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William H. Helfand Collection: Finding Aid
priHEL  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Administrative Information
  • Access
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library
  • Related materials other institutions
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: William H. Helfand Collection
    Dates (inclusive): 1493-2006
    Bulk dates: 1800-1900
    Collection Number: priHEL
    Creator: Helfand, William H.
    Extent: approximately 7,100 items
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Prints and Ephemera
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: The William H. Helfand Collection contains more than 7,000 European and American prints and ephemera relating to health professions including medical, dental, and mental wellness. The materials date from the 1490s to the early 21st century and contain many social and political cartoons that satirize health practices and practitioners. Noted illustrators represented include French artists Honore Daumier, Gustave Dore, J. J. Grandville, and Emile Vernier; British caricaturists Thomas Rowlandson, George Cruikshank, and James Gillray; and the American cartoonist Thomas Nast.
    Language: Primarily English and French.
    Note:
    Finding aid last updated on October 10, 2018.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. William H. Helfand Collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Provenance

    This collection was donated to the Huntington Library by William H. Helfand between December 2012 and September 2013.

    Access

    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Biographical Note

    William Helfand (1926-2018) was a scholar of the histories of medicine, pharmacy and art, and collector of prints and ephemera related to all three. He started his career working in his father's pharmacy about the same time he started collecting images, as he says, "of things medical." Unable to afford paintings, he bought prints, and then also began buying trade cards, posters, sheet music, bookplates, and any other paper bearing medical text and images. When he joined the multinational pharmaceuticals firm Merck & Company, his collecting continued. In his tenure at Merck he rose to senior vice president of international operations and spent a few years living in Paris, a desirable location for a young print collector.
    Helfand was a Trustee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a member of the Board of the Library Company of Philadelphia, and a former president of the Grolier Club of New York. He held degrees in Chemical Engineering (University of Pennsylvania, 1948), Pharmacy (Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, 1952), and was awarded honorary degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters by the Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University in 1981, and Doctor of Science by the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1976.
    Helfand authored five books about his medical and pharmaceutical ephemera, including Pharmacy: An Illustrated History (with David Cowen, Harry N. Abrams, 1990) and The Picture of Health (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1991). He published a number of essays, monographs, and articles on the history of pharmacy and on prints, caricatures, posters, and ephemera relating to pharmacy and medicine and was featured in publications such as Pharmacy in History, Medical History, Revue d'Histoire de la Pharmacie, and other journals. Helfand's popular 2002 exhibit at the Grolier Club in New York City, "Quack, Quack, Quack: The Sellers of Nostrums in Prints, Posters, Ephemera and Books" was accompanied by a book of the same name. A 1995 exhibition of Helfand's material at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was titled "Potions, Pills, and Purges: The Art of Pharmacy," and another exhibition there entitled “Health for Sale: Posters from the William H. Helfand Collection” was also accompanied by a book of the same name.
    In 1986 Helfand received the Pepys Medal of the Ephemera Society, London, for outstanding contributions to the field of ephemera studies. He also received the Kremers Award of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy in 1972, and the Urdang Medal for distinguished historical writing from the same organization in 1989. Helfand retired in 1987 after more than 33 years with Merck & Co., but continued to collect and write about prints, posters, and ephemera. In 2006 The Ephemera Society of America awarded Helfand its highest honor, the Maurice Rickards Medal, for his extraordinary accomplishments in promoting ephemera studies.

    Scope and Content

    The William H. Helfand Collection contains more than 7,000 European and American prints and ephemera relating to health professions including medical, dental, and mental wellness. The materials date from the 1490s to the early 21st century and contain many social and political cartoons that satirize health practices and practitioners. Noted illustrators represented include French artists Honore Daumier, Gustave Dore, J. J. Grandville, and Emile Vernier; British caricaturists Thomas Rowlandson, George Cruikshank, and James Gillray; and the American cartoonist Thomas Nast.
    Materials are arranged geographically in four series: American, British, French, and Other and Unknown Origin. Approximately 2,500 items are cataloged individually, with title, date, artist, and type of print method provided (if known). Additionally, countries are provided (if known) for items in Series IV.
    The collection contains materials as diverse as portraits, caricatures, goigs (Catalan prayer sheets), stamps, product advertisements, periodical illustrations, and many others. These items offer a wealth of information regarding medicine, health, pharmaceuticals, patent medicines, quacks and quackery spanning over five centuries, as well as social perspectives on both the practices and practitioners in these fields.

    Alternative Form of Materials Available

    Visit the Huntington Digital Library   to view digitized items from this collection.

    Related materials in the Huntington Library

    Related materials other institutions

    • William H. Helfand Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art
    • William H. Helfand Collection, Library Company of Philadelphia
    • multiple gifts by William H. Helfand, National Library of Medicine

    Arrangement

    The collection is arranged in the following four series:
    • Series I. American
    • Series II. British
    • Series III. French
    • Series IV. Other countries and unknown origin
    Items are arranged geographically and described in the following format:
    • Title. Date
    • Artist. Type of print. Country (when known and when applicable).
    Items are housed individually in sleeves or folders, and are located in 110 boxes.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Subjects

    Advertising -- Drugs.
    Advertising -- Medicine.
    Boys -- Pictorial works.
    Children -- Pictorial works.
    Girls -- Pictorial works.
    Medicine.
    Men -- Pictorial works.
    Patent medicines.
    Physicians -- Pictorial works.
    Sick -- Pictorial works.
    Women -- Pictorial works.

    Forms/Genres

    Calendars.
    Certificates.
    Chromolithographs.
    Ephemera.
    Ephemera -- United States -- 19th century.
    Ephemera -- United States -- 20th century.
    Engravings.
    Handbills.
    Intaglio prints.
    Leaflets (printed works)
    Lithographs.
    Portraits.
    Postage stamps.
    Printed ephemera.
    Prints.
    Relief prints.
    Trade cards.

    Alternate Authors

    Cruikshank, George, 1792-1878.
    Daumier, Honoré, 1808-1879.
    Dore, Gustave, 1832-1883.
    Gillray, James, 1756-1815.
    Grandville, J. J., 1803-1847.
    Helfand, William H.
    Nast, Thomas, 1840-1902.
    Rowlandson, Thomas, 1756-1827.
    Vernier, Emile Louis, 1829-1887.