The Bancroft Library holds significant ephemeral material in its collections, predominantly gathered from the Bay Area and surrounding region. A wide range of formats is represented including political cartoons, flyers, mailers, and posters. Both local and national issues are featured.
For posters and ephemera collected on the UC Berkeley campus, please visit the UC Berkeley section.
Established in 1876, the San Francisco Illustrated Wasp was a bestselling weekly magazine, specializing in social and political satire. Much of its success was due to the vibrant illustrations within, made possible by new techniques of mass-producing color lithographs in print. The primary illustrator for the majority of issues up until 1883 was lithographer George Frederick Keller. The Wasp selected its targets from a broad political and social spectrum, and its cartoons are notorious for the ruthless caricatures of Chinese immigrants, African Americans, and other marginalized groups.
Rebuilding the Cal. Constitution
Image citation: The Wasp, xf F850 .W18 v.2, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Thomas J. Mooney was a political activist and labor leader. Originally from Illinois, he permanently settled in San Francisco in 1910 where he became involved in the work of the Socialist party and various labor organizing activities. He was wrongfully convicted with Warren K. Billings of the San Francisco Preparedness Day Bombing of 1916 that resulted in the loss of ten lives. His trial attracted worldwide attention, receiving support from a wide array of fellow radicals, mainstream labor leaders, civil libertarians, reformers, public officials, and members of the general public. After serving twenty-two years of a life sentence, Mooney was officially pardoned in 1939. In addition to his personal and trial papers, The Bancroft Library also has his collection of labor and political activism ephemera.
Smash the Shipowners' Reign of Terror!
Image citation: Collection of labor and political activism ephemera, BANC MSS 2016/108, Box 1, Folder 6, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
The poster was an important method of information dissemination during World War I, and many were printed and distributed widely to garner support, urge action, and boost morale. A larger quantity of posters were printed during World War II, but by then, information was being broadcasted widely through radio and film. Themes include American patriotism, military recruitment, war bonds and funds, and the home front support of the war effort.
The Bancroft Library also holds World War posters of other countries who were part of the conflicts, including Canada, England, Germany, and China.
WWI Poster promoting the Third Liberty Loan
Image citation: American war posters from the First World War, BANC PIC 2005.001:122--AX, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
In a stark contrast to the posters of World War I and II, later war posters in Bancroft's collection shift to the denouncement of war, criticism of U.S. foreign policy, promotion of peace and human rights, and anti-nuclear weapon usage.
Anti-Vietnam War Poster
Image citation: Joseph Fischer collection of Vietnam War era political protest posters, BANC PIC 2016.118:7--B, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Frank Rowe, then a first-year art teacher, was one of nine faculty members fired by San Francisco State College in 1950 for refusing to sign the California Loyalty Oath. He was barred from teaching in the state from 1950 until 1967, when the state Supreme Court struck down the oath. His book about his experience, The Enemy Among Us, was published in 1980 and won three major awards: the California Federation of Teachers Civil Liberties Union Award, the United Professors of California Academic Freedom Award, and the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in the book category. In addition to Rowe's personal papers, The Bancroft Library has a small graphic collection that includes his original prints, drawings and posters, many with subjects and themes that allude to freedom of expression, civil liberties, civil rights, McCarthyism, contemporary United States politics, and the California Loyalty Oath.
Multiversity of California: The Loyalty Oath
Image citation: Prints, drawings and posters from the Frank Rowe papers, BANC PIC 1996.031--AX, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
James de Tar Abajian, bibliographer and historian of African American history, was the chief librarian of the California Historical Society from 1949-1968. He was also director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Special Collection at San Francisco Public Library from 1969-1971. Abajian presented much of his significant documentary material on African Americans in California and the West, collected throughout his career, to The Bancroft Library in the 1980s. In addition to the poster collection featured here, his sizeable contribution includes books, printed ephemera, manuscripts, sheet music, periodicals, photographs, and his personal papers. A highlight of Abajian's poster collection is a sampling of broadsides designed by artist Emory Douglas, the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party.
"In Revolution one wins, or one dies."
Image citation: African American posters from the Elizabeth and James Abajian collection of Afro-Americana, BANC PIC 1982.034:18--C, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
People for the American Way (PFAW) was founded in 1981 in an effort to promote equality, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Their operational mission includes promoting progressive policies, electing progressive candidates, and holding public officials accountable. This collection holds political ephemera assembled by PFAW and pertains to right-wing movements in the United States. It documents the ideological orientations, policy positions, and more of hundreds of right-wing organizations, individuals, and publications.
Mission Possible Conference pamphlet
Image citation: People for the American Way collection of conservative political ephemera, BANC MSS 2010/152, Carton 54, Folder 16, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
The Bancroft Library has significant holdings of locally collected ephemera, spanning multiple decades. Well represented topics include the Vietnam War, labor strikes, demonstrations and rallies, the People's Park controversy, local and national politics, women's rights, civil rights, student activism, and fair housing. These flyers, mailers, and posters capture a broad spectrum of issues in Berkeley and the surrounding neighborhoods as well as the community's response to them.
The Wasp, 1876-1928
F850.W18 (microfilm use only, originals restricted due to fragility)
James de T. Abajian collection of Black (African-American) ephemera, 1876-1981 (bulk 1960-1980)
BANC MSS 82/77
Collection of labor and political activism ephemera, 1908-1940
BANC MSS 2016/108
Sally Smith Hughes collection of American war posters of the First World War, 1914-1919 (partially restricted collection)
BANC PIC 2013.068
Anna Espenschade scrapbook of World War I posters, flags, etc., 1914-1918
BANC PIC 1973.051
United States propaganda posters of the First and Second World Wars from the Elsa S. McGinn papers, 1917-1945
BANC PIC 1998.088
Oakland, California political scrapbooks, 1918-1924
BANC MSS 2020/146
California Socialist Party clippings and other material, 1931-1934
BANC MSS 72/82
Mort D. Turner collection of political ephemera, 1931-1953
BANC MSS 78/184
George F. Malone collection of anti-communist and right-wing literature, 1940-1965
BANC MSS 2010/722
California Defense Savings Committee World War II stamps and savings bonds poster art, 1942
BANC PIC 2010.006--C
Collection of press releases and newspaper clippings chiefly concerning California politics and government, 1944-1958 (partially unprocessed collection)
BANC MSS C-R 49
Collection of newspaper clippings, press releases, pamphlets, and ephemeral material on California politics and government: additions, 1944-1979 (bulk 1965-1970)
BANC MSS 74/152
International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union collection of clippings and other ephemera on the Smith Act , Harry Bridges, and civil rights, 1945-1957
BANC MSS C-R 93
Richard Stanley Israel collection on California elections, 1948-1961
BANC MSS C-R 107
Newell Hart collection of Berkeley ephemera, 1963-1969
BANC MSS 78/183
Social protest ephemera collected by the Berkeley Public Library, 1965-1999
BANC MSS 2007/143
American Indian Community History Center poster collection, 1965-2005
BANC PIC 2008.010
Diana Thatcher miscellany relating to the Women's Movement, 1966-1971
BANC MSS 99/366
Communication Co. broadsides, 1967-1971
BANC MSS 99/134
Poster miscellany of the 1960's and 1970's, 1968-1979
BANC PIC 19xx.487
San Francisco Bay Area posters from the Andover Street Archive, 1969-2018
BANC PIC 2012.122
Prints, drawings and posters from the Frank Rowe papers, 1970-1985
BANC PIC 1996.031
California NORML political campaign ephemera, 1980-2000
BANC PIC 2010.002--PIC
Mel Mason for governor of California campaign ephemera, 1982
BANC MSS 2011/8
D.S. Black collection of San Francisco Bay Area political posters, 1984-2007
BANC PIC 2010.101--D
Medea Benjamin for Senate campaign materials, 2000
BANC MSS 2011/49
Ernesto Vazquez prints pertaining to politics, social justice and other topics, 2006-2019
BANC PIC 2021.005
California political prints pertaining to Mexico, immigration and other topics, 2013-2019
BANC PIC 2019.036
Álvaro D. Márquez prints depicting migrant farm workers and other topics, 2015-2019
BANC PIC 2021.004--C
Nicolás González-Medina political prints and other artworks, 2018-2020
BANC PIC 2021.001
Kazayra Miranda González political prints, 2019-2020
BANC PIC 2021.003--AX