This post is part of a monthly series that explores the historical applications of building materials and systems through resources from the Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL), an online collection of AEC catalogs, brochures, trade publications, and more. The BTHL is a project of the Association for Preservation Technology, an international building preservation organization.
Almost 10 years ago, the Association for Preservation Technology (APT) set out to establish an online archive for historic resources related to building technology and construction. The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) kicked off the project with an initial contribution of 3,400 documents, and over time, various institutions and private collectors began to upload—and offload—their design and construction catalogs to the BTHL database.
Last month, the BTHL reached a new milestone, logging its 10,000th digitized document courtesy an upload of a 1904 tile catalog from French ceramic manufacturer Emile Muller & Cie.
To celebrate the occasion, APT is sharing some of its favorite publications and collections submitted over the past decade with ARCHITECT.
The Edison Incandescent Electric Light: Its Superiority to All Other Illuminants, Edison Electric Light Co., New York, c. 1887
Included in CCA’s original donation, this Edison Light bulb catalog comes from the dawn of the electric lighting revolution. Most CCA publications are from North America and Europe and feature 19th century building systems.
Artistic Architectural Sheet Metal Ornaments, Witzel, Broschart & Braun, New York, 1890
In 2017, the Avery Library at Columbia University, in New York—which has a comprehensive architectural trade catalog collection—uploaded more than 500 documents to the BTHL. This publication from that collection features sheet metal ornamentation.
Illustrated Catalogue of Plastic Ornaments, Decorators Supply Co., Chicago, 1913
The Southeastern University Architectural Archive at Tulane University, in New Orleans, contributed more than 700 documents to the BTHL. The collection includes publications featuring a range of architectural materials from American companies. This catalog from Decorators Supply Co. of Chicago provides a overview of movie theaters of the early 20th century in the U.S.
Farm Buildings, Gordon-Van Tine Co., Davenport, Iowa, 1923
Based in Springfield, Ill., Fever River Research is a cultural resource management firm that specializes in historic archaeology of 19th-century America. The firm added documents about farm buildings, house plans, and masonry construction to the BHTL from former millwork manufacturer Gordon-Van Tine. This catalog provides an overview of barn construction equipment and infrastructure supplies.
52 Designs to Modernize Main Street with Glass, Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Co., Toledo, Ohio, 1935
Alan O’Bright is an architect with the National Park Service and a collector of architectural trade catalogs, with a special interest in rural and farm architecture. This 1935 Libbey-Owens-Ford catalog featuring the winners of a national design competition for modern storefront designs comes from O’Bright’s personal collection.
Modern Color Styling for Your Home, Lowe Brothers, Dayton, Ohio, c. 1935
Based in New York, the Jablonski Building Conservation's collection has a special focus on paints and decorative finishes. This catalog from Lowe Brothers offers a tips for home design by drawing parallels between fashion outfits and certain decor styles.
Brick and Tile as Utilized in Modern American Architecture, Ohio Brick and Tile Institute, Columbus, Ohio, 1947
Donated by the International Masonry Institute in Bowie, Md., this catalog is part of a collection that includes many technical manuals on masonry construction as well as trade catalogs.
Leisure-Time Homes of Fir Plywood, Douglas Fir Plywood Assocociation, Tacoma, Wash., 1958
This catalog is from the private collection of author and historical preservationist James Draeger, which features many house plan catalogs of the 20th century. House plan catalogs currently make up more than 10 percent of the total BTHL documents, highlighting the substantial marketing effort for house design and kit home supplies via this medium during this era.