COOLCRAZYBEAUTIFUL: Ball and Cotillon Articles Decorations

Emily Gibson

A Pick of the Week from

Special Collections of the UM Libraries

By Steve Hersh

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A rare, vintage catalog from around the year 1908, Ball and Cotillon Articles Decorations bears many parallels to modern-day Party City catalogs and offers an array of costumes, props, and decorations that can be used to create overall themes for balls and cotillons. The costumes are of the outlandish variety, represented by detailed images and exaggerated poses, and suggested party themes of the time include such unique titles as “A Night in Japan,” “Duel to the Death,” “An Evening with the Merry Widow,” “Ticklish Party,” “Nose Party,” “Encampment of the American Army,” and so on, giving an idea of what sort of festivities people at the turn of the twentieth century might have enjoyed.

Since the catalog predates commercial use of photography, the images within are hand-drawn and offer very little to indicate the actual quality of what’s being ordered aside from the creator’s assurance, that “All of our goods are made up in the most attractive style and look so large and money-like that you can not make a mistake in adopting our suggestions and give them a trial.” Scant descriptions and prices are featured below the images for interested parties to purchase items either in person or through the mail, and there are several articles that expand on the many ways one can make their party stand out and attract attention.

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COOLCRAZYBEAUTIFUL is written by Yvette Yurubi and showcases unique items at Special Collections and the University Archives discovered by librarians and staff members while on the job. They gather monthly for “Show and Tell” to present their top finds. You too can experience these items up close, and access other rare and interesting treasures, by visiting Special Collections and the University Archives, located on the 8th floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.