Cheers to a Creative New Year!

Fashion from a century ago, from American Costumes, 1770-1924 in the State Library of Ohio Rare Books Collection on Ohio Memory.
A mechanical drawing class at the Cleveland School of Art, ca. 1915. The school originally focused on the vocational aspects of art, but later began accepting students who wanted to improve their fine art skills. Courtesy of the Cleveland Institute of Art via Ohio Memory.

Happy New Year! Our first blog post of 2021 features a publication in the State Library of Ohio’s collection that just entered the public domain today: American Costumes 1770-1924 by Eudora Sellner, published by The Davis Press.

The Davis Press was founded in Worcester, Massachusetts, at the turn of the 20th century. Gilbert Gates Davis, together with Henry Turner Bailey (state agent for the Promotion of Industrial Drawing), Fred Daniels (supervisor of drawing for the City of Worcester), and James Hall (supervisor of drawing for the City of Springfield), published The Applied Arts Book (now SchoolArts Magazine) in order to help art teachers develop curricula and provide instruction.

A woman poses for a fashion photo, ca. 1895, from the Toledo Lucas County Public Library via Ohio Memory.

Eudora Sellner created several works for the press; most of them focused on costumes and fashion. American Costumes shows the history of American women’s fashion from the country’s founding through the early 1920s. Although the illustrations are black-and-white, the pages include references to the Munsell Color Nomenclature, a color identification system that told art students the exact colors of the clothing. Ohio Memory includes photographs of dresses similar to these styles, such as this wedding gown from the 1780s, this cotton embroidered dress from the 1810s, and this floral stripe dress worn in 1841.

Under U.S. copyright law, works published in the United States in 1925 (such as American Costumes) enter the public domain today, and are now free to use, perform, adapt, and reimagine without permission required from their creator or copyright holder. Literary works entering the public domain today include The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway; Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis; The New Negro, edited by Alain Locke and including works from W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, and others; and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

Films entering the public domain today include Stella Dallas (the silent film version, not the 1937 Barbara Stanwyck version); The Merry Widow (where Joan Crawford and Clark Gable appear as uncredited extras); and Lovers in Quarantine. (Yes, this was an actual silent movie, but the characters only had to quarantine for one week.) Also entering the public domain are musical works by Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, George and Ira Gershwin, Jelly Roll Morton, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Richard Rodgers, Bessie Smith, and more.

As we all look forward to 2021, the team at Ohio Memory wishes you a happy, healthy, and creative year!


Thank you to Stephanie Michaels, Research and Catalog Services Librarian at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!

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