Tag Archives: vintage

Vintage Notebooks from My Collection

Most of my notebooks are ones that I’ve bought new and filled with my own notes and sketches. But I also occasionally succumb to my weakness for collecting other people’s used notebooks when I see them at flea markets or on eBay. Here’s a few that I’ve picked up along the way.

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This Rice-Stix notebook is quite interesting, and if I had a time machine, I’d like to go back and walk through that warehouse to look at the huge variety of things they sold. The floor-by-floor index in the notebook would be quite handy.
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This is technically not a notebook– it’s a bank book. I had a bank book for my own little savings account when I was a kid, but by the time I was in high school, the local bank had been bought out by a big conglomerate and switched to all electronic record-keeping.
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This is just a little jotter with barely any pages left. It looks like it was meant to be refillable, as the pad clips into the cover.
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Below are the interiors of the Carson Pirie Scott notebook seen in the group photo above. Again, an index by floor so you could organize your shopping list. Why don’t supermarkets and department stores today give away notebooks like this?
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The Westinghouse diary is similar in format to many others I’ve seen, and I have similar ones in my collection from General Electric, Harvard Coop, and the Sandoz Corporation. This format seems to have been popular for decades, at least from the ’40s through the ’70s. Maps and population charts were pretty standard, as well as other handy reference tables such as area codes, time zones, and information customized to the company’s employees, in this case relating to engineering.
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These are not all the vintage notebooks I own, just a few relatively recent purchases that were at the top of the pile! Here are some others from my collection that I’ve featured in their own posts:
U. S. Government Printing Office Memorandum Notebook
Western Suede-covered Diary from 1949
eBay Gem: A Decorator’s Pocket Looseleaf Notebook


1911 Catalogue of Stationery

This is extremely cool: a catalog from 1911, featuring all manner of notebooks and other stationery. The only thing that could be cooler would be if you could find some forgotten warehouse that still had all these products in stock!

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Flip through the whole catalog at Catalogue of stationery : section no. 1, blank …. It goes way beyond notebooks and ledgers– there are pencils, pens, writing papers, and school supplies. A real treat!


Found via  the Quo Vadis blog.


Laughing Elephant Notebooks

I love these retro-look notebooks from Laughing Elephant, so many colorful designs:
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Buy at Notebooks | Laughing Elephant.


Present&Correct is a UK-based online retailer I recently stumbled across. I love the look of their website and they offer a variety of notebooks that are equally pleasing to the eye!

eBay Gem: A Decorator’s Pocket Looseleaf Notebook

This has to be the coolest notebook I’ve ever bought. I almost had a heart attack when I stumbled across it on eBay, and it only took me a split second to hit the “Buy it Now” button and grab this beauty for about $45 including shipping. When the notebook arrived in the mail, it was everything I’d hoped for and more!

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Why do I love this notebook so much? First of all, if I’d been able to buy this notebook brand new, it would be perfect. It’s just the right size (about 3 1/2 x 5 1/4″, shown below next to a pocket Moleskine for comparison), with a nice leather cover. No pockets, no frills, no bells & whistles, just a minimalist black looseleaf. I probably have a dozen small black looseleaf notebooks that are similar to this in many respects, but none of them were quite right. This is what I wanted them to be– or to become. Because, of course, this notebook is not brand new– it’s wonderfully broken-in and well-loved. It’s in surprisingly good condition given that it must be at least 60-75 years old, maybe even older. And then there are the contents– lovely paper with red edges and a red top line. Some of the pages are beautifully hand-written in pencil or fountain pen, but some are TYPE-WRITTEN! And there are a few little sketches and floor plans.

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

On the inside back cover, there’s a stamp for the manufacturer, A. Pomerantz & Co. of Philadelphia. The company actually still exists, but they’ve changed a lot: it must have started out as an office supply and stationery company, but they now specialize in workspace design– not just office furniture, but moving and storage, flooring and wall coverings, repair, lighting, asset management, and more.

Decorator's Notebook

One odd thing I noticed about the notebook was that there is no lever to open the rings– usually, there’s something you push at one end of the metal spine to pop the rings open. I figured you must just have to pull these open by carefully grabbing the rings themselves– I was terrified I’d break the mechanism, but I finally tried it and they worked– but they open separately in two groups. If you pull one of the top 3 rings apart, those top 3 rings all come open and the bottom 3 stay closed. I’ve never seen any other looseleaf that operated this way.

The notebook was once the property of an interior decorator– at least, I’m assuming he must have been a decorator based on the contents of the notebook. He seems to have catalogued all sorts of furniture from various stores in New York City, with detailed data on measurements and fabric yards needed for upholstered pieces. There’s a list of store addresses, and in a few pages, he sketched the furniture or a floorplan of a room, and on one page, he stapled in a clipping of a lamp. He also had a timetable for trains into New York, noting the fare. I would imagine that he made periodic buying or research trips into the city so he’d know all the latest furniture styles available for his clients, and kept notes on the rooms he was working on. There don’t seem to be any notes on other aspects of decor such as paint or wallpaper or carpets, so perhaps he was a specialist in furniture who worked for a larger company. Regardless of his exact job, I love how organized he was! He obviously had a system and his notebook was a big part of it.

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook

I would guess that he used this notebook at some point between the 1920s and the 1940s– I found two listings for this man’s name in old census records, obviously a father and son, and also the obituary for the son. The obituary mentioned a career that had nothing to do with decorating, so it must have been the father born in the 1880s who used this notebook. Another clue is that the train line mentioned hasn’t existed since the early 1960s, and I know at least some of the stores listed went out of business years ago. When the son died, a junk dealer probably bought whatever his family didn’t keep and this little notebook made its way onto eBay and into my adoring hands.

I have to confess that I’m obscuring some identifying details because I’d be heartbroken if someone in the family happened to Google their way to this site and think “Gee, that old notebook was pretty cool! We should ask her to give it back to us!” I guess the odds of that happening are pretty slim– it’s hard for me to believe sometimes, but I have to remind myself that a lot of people would just think this was some cruddy old notebook full of obsolete information! But it’s found a loving home with me, and I’d like to think the original owner would be happy to know someone appreciated his notebook and the way he used it.

Military Notebooks

More good notebook stuff at A Continuous Lean:

This is a currently available government-issue notebook used by the military. The comments on the post got into a lot of interesting discussion about the “cool” factor of military supplies, with actual service members seeming to find it amusing that the stuff that is just boring to them is so coveted by design-obsessed civilians!

Being a notebook-obsessed civilian myself, I of course had to go searching around for other examples of cool military notebooks. Check out this Etsy item:

I was heartbroken that it had already been sold. Using the federal supply service code number, I went searching for other examples, but look at today’s version sold here and here, but only to authorized government purchasers:

They kept the retro “Memoranda” logo, but it’s no longer a beautiful little hardcover notebook, just a thinner, flexi-bound one. Sad. But it’s nice to know that our military puts some thought into the notebooks they use… and as a taxpayer, I’m glad to see that they only cost about $10 per dozen!

Vintage Notebooks from “A Collection a Day”

I continue to follow the fabulous “Collection a Day” blog in hopes of spotting treasures like these:

Day 313.

Day 310.

Looking for more items to add to your holiday wishlist? Check out the Notebook Stories Store for lots of great brands.

Analog Productivity

Some interesting thoughts on using non-digital tools for productivity: How Analog Rituals Can Amp Your Productivity :: Tips :: The 99 Percent. But my favorite part is this image!

A Collection a Day, 2010: Day 228

I LOVE the “Collection a Day” blog. Vintage office supplies are often featured, and the other day she posted these old journals:

A Collection a Day, 2010: Day 228

Vintage Memoranda Book

Michael Williams writes the blog “A Continuous Lean,” which he describes as being “about things. American things, good looking things, well designed things and all sorts of other things.”

And here is one of those things:

“Perfect and vintage. Bought for $1 in a parking lot in New Jersey (Meadowlands Flea).”

Are you jealous now? I am!