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Imagine exploring a distant relative’s attic – you’re modeling vintage clothes in a rusted mirror and peeking into steam trunks. Then, you find a tattered book. The spine cracks as you open the cover. In capitalized typewriter font, you read “This scrapbook belongs to: Frankie Pratt. (Private!).”
Private? Well, not so much. Our December Book of the Month lays out the exciting and romantic life of a young woman in the 1920s. Author Caroline Preston writes this novel not in typical prose, but in collages of postcards, magazine pages, black and white photographs letters, ticket stubs, and pieces of typewritten paper. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is so much more than just a story.
After graduating from high school, Frankie’s mother gifts her with a blank scrapbook. After picking up her deceased father’s Corona typewriter, Frankie begins to fill the scrapbook’s pages with her life. From her first whirlwind romance, to her years at Vassar, to living in Paris, Frankie saves and displays every iota of her life in her scrapbook. Though it’s set almost nine decades ago, the reader is certainly drawn to and can relate to her story.
And the way the book looks! Amazing. If you’re a fan of sites like My Vintage Vogue, then you’ll want to flip through this book over and over again. The full color, glossy pages brim with Jazz Age images, Art Nouveau style, beautiful hand-printed ’20s ads, drop-waist dresses, cloches, you name it. There’s even a cameo by poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.
As a former archivist, author Caroline Preston shows her great admiration for scrapbooking and ephemera through this magnificently original novel. Perfect for a long plane ride and later for a rainy day, you’ll want to keep coming back to this book. Hint hint, it’s a great gift for a lover of antiques and vintage.
Eager to join our monthly discussion and have a chance to win a copy of The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt?
Discussion question: Have you ever found relatives’ old love letters, photo albums, or scrapbooks that revealed a whole new view of your family?
Growing up, I knew that my father’s mother was a dancer. Not until I opened one of her photo albums, did I realize what entailed her past dancing life. Upon opening the book, I saw pictures during the 1940s of Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Margaret O’ Brien, etc! These were the people that my grandma associated with regularly. The pictures opened a whole new door for me into my grandmother’s past life! And on top of all that she wore adorable vintage clothes!
I have to stop buying books from you guys. This is the third one that I’ve bought that you guys end up giving away after! Haha, I should at least try to win it first! 😀
My favorite notes that I’ve found from my family are the descriptions family members put on the backs of photos. There’s something very personal and nostalgic that accompanies even a simple note like “Aunt Violeta, First House 1944”
ive gone through my mom and dads old letters which they kept in boxes in their closet. i found them as a kid and i realized that they had lives before i was in the picture. it was strange and fascinating…
This sounds too cool! My boyfriend and I once found old letters in his parent’s attic that belonged to the original owners. The wife had saved all of the letters from World War II that her husband had written her. Sometimes they were long and sometimes they were short but they were always cute anecdotes about ‘inside war stories’ and how much he loved and missed her. We both loved reading them and made a date out of it to exchange our favorites.
I once found an entire books of postcards in my Grandmother’s closet that were sent to my great-grandmother from her high school days (around 1910). Most were from her friends and cousins, some in English and some in Finnish. The postcards themselves were absolutely beautiful, with interesting pictures and designs on them. Most of them were simple stories about all the gossip going on in town, but a few were detailed family letters from her cousins in Finland. At the time, I had just started learning Finnish and it was so fun to not only get a glimpse of a normal girl from the turn-of-the-century, but also have an insight into my family history both in the US and back in Finland. Since she’s one of the least well-recorded of my ancestors (we don’t even know her mother’s name), it was so fun to feel like I was really getting to know she was by seeing what other people wrote to her.
I have always been very close to my grandmother who recently, and sadly, passed away. A couple years ago, she took me down to the basement, where we sat for hours going through thick dusty albums of photos chronicling generations of her family. I saw a side of her I’d never experienced. The photo that stands out the most to me is one of her, slender, dark-haired, and atop a fake black and white bucking bronco. She has a hand high in the air, and a dark cowboy hat with white piping perched on her head. I love thinking about her doing something silly; she was a loving but relatively stern and serious mother and grandmother. I always knew she had it in her; now I have proof. 🙂
I did not know that ModCloth gave away books! I have to start looking at the Blog more often!
When I was younger I found a note that my deceased mother had written herself packed away in a mothball-ridden chest. It was heartbreakingly sad about a reoccurring nightmare she was having about losing her own father, who had cancer. The note made a huge impact on me because I realized that my mother felt the same way about losing my grandfather that I feel about losing her. It also forced me to recognize that even in our pain we experienced similar emotions and that we are close, even though she is gone.
My grandmother recently moved from her house that she lived in for over 40 years with my grandfather. Being a tight-knit family, of course all of the children and grandchildren offered their help with packing and cleaning, etc. As my sisters and my cousins and I were helping my grandmother clean out her office, we found records and pictures that she had kept from when she was nineteen years old, my age. She was (and still is) beautiful, but more so when she was younger. She was tiny and, next to my grandfather, a general in the army at the time, they looked perfect; too good to be true. This made us wonder the story behind all of these pictures so, when we found a time between the vacuuming and dusting, we approached our grandmother and asked her about how she and my grandfather met, when they got married, all of that romantic stuff us girls swoon to. What she told us, though, was shocking to our ears for, what we know to be a generous, well-mannered grandmother was actually somewhat mischevious back in the day. While at a dance on an army base, my grandmother was sitting outside getting some air and, while she was by herself, my grandfather came up to her. He offered her a seat and they talked for a good part of the night, and danced together for the rest. Soldiers were, of course, not allowed off the base so, when it was time to leave, my grandmother and her friends snuck some soldiers into their car (including my grandfather) and snuck them off the base. I couldn’t believe those people were my grandparents! Sneaking around and completely in love. It’s so cool to get a glimpse of what your parents/grandparents were like back in the day and to find out that, really, they’re not that much different from you. I do look at my grandparents a bit differently now but, if anything has changed, I’ve gained a greater respect for them for risking trouble and breaking the rules for love. If it wasn’t for their daring behavior’s, I may not be here today.
As a true lover of everything vintage I now know how precious my Grandmothers vintage photographs are. Apon looking through her old albums I discovered a photo of her in her early twenties while she was living in Holland. This would be about 1930. Beside the portrait was also a photo of my Grandfather who I have never met. They both looked so beautiful. To this day I cannot get the snapshots out of my head because to me there will always be something sincerly special about vintage photography and fashion.
About two years later I was looking through my parents photo albums with my three siblings. We were giggling and joking about all the photos of my parents who were, at the time, dating. It was so silly to see them in this different lifestyle. We then came across some envelopes tucked intp to the clear film pages. I remember my mother snatching it away and laughing. After numerous attempts of snatching it out of her hand she reluctantly gave in. We opened the envelope to find out it was a love letter my mother had given to my father. It was so heartfelt and cheesy that we all errupted in laughter. These are the moments familiys never forget!
Last Christmas, we looked at my grandpa’s (who died before I was born) scrapbook of when he was in the army during the Korean War. He spent the whole war in Europe- he looked like he was on vacation with his buddies instead of in the army during a war! It was also stuffed with love letters (all in French and Spanish!) from women he met during the war before he married my grandma. It was really interesting, especially because I never knew him!
When we were 16, my sister and I became extremely interested in our family history and preserving it. We always kept journals, favorite items of clothing, photographs– everything we thought worthwhile for the generations after us. Now, whereas we were the sentimental enthusiasts, our mother was not. She always teased us about our “sentimentality”, seeming never to understand.
Well during this period, we went through all the family photos that we could get our hands on. Photographs of our grandparents weddings, our great-grandparents weddings, our parents as babies, of them growing up, and photographs of our parents as they traveled around Europe from their home country to the United States.
Now, the last of these photographs were special, because of parent’s love story revolves around their traveling across Europe, chasing each other across countries until they could be reunited in New York City.
Their romance was a well known story in our family, however to actually see the proof of their love, spanning across a year through these various countries realized a reality for us teenagers. Our parents actually had a LIFE before us. They had thoughts, lives, and loves–a history, a story before they were our parents.
But that’s not all. That same day, it was sometime during the Christmas holiday season, our mother was showing us her vintage jewelry, searching for something in her old hat-box. There in the bottom of the floral hat-box was a thick envelope that held love letters between our father and her.
THAT, now that, was a shocker revelation. Our parents actually loved each other– not only that they were still in love with each other! At 16, love is only for the young, and the 2-D version of parents that all children had evaporated. They unraveled and grew into full, lively, and colorful characters that would ensnare a captivated audience had it been a film or a novel.
From then on, my sister and I continued our mission to preserve our family history. My sister even studied history at university and I storytelling.
Our “sentimentality” was inherited from our unsentimental mother 😉
Over Easter, my cousins and I stumbled across a box overflowing with family pictures from everything to my dad’s prom night photo to my aunts as young girls. I saw each member of my paternal family portrayed in a new, youthful light. The resemblances were clear, so it was obvious who grew up to be whom. I even saw my great grandmother as a young woman with her husband. It was sort of odd to see our parents, aunts, uncles, and grandmothers at various stages of their life, but it did remind us that they were our age once, too. They may have not had the same problems or situations, but they were all teenagers once.
I’m 21 now but probably when I was around 15 I found pictures of a young boy, they looked like year book pictures and some portraits with sports gear. My parents said they told me when I was real young but since I don’t remember, I don’t know how much they told me. But he is my half brother on my fathers side, he got divorced and the boys mother took him and left. My dad hasn’t spoken to either of them since, and I have still never met him.
My parents recently got a box of old family photos and we got to look through them all. It was amazing to finally see what my great-great grandparents looked like and get a look into what life was like for them on the farm and serving in the military.
I had a great great great grand father with the name of Richard Johns….My great grandma, also a descendant of his, kept an ivory cane that belonged to him. According to her and other family histories I stumbled upon later, he was given the cane when he was an overseer in a mine in Africa. His native African workers gave it to him when he lost his job as an overseer for not being strident enough. I guess he got on much too well with the miners! This was in the 1800s. He was a white English man who was kind to the African people when there was a lot of racism in the society. That alone makes me so proud of him, that he was good to those people and that he thought for himself.
My Grandparents both passed away last year (Grandpa was 100!), so my large family has been cleaning out their house. We are all very close and love seeing all the stuff they’ve saved over the years. Of course, with people like my grandparents, who saved everything, it’s hard to pick a favorite find. However, one of the best things we found was the collection of love letters my Grandpa wrote to my Grandma. I’ve always known Grandpa to be sweet yet a shy man, so these very touching letters formally expressing his love & appreciation for Florence, his flower, gave a whole new perspective on what a sweet, great guy he really was.
I was going through some of my dads old things and to my dismay I encountered something very strange.I had always thought my grandma had five children but, she actually had six. I had found an old photo from the 1960′ s of a baby girl and soon learned that as a child she died. The most interesting part was the fact that the photo was dated november 3 when she was born. That also happens to be my date of birth as well.
A few years ago, I archived all of my grandmother’s saved V-Mail from World War II, in which she had two brothers and her future husband serve, as well as many cousins. In all, I have a relative writing from every beach American troops landed on in D-Day, and one great uncle who served in the Pacific. Among the tales that the letters document is a romance with a Hawaiian native of which my great-grandparents strongly disapproved (you needed to meet a nice, local girl in those days), meeting your next-door-neighbor on a battlefield in France, only to find his body days later (“Tell Chick’s parents I’m sorry…”), and getting run over by a tank and living to tell the tale. One great uncle who was a notorious list-taker in his lifetime mailed a Nazi pennant to my grandmother on which he wrote the name of every town, city, and village he passed through on his wartime travels. It begins with arriving in London, and ends with a sigh of relief in Berlin.
I suppose that all of these letters reveal in part what the war was really like on the ground, and certainly reveals much about my family’s character. WWII veterans rarely talked about their experiences, so this glimpse into their life during the war is mesmerizing. From funny comments about French food, English beer, and sharing stories in foxholes, to the heart-wrenching comments about “not having a lack of fireworks” on one July 4th spent abroad and wondering if they’d live to see another Christmas, these letters, put in sequence, are the true story of the war; the true stories of soldiers, friends, brothers, heroes, and, most importantly, my family.
Unfortunately not any really old ones 🙁 Though my parents wedding photos proved my Mum had long blonde hippy hair and my Dad a 70’s ‘tache and wore a brown flared suit! Still makes me giggle!
I was going through some family photos at my grandparents house and found a bunch of pictures from when they first started dating. They looked so young and carefree in the picture of them standing in front of a teal ’57 chevy, turns out that car was my Papa’s pride and joy but he sold it after he joined the army so he could pay for my Nana to move to Texas after he finished basic training, I thought that was very sweet.
My grandmother, Virginia, raised my mother and her two sisters on her own after my grandfather died. He died when my mother was only two years old. I could never imagine how my grandmother could remain so strong after that loss. I found pictures of my grandmother working at an aluminum factory during World War II as a nurse. She continued to work as a nurse night and day to support her family after my grandfather died. My mother moved to Seattle with my father when he decided to go back to school. The pictures of his graduation show my very pregnant mother holding my brother and sister’s She worked when she had to but she always made sure she was there to support me and my brother and sister. I’ve never known anyone stronger than my grandmother and my mother and I hope that someday I inherit their strength. I keep these photographs to remind me how blessed I am to have such important women in my life.
As a future Librarian, I have to say that I immediately latched onto a box of old letters, postcards, and photographs at my grandfather’s house after he passed, documenting from his childhood through his stint in the Navy during WWII.
My grandfather fathered my father late in his life, so when I was born, he was already in his 80s, which meant he was always OLD to me. We never really connected the way that I did with my maternal, younger grandparents. I admit it is one of my bigger regrets that I did not get to know him better, but it is through these artifacts from his life that I feel I really got to KNOW HIM.
I still have many of the old photographs in frames around my room in grad school, but it was the LETTERS that really hit home for me. There is one in particular, a Christmas card he sent to my grandmother who I was never privileged enough to know, that really tugged at my heartstrings. It’s short, sweet, to the point (and fantastically vintage), and simply tells her that all is well – he misses her – and cannot wait to come home. Included was a photo of himself with some of the island boys that he had befriended. He concludes with, “Don’t worry. I’ll get back soon.”
I have never found one myself, but I have always wondered what it would be like if my children/grandchildren/etc. were to find my diaries or whatnot. I wonder if they would relate to the things I’ve shared and/or what they would think of me afterwards…
My grandmother was in her 20’s during the “roaring 20’s” but you don’t think your mom-mom is going to be a wild woman so it came as a surprise to all of us when we found out that she had a first husband – gasp!- not my grandfather. it turns out that he was an owner of a speak easy!! needless to say we were all shocked. i just wish we would have known this while she was still here to answer questions.
can’t wait to read the book….
One of my great-grandmothers was known as a sour, taciturn woman, especially after my grandparents got married, and that’s how I remembered her. Cleaning out an old chest at my grandparents I found a bunch of albums that used to belong to my great-grandmother. They were full of photos of my grandpa as a baby, as a toddler, as a little boy playing baseball. A treasured childhood chronicled across many photo albums. She’s in many of the pictures, holding him or just gazing on him fondly. It’s clear that she just adored her son. Now that I’m a mother, I completely understand how a little bit of sunshine faded from her life they day he got married and moved away.
I’ve found amazing black and white photographs of my family on both sides, from Ireland and Lebanon. It’s funny to see my grandmother (the youngest of eight!) as a little girl in a large family portrait: her father is usually wearing a fez. For my sister, there’s her namesake Elizabeth, dressed to the nines while riding a horse across the 1800s Irish countryside. The newest find is a photograph of my great great (possible another great) grandmother, who looks just like my mom and is wearing a fabulous fur coat and a hat with a *gigantic* feather plume. I thoroughly approve of her fashion sense, seeing as it’s exactly what I would wear if I could get away with it!
There was this bag full of letters that my mom used to keep hidden. As a teen, I found them and started reading them one by one – they were love letter to my dad, from when they were young, before being married, and each studying in a different city. She was a lovely young girl and so much different from the mother that I knew. She was as romantic and in love as a young woman as I was as a teen, and that felt really nice.
I love reading the descriptions that were written on the back of really old family photos. It helps me to imagine the time and the people in greater details!
I never realized how close my dad was to his lifelong friends until I once stumbled upon my dad’s pal Scott’s (my FAVORITE, by the way) letter he sent while in the navy. It was really sweet and talked about how much he wanted to come home.
More than anything it surprised me that he kept mementos like that, something I had never envisioned him doing before. It was sweet.
I’ve never found anything paper wise about my ancestors that grabbed my interest but my grandparents are very quiet and don’t talk about their past very much, but as I got older the more curious I became and I finally got up the courage to ask them a little bit about their past. What I uncovered was incredible! They were married at 19 because my grandmother was pregnant and my grandfather, the gentleman he is, married her. They lived in a chicken coop that they tried to make feel homey for several years with two babies in diapers. My grandmother even said that sometimes when she’d try to wash the diapers they’d freeze in the water. I feel that actually hearing their stories from them is a million times better then finding a diary or some other record. Also,an added bonus was that once I started showing an interest, my grandmother broke out her and grandpa’s old clothing and hats and passed it off to me for safe keeping! What gems they are! I can’t tell you how honored I am when I put on my grandmothers prom dress. I get to get a little more taste of her lifetime!
I recently found my grandmothers photo album from nursing school. It turns out the sweet, god-fearing, southern woman that has meant so much to me in my life was once a pin up during nursing school. We sat down and leafed through the pictures and she told me all the stories of her youth: my grandfather proposing on their first date, winning Mrs. Yellow pages, and learning how to drive one night down on capitol street. I’ve never felt closer to her and feel honored to have learned about the adventurous parts of her life.
When I visit my family in North Dakota, I always sit around with my mother and Aunts, and we go through the boxes and boxes of pictures. They are fun, but just about what you would expect from any families albums. Recently though, I found an album that was my grandfathers from before he got married. It was all his pictures of his cowboy days! The album was simple black paper with page after page of beautiful black and white and sepia toned photographs. It revealed a whole new side of my grandfather. Actually, I never new my grandfather, as he died before I was born, all I know is that he was a quiet farmer and father of five children. His photo album gave me an idea of the man that he really was. He loved his horse and his dog, which take up many of the shots. He has several of his horse wearing his cowboy hat and a few of his dog that make it look like the dog is driving his car! Every single picture in that album is so precious to me. They capture a whole era, a life, I never knew, yet feel so close to. Even the pictures of snow covered prairies with no subjects have a glamorous quality of them. I also like the ones of his sisters that he took in Yosemite National Park. They all have the bobbed hair and flapper style, basking in the sun, after their hike. The worst part is that I didn’t get to keep the book. My mom and I both love it so much, but my mothers older sister kept it. I just love knowing that my grandfather had a passion for life and that he liked to photograph the things and the people that were important to him. I especially liked seeing that he liked to take the type of picture that I do. For instance, he has a photo of a stray cat drinking out of a puddle of melted snow. It is taken from the level of the cat. I can just see my grandpa laying in the mud to get that picture, and that’s the kind of thing I would do.
i’ve found old photos of my mother and aunts and cousins party photos when they went out clubbing in the 80’s and it seriously makes me feel like i was born too late in the 80’s and i’ve totally missed out on some fun experiences.
I found my mother’s love letter’s from a college sweetheart years ago. I love to read them because I got to know my mother on a whole new level.
Recently while at my grandmother’s house, we looked at a scrapbook her parents had made when they came to visit her in the United States (New York), travelling all the way from Holland. It was interesting to see that they had saved everything! The plane ticket, the hotel matches, programs to various events, a dinner menu (where you could get a filet mignon for just under $3!), basically anything that they thought they could put in a scrapbook. The old style photos of my grandma and my great grandparents was really touching to see. They all looked to happy and clean and just… represented an entirely different era that I can never really imagine living in. It’s so strange but cool to be looking into the past from a family/historical perspective. And New York looks so different too! The simplicity of life back then…. I just wish I could have that kind of simplicity in my life today. Talking about your family history is one thing, but seeing pictures and actual “artifacts” from “back in the day” is a unique experience in itself.
My brother took over our grandparents house two years ago, and since our grandfather is really old he didnÂ´t have the strength to go through all the stuff in the house. My father and his siblings rented a container and started throwing things out… A lot of things ended up in that dumpster! But I had a feeling that I saw things a little differently than they did, so I joined them. In my grandparents bedroom there was a bureau, and in the third drawer I found this treasure! There were tons of old, beautiful black and white photos, and there was bundles with letters. My aunt said: Oh, noone ever looks at these things, just throw them. But of course I saved the photos, and I just had to see what the letters were. I opened the first bundle, and as I started reading my heart raced and my eyes filled with tears. It was love letters between my grandparents from the time they met, got engaged and through the time they were separated because of WW2. My grandfather was defending the swedish border against the nazis in Norway. It was a beautiful experience getting to know my grandparents in a completely new way, and since my grandmother died eight years ago it was like a gift from heaven!
Years ago my grandparents showed my family an old photo album with pictures from when my Granddad was in the war. He show us a pic of a special Jeep is built for himself, as he was in charge of the vehicles in his troop.
My Grandma was a real life Rosie the Riveter, building fighter jets! Made me love and appreciate them even more … and think that they were really cool! A few years later, for Halloween I dressed up as Rosie the Riveter in honor of my Grandma =)
Two years ago, my grandparents had their 50th anniversary, and there were a lot of old pictures of the two of them circulating around the party! It was so interesting to see them when they were younger- the outfits were so cool, and my grandfather had hair!
Also, once at a restaurant (one of those places where the walls are covered in old pictures, flags, etc.) we saw a picture of a marching band and drill team. As we looked closer, we saw my grandmother! She was on the drill team in high school and my mom recognized her picture hanging in a random restaurant.
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