Autograph albums are the small diary-sized notebooks popular with Australian children in the first half of the 20th century. According to Dr Dorothy Howard, American academic and children’s folklorist, autograph albums represent a private, secretive space in the world of children.
Dr Howard states that autograph albums are characterised by a variety of inscriptions including rhymes, vows and verses, annotated by the owners and their peers. Prevalent subject matter comprises romantic rhymes and advice on love, marriage, friendship and happiness. Other rhymes are serious or admonitory in nature. Common are verses on personal attributes and best wishes, as are vows of love, loyalty and devotion, and pleas for remembrance. Another category of inscriptions features nonsensical verses, parodies, taunting rhymes, racial stereotypes and profanities.
The Dorothy Howard Collection held at Museum Victoria features many examples of the rhymes, oaths, parodies, admonitions, and verses produced by Australian children between 1900-1955. The collection also includes a copy of Dr Howard’s publication ‘Autograph Album Customs in Australia’, which was originally published in Southern Folklore Quarterly, vol. 23, June 1959, pp.95-107.