|Click for larger view
We have all heard the story of the
Duesenberg, Ferrari or Silver Ghost discovered in an
old barn, covered with blankets and junk. I can attest
to the actual existence of such gems, but that was many
Literature, on the other hand, usually ends up in trunks,
attics and basements. This happens frequently, but the
circumstances of one adventure were most unusual.
Harold W. Schiff was a literature collector who lived
in Austin and, later, Fort Worth, Texas. Beyond that
he is an enigma. His literature collection, however,
is not and where it resided for many years will surprise
many Texas swapmeet participants.
In the early 1970s the Pate Swapmeet
near Cresson, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth, was a
gold mine for old car literature because most of it
came along for the ride when parts were brought to the
meet. Few literature collectors sold literature and
literature dealers in Texas were apparently non-existent.
Boxes of brochures were usually something to get rid
of and not to be taken back home. Literature available
was downright cheap in the early years and yet this
was the biggest swapmeet in Texas.
The event was named after the Pate Museum of Transportation
which, in the 1960s, collected cars, airplanes, boats
and trains. It came to an end in the mid-1990s when
the land was sold off to build a subdivision. In addition
to a nice selection of cars inside the main building,
there were additional structures and airplanes scattered
about the grounds. Separating the parking from the swapmeet
field was a row of railroad cars. In 1994 the contents
of the museum were sold off and little remained with
the exception of the box cars which were probably considered
worthless. The curator of the museum, prior to having
them hauled off, decided to look inside. To his surprise
they were filled with memorabilia, parts and literature.
Coincidently, he had a letter on his desk that I had
written him inquiring about literature the museum might
have to sell. He contacted us and we retrieved the life
long collection of Harold Schiff.
The collection was composed primarily
of late 1920s to early 1970s sales literature and dealer
albums. All of the expensive automobiles of the period
were represented Pierce-Arrow, Cadillac, Rolls-Royce,
Mercedes, etc., down to the more common makes. A very
thorough collection containing even press kits and postcards,
along with dealer memorabilia, all nicely organized
in dozens of file cabinets and boxes. It had sat in
a box car for over 30 years while swapmeet goers wandered
back and forth around the walls of railroad cars never
imagining that some of the best finds were tucked away
just out of their sight!
On the 10th anniversary of the Pate purchase we would
like to thank Harold Schiff, if he is still out there,
for all the pleasure that he has given to hundreds of
literature collectors who now enjoy his literature.
What might have been destroyed was saved.
In this case a positive event occurred
after a literature collector had made a donation to
a museum/library. Unfortunately, most donations are
actually destroyed, either due to poor storage or just
thrown out due to lack of room. Although using a railroad
car is not recommended, it was better than a damp storage
basement or warehouse full of insects and rodents. Most
museums/libraries will accept anything. But literature
does not have the visual appeal of antique cars or memorabilia,
and they do not have the staff to catalog and properly
preserve the literature, so storage is the most common
result. And, since it is considered of little or unknown
value, it is rarely treated to careful preservation.
Collectors and their literature deserve better. Study
your options before making a decision on where your
literature will end up.