneous American Mendicant Ephemera, approximately 1880-1934
- Box 1, Folders 47-52
- Series 6: European Mendicant Ephemera, approximately 1850-2018
- Box 1, Folders 53-79
- Series 7: Additions, approximately 1870s-approximately 2020
- Box 1, Folders 80-99; Box 2, Folders 100-107
- Series 8: Oversize, approximately 1930
- Box 3
Collection Stack Location
Purchased from Marc Selvaggio with funds donated by David Meyer during the "Booked for the Evening" auction event held at the Newberry Library on October 3, 2019. Additions purchased by the Newberry from Marc Selvaggio in 2021, 2022, and 2023 and Kate Mitas in 2022, and donated by Marc Selvaggio in 2022.
The following 84 monographs, pieces of sheet music, and periodicals that formed part of the original collection purchased from Marc Selvaggio were separated out to be cataloged individually in the Newberry's collection. See the Newberry's online catalog for call numbers.
- The 13th Squad. [United States, 1930?]
- A. Kin, petite Chinoise amputée des deux bras. Chartres: S?urs de Saint-Paul, [approximately 1920]
- L'Assiette au beurre. No. 278. Paris, 1906.
- Atherton, Edwin. The Brakeman's Appeal. [United States, approximately 1910]
- Barker, George. The Beggar Girl. Cincinnati: A.C. Peters & Bro., 1862.
- Bejano, Percilla. Personal Facts Regarding Percilla the Monkey Girl. [United States, approximately 1960]
- The Best Popular Songs of Today. Pakota, Ill.: James M. Lawler, [approximately 1910]
- The Blind Man's Appeal.[United States, approximately 1875] [poem of seven four-line stanzas]
- The Blind Man's Appeal.[United States, approximately 1875] [poem of seven four-line stanzas]
- The Blind Man's Appeal.[United States, approximately 1875] [poem of eight four-line stanzas]
- The Blind Man's Appeal.[United States, approximately 1875] [poem of seven eight-line stanzas with note at head of title, "To the public. The bearer, having lost his eyesight in the pursuit of his business ..."]
- The Blind Man's Appeal.[United States, approximately 1875] [poem of seven eight-line stanzas with note at head of title, "To the public. The bearer, having lost his eyesight in early life ..."]
- A Blind Man's Appeal. [United States, approximately 1920]
- Boieldieu, Adrien Louis Victor. Dieu vous bénisse! Paris: Alphonse Le Signe, [1870s]
- Brady, T. Verses Written in the Trenches. [Canada, approximately 1920]
- The Brakeman's Appeal. [United States, approximately 1890]
- Bruce, V. W. The Crippled Soldier's Lament. [United States, approximately 1870]
- Buckingham, A. E. Only the Leaf of a Rose. [Oakland, Calif.]: A.D.H. Publishing Co., 1924.
- Clayton, J. S. Broken Rails. Galesburg, Ill.: Press of the Galesburg Labor News, 1907.
- Colson, Charles H. Pity the Blind. Boston: H. Dillingham & Co., 
- A Cripple's Plea. [United States, approximately 1900]
- Dean, James. The Railroad Boy's Appeal. [United States, approximately 1890]
- Dewel, E. E. The Brakeman's Appeal. [Michigan, 1893?]
- Dishaw, F. To the Public, for the Benefit of a Blind Boy. [United States, approximately 1890]
- Do-Boys' Jokester. [United States, approximately 1920]
- Douglas, Charles Noel. Uncle Charlie's Souvenir Picture Book. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Charles Noel Douglas, [approximately 1915]
- The Empty Sleeve. [United States, approximately 1870] [poem of five six-line stanzas]
- The Empty Sleeve. [United States, approximately 1900] [poem in four stanzas]
- The Empty Sleeve, or, Soldier's Appeal. Boston: James Newton, 1872.
- The Empty Sleeve, or, Soldier's Appeal. Boston: James Newton, 1873.
- Fox, M. J. A Cripple's Appeal. [United States, approximately 1910]
- Fuller, Harvey A. Stray Leaves. [Hillsdale, Mich.]: Hillsdale "Business," [approximately 1880]
- Fuller, Harvey A. Stray Leaves. [Toledo, Ohio]: Blad[e] Printing and Paper Co., [approximately 1880]
- Gelly, Georges. Appel en faveur du "Foyer des gueules cassées." Etampes: Société régionale d'imprimerie et de publicité, 1928.
- George, Austin. George's Poems. [Monmouth, Ill.?, approximately 1910]
- Gumbert, Ferdinand. The Little Mendicant. New York: Beer & Schirmer, 1868.
- Harrington, Gardner. A Short Epitome of the Life, Sufferings and Travels of Gardner Harrington, of Stephentown, Rensselaer Co., N.Y. Pittsfield, Mass.: Printed for the Author, 1852.
- Haughton, A. G. The Blind Hobo. Tulsa, Okla.: A.G. Haughton, 1924.
- Hello Buddy: All Honor to the Nurses. New York: A.W. Bryce, 1932.
- Hello Buddy: Still Buddies Over Here. New York: A.W. Bryce, 1932.
- Hickey, Jack. The Newsboy's Appeal. [United States, approximately 1900]
- I am Blind! [United States, approximately 1900]
- Jackson, S. Trevena. An Evening of Song and Story with Fanny J. Crosby, the Blind Poetess. Chicago: Biglow & Main Co., 1912.
- Jewel, Adele M. A Brief Narrative of the life of Miss Adele M. George (Being Deaf and Dumb). Detroit: Advertiser and Tribune Steam Printing Establishment, 1863.
- Judd, Benjamin, Jr. The Blind Man. [United States, approximately 1870]
- Kips, Richard. Le Chant du pauvre. Bruxelles: Maison J. Polfliet, 1912.
- Lang, J. J. J.J. Lang, Private Company C, 57th Mass. Vols., Wounded at Battle of the Wilderness, May 6th, 1864. [Chicago?]: Wm. C. Hollister & Bro., [approximately 1880]
- Lockett, Jack. Blind Jack's Book of Jokes & Rhymes. Dallas, Tex.: Jack Lockett, [approximately 1930]
- Lovejoy, Horatio P. Horatio Lovejoy's New Year's Eve, 1863-64. Moulton, Iowa: Tribune Print, [1890?]
- McCullin, Thomas J. Lines to the People. Sag Harbor, N.Y.: Thomas McCullin, [approximately 1880]
- McGee, B. B. B.B. M'Gee's Book. Indianapolis: Printing and Publishing House, J.M. Tilford, Pres't., 1873.
- Mioni, Carlo. Visioni. Trieste: Tipografia Brunner & C.,1916.
- Moore, James. True Life Story of a "Convict." Smyrna, N.Y.: James Moore, 1930.
- Murphy, A. J. The Life of A.J. Murphy. [Cincinnati, Ohio?, 1890s]
- Myers, Ray R. Souvenir Folder of Ray R. Myers, "The Armless Muscisian," a Member of Cowboy Loye's Blue Bonnet Troupe. [Fairmont, W. Va., 1938?]
- Norton, Geo. To the Public. [United States, approximately 1900]
- The One-Armed Soldier. [United States, approximately 1870]
- Pusknik, Frieda. My Life Story. [United States, 1933?]
- River, Peter. Blind Man's Petition. [United States, approximately 1880]
- Smith, George. The Railroad Boy's Appeal. [United States, approximately 1880]
- Smith, H. M. Abraham May. [New York, 1871?] [handbill with text at end, "Please buy this slip of poetry at your own price and help an unfortunate man get a living."]
- Smith, H. M. Abraham May. [New York, 1871?] [handbill with text at end, "Please buy this slip of poetry at your own price and help an unfortunate man to get a living. Before he was disabled he was a sober and hard-working man."]
- Smith, Kittie. My Life Story. [South Whitley, Ind., 1906]
- Smith, Wm. W., Jr. Friends of the Blind. [United States, approximately 1880]
- A Soldier's Letter. [Alabama?, approximately 1920]
- Souslin, Alonzo. My Own Story of a Broken Neck. Dayton, Ohio: Alonzo Souslin, [1907?]
- Sowers, William. A Sketch of the Life of William Sowers, a Man Who Never Walked. Kenton, Ohio: W.M. Beckman & Co., [1892?]
- Sullivan, Levi C. The Tree of Knowledge. Roanoke, Va.: Levi C. Sullivan, [approximately 1910]
- T. J. G. Railroad Boy's Appeal. [United States, 1888]
- This Poetry for Sale for the Benefit of a Blind Man. [United States, approximately 1880]
- This Poetry for Sale for the Benefit of a Blind Man. [United States, approximately 1900]
- Thompson, George W. New Song Book. [United States, 1897?]
- Tiska, Jo?l. L'Aveugle et le paralytique. Paris: Répertoire fran?ais, [approximately 1910]
- To the Public. [United States, approximately 1870] [poem of eleven four-line stanzas]
- To the Public. [United States, approximately 1880] [poem of six eight-line stanzas]
- Tompkins, Ralph D. Won't You be a Friend of Mine. Easton, Penn.: [Free Press Publishing Co.], 1913.
- Tompkins, Ralph D. Won't You be a Friend of Mine? Easton, Penn.: Free Press Publishing Co., 1913.
- Tompkins, Ralph D. Won't You be a Friend of Mine? Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1913.
- Tompkins, Ralph D. Won't You be a Friend of Mine? Louisville, K.Y.: Tompkins & Zoeller Music Company, 1918.
- Van Winkle, Robert. Little Robert, "World's Biggest Little Man." [Knoxville, Tenn.?, 1950s]
- Ward, Hattie. Good Luck to the Purchaser of this Poem. [San Jose, Calif., approximately 1910]
- Waterson, Ed. J. Be Kind to the Cripple. [United States, approximately 1920]
- Whipple, B. F. Please Buy One of These. [United States, approximately 1900]
- Winston, J. Cora O'Kane, or, The Doom of the Rebel Guard. Claremont, N.H.: Published by an Association of Disabled Soldiers, 1868.
Jessica Grzegorski, 2021.
Processing staff transcribed titles and captions from the materials in the collection as they appear. Text transcribed directly from the materials is enclosed in quotation marks in the inventory. Titles in the appendix are transcribed directly from the materials without the use of quotation marks, unless the quotation marks appear on the materials. Some of the terminology used in the collection materials relating to disability and people with disabilities is considered harmful or offensive today. Processing staff have retained the original language in order to present the materials in the context in which they were created and to facilitate historical research. Harmful and offensive language relating to ability does not reflect the values of the Newberry Library.
- Holmes, Julian (Lyricist) (Person)
- Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Clinton Lodge, No. 98 (Lock Haven, Pa.) (Organization)
- Johnston, Clarence A. (Person)
- Kaak, Willy, 1890- (Person)
- Krÿnberg, A. (Person)
- Lentini, Frank A., 1889-1966 (Person)
- Ligue des Droits du religieux ancien combattant (Organization)
- McKeown, Frank (Person)
- Minnen, A. v. d. (Person)
- Modern Woodmen of America (Organization)
- Mougenel, J. (Person)
- Paillot, Georges (Person)
- Pineda, Ricardo (Person)
- Pouliquen, Marie (Person)
- Rosin, François (Person)
- Sanders, Charles E. (Person)
- Sellers, W. J. (Person)
- Selvaggio, Marc S. (Person)
- Shaw, R. G. (Person)
- Smith, R. (Person)
- Souslin, Alonzo, 1860- (Person)
- Stevens, F. B. (Person)
- Takkenberg, C. (Person)
- Thompkins, Ralph D. (Person)
- Thomson, Ann E. Leak, 1839-1899 (Person)
- Tucker, W. D. (Person)
- Unthan, C. H. (Person)
- Urgence cardiaque Viviane (Organization) (Organization)
- Vaillancourt, Fred E. (Person)
- Ventura, Antonio (Person)
- White, Arthur T. (Person)
- Williams, W. C. (Person)
- Wilson, Lauren (Person)
- Yanney, J. B., 1853- (Person)
- Young Helpers' League (Great Britain) (Organization)
- Armitage, Walter J. (Person)
- Axelrod, Mark (Person)
- Bridgman, Laura Dewey, 1829-1889 (Person)
- Brockton (Mass.). Police Department (Organization)
- Carlier, Emile (Person)
- Carver, Art (Person)
- Chambers, John, 1850- (Person)
- Cole, Chick (Person)
- Commonwealth Rescue League (Upton, Mass.) (Organization)
- Covert, Geo. L. (Person)
- Edwards, V., Cap. (Person)
- Filip, František, 1904-1957 (Person)
- Folk, L. M. (Person)
- Freemasons. Medina Lodge, No. 336 (Medina, N.Y.) (Organization)
- Graff, William W. (Person)
- Guild of the Brave Poor Things (Organization)
- Harriss, Daniel E. F. P. (Person)
- Fithen, Frank E. (Frank Edward), 1882-1940 (Person)
- Pinto, Geo. E. (Person)
- Tennant, Wm. (William) (Person)
- Lampérière, G. (Person)
- Myers, Ray R. (Raymond Robert) (Person)
- Sine, L. D., 1828 or 1829- (Person)
- Karchmar, Jacob (Person)
- January, J. W. (Person)
- Shell, John, 1788- (Person)
- Campbell, Robert, active 20th century (Person)
- Bach, Ed. (Person)
- Kennedy, Willie, 1884- (Person)
- Ryan, J. C. (Person)
Genre / Form
- Alms boxes
- Begging poems
- Broadside poems
- Greeting cards
- Picture postcards
- Printed ephemera
- Europe -- Economic conditions -- History -- Sources
- Europe -- Social Conditions -- History -- Sources
- United States -- Economic conditions -- History -- Sources
- United States -- Social Conditions -- History -- Sources
- Inventory of the Mendicant ephemera collection, approximately 1850-2018
- Finding aid prepared by Jessica Grzegorski
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2023-11-06: Additions acquired in 2022 and 2023 incorporated into inventory and provenance information updated accordingly by Jessica Grzegorski.