The Clements Library website includes events, exhibits, subject guides, newsletter issues, library staff, and more.

Home » Explore Collections » Graphics Division

Prints, photographs, original art,
sheet music, & printed ephemera

Graphics Division


The Graphics Division of the Clements Library is comprised of visual materials of many genres and formats. The collection is curated to support the overall subject strengths found in the library’s books, manuscripts, and maps, as well as offering unique research opportunities in American visual culture.

The bulk of the graphics holdings are in prints and photographs, supplemented with original artwork, printed ephemera, sheet music, and other visual materials. Three-dimensional objects and realia items are also housed in the Graphics Division.


The holdings of the print collection number approximately 9,000 items, the bulk of which spans the late 18th to middle 19th centuries. Almost every printing process from woodcuts and copper plate engravings, to color lithographs and photomechanical prints is represented. Major events such as the American Revolution and the Civil War are present in multiple genres such as views, portraits, and political satires.

Many of the library’s earliest engravings and prints are located in the Book Division along with later illustrated newspapers and magazines. The map division holdings also offer numerous decorative and illustrated maps, many with detailed topographic views, illustrations of people, places, activities, and events.

Subject areas of strength include:

  • Allegorical representations of America
  • City scenes and bird’s-eye views
  • Disasters
  • Fairs and expositions, particularly the 1893 World’s Columbian and 1876 Centennial Expositions
  • Historic events
  • Landscape scenes
  • Native American iconography
  • Politics
  • Portraiture
  • Sea battles, especially from the War of 1812
  • Satire, especially related to politics, the American Revolution, Civil War, 19th century social reform, race and ethnicity.
  • War and military service

Using the collection

The print collection can be searched in Library Search. Be sure to inquire about numerous and significant uncatalogued materials. Genre terms such as etchings, engravings, lithographs in the subject search field will locate these prints specifically. These terms can be used in conjunction with keywords in other search fields.

High resolution scans of many individual items now appear in the Clements Library Image Bank.

History of the Collection

William L. Clements collected a modest number of portrait engravings, Revolutionary War satires, and historical prints in keeping with his interests in early American history.

The collection expanded slowly through the first decades of the library’s history, but the Clements continued to acquire prints commemorating the events of the War of 1812 and 19th century politics. The acquisition of visual materials of all types accelerated greatly under the directorship of John C. Dann with numerous additions of 18th and 19th century satire, Civil War views, chromolithographs, portraits, and illustrated broadsides. Manuscript Curator Arlene Shy took special interest in British satire of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and oversaw the development of this collection as well as the organization of the rest of the print division.

Director J. Kevin Graffagnino has greatly expanded the library’s holdings of 19th century bird’s-eye view lithographs. These iconic images, supported by the working drawings of bird’s-eye view artist Edwin Whitefield and the library’s numerous 18th and early 19th century city views, greatly expand research opportunities in this direction.


The photography collection is comprised of over 150,000 images with examples of virtually every popular photographic format in use in America from 1840 into the 20th century. Since 2005, the photograph collection has become the library’s fastest growing.

Notable sub-collections:

  • Frederick P. Currier Collection
  • David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography
  • Mark A. Anderson Collection of Post-Mortem Photography
  • James S. Schoff Civil War Collection
  • Richard Pohrt Jr. Collection of Native American Photography

Notable 19th century photographers appear including George N. Barnard, Félice Beato, Mathew Brady, Thomas M. Easterly, Francis Frith, Alexander Gardner, William Henry Jackson, John Moran, Eadweard Muybridge, William Notman, Timothy O’Sullivan, John Plumbe, Andrew J. Russell, Charles R. Savage, William Henry Fox Talbot, Carleton Watkins, and George Washington Wilson. The 20th century holdings include representative works by influential photographers from Alvin Langdon Coburn, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, and Eugene Smith, to Marilyn Bridges, Marion Post Wolcott, and Weegee.

Subject areas of strength include:

  • African American history
  • Agriculture
  • Business and commerce
  • Culture and society
  • Disasters
  • Domestic life
  • Fairs and expositions
  • Families
  • Fashion and dress
  • Industry, mining and lumbering
  • Labor and occupations
  • Landscape scenes
  • Leisure and sports
  • Military actions, particularly the Civil War
  • National Parks
  • Native American history
  • Portraiture
  • Schools, colleges and universities
  • Travel
  • Transportation
  • Urban environments
  • Vernacular photography
  • Westward expansion
  • Women’s history

Using the collection

Individual photographs can be searched in Library Search. Discrete collections and photograph albums can be found in the online finding aids. Be sure to inquire about numerous and significant uncatalogued materials. Genre terms such as albumen prints, Daguerreotypes, stereographs, and tintypes will locate these materials specifically. These terms can be used in conjunction with keywords in other search fields.

High resolution scans of many individual items now appear in the Clements Library Image Bank.

Photographically illustrated books are found in the Book Division.

History of the collection

The Clements photograph collection originated with family portraits and albums directly associated with 19th century manuscript collections such as Crittenden, Whittemore-Low, Handy, and Lamb-Sykes family papers.

Significant holdings on the Civil War came to the library with the James S. Schoff Civil War collection. The acquisition of the wide-ranging Frederick P. Currier Collection in 1997 gave the library the critical mass necessary for a serious research resource on historical photography. The donation of the David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography, the majority portion donated by David B. Walters in honor of Harold L. Walters, UM class of 1947 and Marilyn S. Walters, UM class of 1950, added over 100,000 images to the Clements holdings.

Sheet Music

The Clements sheet music collection of approximately 30,000 titles represents popular music from American and foreign publishers from approximately 1770 to 1930. The collection highlights vocal music, often written for parlor performances on pianoforte, organ, or commonplace string instruments like the banjo. Also included are marches, multiple part pieces for stage productions, and many dance instrumentals.

Although the racially derogatory minstrel form is prevalent in the holdings after circa 1830, rare work of African American composers and performers such as Francis Johnson, Gussie Davis, and Scott Joplin also appears.

The emergence of illustrated sheet music covers in the early 19th century and the mid-century application of chromolithography to music publishing offers a significant opportunity for visual research, and the study of graphic design, typography, and printing technology.

Countless aspects of the American experience and numerous historical events are reflected in America’s popular music.

Areas of subject strength include:

  • African American composers and performers
  • Comedy
  • Eating, drinking, and smoking
  • Fairs and expositions
  • Fashion and dress
  • Heroism
  • Leisure and sports
  • Minstrelsy
  • Music publishing and theater business
  • Patriotism
  • Performers
  • Politics and elections
  • Race, ethnicity, and immigration
  • Religion and Spiritualism
  • Romance and courtship
  • Slavery and emancipation
  • Sex and gender
  • Social reform movements, especially abolition and temperance
  • Transportation and technology
  • War, especially the War of 1812, Civil War and Mexican War

Using the collection:

The sheet music collection can be searched in Library Search. Be sure to inquire about numerous uncatalogued materials. The collection can be browsed on request by box. The cataloged materials are sorted into a chronological series, with uncatalogued materials sorted by topic, composer, or place of publication.

Digitized examples appear linked from Library Search to the HathiTrust database.

The collection is sorted in chronological series, and also by publisher, composer, place of publication, and subject. Rare examples of early popular and patriotic songs up to the year 1825 are sorted to the index of Richard Wolfe’s Secular Music in America, 1801-1825.

Additional musical scores appear in the printed tune books in the Book Division (Library Search) and original scores in the Manuscript Division (finding aids). The library has numerous reference works dealing with various aspects of musical performance, publishing, education, philosophy and aesthetics, history and criticism, the music of African Americans, Native Americans, and music bibliography.

Collection history

A modest collection of American musicals scores had developed over the era of Howard Peckham’s directorship with an emphasis on late 18th and early 19th century imprints.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, a series of donations from collector Bly Corning brought approximately 30,000 pieces of 19th-century American sheet music from the massive Edison Phonograph Company collection to the Clements. Approximately 16,500 pieces and 50 bound volumes of music published between 1826 and 1920 make up the core of the Corning-Edison collection. Much of the Edison collection was distributed to the collections of the University of Michigan School of Music.

Substantial additions have been made by purchase and donation in subsequent years.

Printed Ephemera

The ephemera collection is comprised largely of printed advertising and promotional materials, including trade cards, ribbons, brochures, greeting cards, playing cards, event programs, postcards, rewards of merit and other small ephemeral items. The collection spans the late 18th to the early 20th centuries, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1850-1900.

Travel ephemera in the form of railroad timetables and steamship brochures are a strength as are the chromolithograph advertising cards in the Gerald and Charlotte Maxson Ephemera Collection.

Areas of subject strength include:

  • Business, banking and commerce
  • Entertainment, music and theater
  • Fairs and expositions, particularly the 1893 World’s Columbian and 1876 Centennial Expositions
  • Farming and agriculture
  • Games and puzzles
  • Holidays and greeting cards
  • Household products, cooking and cleaning
  • Hotels, resorts and restaurants
  • Lotteries
  • Medicine and tonics
  • Menus
  • Patriotic stationery
  • Personal hygiene
  • Politics and elections
  • Racal and ethnic stereotypes
  • Travel and transportation
  • War and propaganda

Using the collection

The ephemera collection is uncatalogued at present but available for browsing on request.

Original Artwork

The Clements original art holdings are primarily casual works of a documentary nature. Emphasis on travel, American city and landscape views, soldiers’ sketches, portraiture, and commercial illustration predominates.

Genres include:

  • Paintings
  • Drawings
  • Watercolors
  • Sketchbooks
  • Silhouettes
  • Cut paper designs
  • Fraktur art

Several significant works in oil include:

  • “The Constitution and Java, December 29, 1812” by Nicholas Pocock (1740-1821)
  • “Going for Strawberries-Moonlight on the Saint Clair,” by John Mix Stanley (1814-1872)
  • “The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West (1738-1820)

Soldier’s sketches include:

  • Aftermath of the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill and burning of Charlestown (1775) by British General Henry Clinton (1738?-1795)
  • Views of British and American military post in Upper Canada ca.1803-1806 by surgeon Edward Walsh (1756-1832)
  • Civil War experiences of Edgar Klemroth (1837-1934), 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry
  • Life in the U.S. Navy and the Siege of Vicksburg by Harry Simmons (b.1826), U.S.N.
  • World War Two in Europe through the eyes of U.S. Army Master Sargent John “Jack” Keenan (1919-)
  • World War Two in the Pacific Theater as seen by U.S.N. Electricians Mate William A. Lewis (1918-)
  • The American West from military and expedition artist Brevet Brigadier General Seth Eastman (1808-1875)

Using the collection

Look for materials in both Library Search and Clements Finding Aids. Large-scale works on the walls are accessible upon request. Significant examples of original art are also housed in the manuscript division. Digitized examples appear in the Clements Library Image Bank.


The division also holds many small objects and artifacts in its realia collection including coins, medals, games, and various personal items related to manuscript collections. Of note are:

  • Silk fabrics brought back from Thailand (Siam) by the American missionary Asa Hemenway
  • Objects collected by early circus promoter Benjamin Brown
  • Personal items from the Weld-Grimké family
  • Geological and seashell specimens of Dr. Norton Strange Townshend and his brother-in-law Thomas Martin Easterly
  • American coins, tokens, currency, and commemorative medals
  • Napoleonic Medal collection of Professor Nathan T. Whitman

Using the collection

Realia related to specific manuscript collections can be located through the relevant finding aids. In general, the realia collection is uncatalogued but available for browsing upon request.

Using the Collection

A growing percentage of the Graphics Division’s holdings are cataloged online, however consultation with the library’s reference staff is highly recommended for accessing uncataloged materials and recent acquisitions.

Prints, photographs, and illustrated sheet music can be located in Library Search, the online catalog of the University of Michigan library system. Finding aids for photograph albums, scrapbooks and ephemera appear in the Clements Library Finding Aids. High resolution scans of many individual items now appear in the Clements Digital Image Bank.

Although the greatest concentration of images at the Clements is held by the Graphics Division, outstanding visual materials can be found in every divisions of the library. To locate these materials, please consult the respective division guides.

Meet the Curator

Sierra Laddusaw

Related Research Guides

Recent Blog Posts

History of the Division

The Graphics Division was created in 2002 from disparate groups of visual materials that had been assembled by the library from many sources for many decades. Prior to his 1923 donation to the university, William L. Clements had collected a modest number of portrait engravings, Revolutionary War satires, and historical prints that were in keeping with his interests in early American history. Directors Adams and Peckham added materials to the print collection, with the American Revolution, War of 1812, and 19th century politics becoming strengths.

Director John C. Dann made the acquisition of visual materials a priority starting in the 1980s. During his tenure, the library added significant holdings in printed ephemera, photographs, and sheet music as well as expanding the print collection. The first Curator of Graphics Material, Clayton Lewis, was hired in 2002.

From 2009, Director J. Kevin Graffagnino has continued to expanded the library’s visual materials. Of note are his addition of numerous 19th century bird’s-eye view lithographs, John James Audubon’s Quadrupeds, and the acquisition of the Richard Pohrt Jr. Collection of Native American Photography.

Graphics Division Highlights