Trade Catalogs – A Guide to Architectural Collections

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
Columbia University
300 Avery
1172 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10027

Tel: 212 854-3501

The Avery collection contains more than 10,000 catalogs in subject areas related to architecture and decorative arts. The collection is fully cataloged and can be searched on-line. The materials are contained in the rare book room of the Avery library and do not circulate. A majority of the catalogs were converted to microfiche. The microfiche collection is available from several libraries in the U.S. There is a finding aid to the microfiche collection that is maintained at the Avery reference desk.

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Microform Version
Architectural trade catalogues from Avery Library, Columbia University. Edited by Norman A. Ross; introduction by Frank Matero]. Frederick, Md.: UPA Academic Editions, c1989. 3,477 microfiches, ill., 11 x 15 cm. Titles selected by Herbert Mitchell. Accompanied by printed guide entitled: Guide to Architectural Trade Catalogs from Avery Library, Columbia University.

Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920, rue Baile
Montréal, Québec
H3H 2S6

Tel: 514 939 7026

The CCA library contains approximately 5,600 trade catalogues documenting building technology and construction methods from the late eighteenth century to the present. Coverage is broad and includes such categories as concrete and lumber, metalwork and woodwork, flooring, heating and insulation, plumbing and electricity, windows and roofing. Approximately 80% of the catalogs are from U.S. companies. The collection is fully cataloged and can be searched on-line. The collection does not circulate.

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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Tel: 412.622.3114

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has more than 25,000 trade catalogs in all subject areas. Architectural and building topics will be represented in multiple categories. The catalogs are shelved alphabetically by index categories in the main library building. There is no separate category for building construction or architectural topics. There are multiple headings for things like andirons, chimneys, clocks, door hangers, door knobs, doors, household appliances, lamps, etc. The subject nomenclature and language is reasonably descriptive for building researches but is not consistent with contemporary categories. There is no special finding aid. The materials are all listed on index cards that have to be searched manually. The items do no circulate.

Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington
400 S. State St.
Chicago IL 60605
Special Collections and Preservation Division, 9th Fl
Neighborhood Research History Collection

Tel: 312 747-4396

The Chicago Public Library trade catalog collection contains approximately 300 catalogs from Chicago area companies. Architectural and related products represent approximately one quarter of the collection. There are a number of large general catalogs such as Sear, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward and Co., which contain many architectural and decorative arts materials. The collection is not searchable through the library's on-line catalog.

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Hagley Museum and Library
Hagley Rd (PO Box 3630)
Wilmington, DE 19807

Imprints Collection, Main Library
Tel: (302) 658-3690

The Hagley Museum and Library has a collection of 25,000 trade catalogs as a resource for understanding America's commercial, technological, and industrial development. The collection has a great amount of materials in the areas of architecture and decorative arts that are useful for historic restorations and artifact identification. The collection is fully cataloged and can be searched on-line. A microfiche version of the collection was created in 1989.

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Microform Version
Hagley Museum and Library. Trade Catalogs from the Hagley Museum and Library: Transportation. Frederick, Md.: UPA Academic Editions, c1989. 904 microfiches, ill.

Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Thomas Jefferson Bldg, LJ 100
Washington, D.C. 20540-4660

Tel: (202) 707-3399

The Library of Congress has a representative collection of trade catalogs that are dispersed throughout the general collections. The catalogs are listed in the card catalog under many different headings, not always consistent with contemporary nomenclature. Users interested in accessing them must resort to several strategies in order to find them. There is an excellent overview of how to find these materials on the Library of Congress web site.

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Northwest Architectural Archive of the Univ. of Minnesota
213 Andersen Library
222 21st Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Tel: 612-624-8812

The Northwest Architectural Archive library has a collection of 7,000 trade publications in the areas of architecture and related aspects of the building arts and trades. An extremely wide range of products is represented in the literature, including linoleum, plumbing and heating fixtures, structural steel, millwork, lighting systems (both gas and electric), construction machinery, greenhouses, metal ceilings, office furniture, prefabricated buildings, doors, windows, household appliances and bank vaults, among many others. In addition to the trade catalog collection, the Northwest Archive has a Stock Plan Book Collection containing about 200 published compendia of plans for houses, commercial structures, garages, churches, small stores, lake cabins, and farm buildings from the same period. There is an unpublished finding to the collection available at the library. The trade catalog collection is not searchable through the on-line library catalog. The collection is arranged alphabetically by author/publisher.

The Northwest Archive also contains the company records of the American Terra Cotta company. The collection contains shop drawings from the American, Midland, Indianapolis and Winkle Terra Cotta Companies, along with photographs, negatives, order books and indexes. The collection was processed and the finding aid written by Statler Gilfillen; published as The American Terra Cotta Index, 1972.

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Philadelphia Athenaeum
219 S. Sixth Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106-3794

Tel: (215) 925-2688

The Philadelphia Athenaeum trade catalog collection consists of approximately 2,000 items. The holdings are particularly strong in areas such as paint colors, lighting fixtures, wallpaper, heating and kitchen equipment, plumbing, and household furniture. Internal finding aids are available. Most of the trade catalogue holdings have been entered into the RLIN system and Athena, the Athenaeum's online catalogue.

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St. Louis Building Arts Foundation
2412 Menard Street
St. Louis, MO 63104

Tel: 314-773-2264
Fax: 314-773-4450

The St. Louis Architectural Art Company library consists of some 20,000 books, manuscripts, periodicals and trade catalogs relating to architecture and the allied arts in addition to thousands of drawings and photographs. The collection is particularly strong in topics related to masonry and terra cotta construction. The library materials are currently in storage and are not available for viewing during 2008 as the facility changes locations. The on-line catalog has a partial listing of materials.

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Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of American History
14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington DC

Tel: 202-633-3270

The Smithsonian Institution, primarily in the library of the National Museum of American History has more than 40,000 trade catalogs. The collection is stronger in the areas of technology, industry and agriculture than it is architectural and decorative arts. Trade catalog subject areas include air conditioning, boilers and heating, but there is no specific subject area for architectural and building supplies. Within the broad category of "Equipment and Supplies" there are subheadings for bathrooms and fireplaces. The library's collection can be searched through the on-line catalog.

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University of California at Santa Barbara
Donald C. Davidson Library
Dept. of Special Collections
Santa Barbara CA

Tel: (805) 893-3420

The University of California at Santa Barbara (USCB) library contains a trade catalog collection of more than 41,000 catalogs assembled by Lawrence Romaine. Approximately one quarter, or more than 10,000 of these catalogs relate to architectural and decorative arts topics. Romaine's Guide to American Trade Catalogs: 1744 Ð 1900 published in 1960 was a primary reference for trade catalogs in the pre-Internet era. The UCSB collection is still arranged along the lines of Romaine's Guide. These materials were cataloged as a separate collection, with access via subject or name of company. Subjects are arranged alphabetically with box numbers beginning anew for each subject/category. Many subjects have been further divided into categories, frequently arranged alphabetically. Arrangement and box numbers have been retained as found since they are embedded in the existing box-level cataloging records. As a result, similar materials or materials from a given company sometimes are found in more than one box, and in other cases apparently dissimilar materials may be located within a given box. There is an on-line finding aid to the subject categories, but the individual catalogs have not been indexed and are not searchable via the on-line library catalog.

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Winterthur Museum & Country Estate
Route 52
(5105 Kennett Pike)
Winterthur DE 19735

Tel: 302.888.4634

The Winterthur collection brings together some 3,200 trade catalogs spanning the years 1750 to 1980. Organized in 30 topical sections from agricultural implements and machinery to wall and floor coverings, the collection will serve historic preservationists, historical archaeologists, historians of technology, and social historians as well as students of the decorative arts in America. Within each topical section, the catalogs are arranged alphabetically by manufacturer, with dates given in order. The collection was converted to microfiche in 1989. The collection has been fully cataloged and can be searched on-line. The materials do not circulate.

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Microform Version

Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum. Trade Catalogues at Winterthur. Frederick, Md.: Clearwater Pub. Co., c1989. About 3,000 microfiches, ill. Printed guide: E. Richard McKinstry, comp., Trade Catalogues at Winterthur: A Guide to the Literature of Merchandising, 1750 to 1880. Printed guide: Eleanor McD. Thompson, comp., Trade Catalogues at the Winterthur Museum Part II.

Architectural Trade Catalogs: Links

How to find trade catalogs in the Library of Congress

National Museum of American History Library

Sears Archive – Homes