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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.

The John and Selma Appel Collection of Ethnic Images

Two postcards from a set with verses featuring stereotyped images of many ethnic groups c1920
Photos by Pearl Yee Wong

Postcard featuring diverse
ethnic faces, c1920.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

"The Anti-Chinese Wall" cartoon, Puck Magazine, c1880
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

The John and Selma Appel Collection is one of the nation's largest collections of printed ephemera depicting ethnic stereotypes in caricature and cartoons. The late Dr. John Appel, Professor Emeritus of American Thought and Language at Michigan State University and Adjunct Curator at the Michigan State University Museum, and his wife, Selma Appel, Research Associate, Michigan State University Museum, began to collect immigrant and ethnic images in popular graphics in 1965. The Appels donated the collection, plus their reference library and documentary materials, to the Michigan State University Museum in 1994.

The collection consists of 934 cartoons, prints and lithographs, 1034 postcards, 340 trade cards, 41 stereopticon slides, 179 sheet music, 15 comic strips and two dozen other miscellaneous visual materials, including greeting cards, valentines, advertisements. The materials in the collection date primarily from the Civil War to World War I, a period of massive migration to the United States. To modern Americans, the contents are sometimes humorous, sometimes very disturbing. Nonetheless, the collection depicts American values and attitudes of its period and is a remarkable resource for the study of American cultural history.

For the online gallery of the John and Selma Appel Collection of Ethnic Images, click here:

Dr. John Appel and Selma Appel.

"Pat-Riots to Patriots: American Irish in Caricature and Comic Art," Michigan State University Museum, 1991; The Strong Museum, Rochester, New York, October, 1991 - July, 1992; Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, New York, July - September, 1992.

"Immigration and Caricature: Ethnic Images from the Appel Collection," Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, Michigan, September, 1996 - February, 1997; The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 16 - August 3, 2001; American Immigration Law Foundation, Washington, D.C., September 4 - November 23, 2001; Dreams of Freedom Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, June 15 - August 15, 2002.
[Currently available for loan from Michigan State University Museum, see http://museum.msu.edu/museum/

John Appel and Selma Appel, Pat-Riots to Patriots: American Irish in Caricature and Comic Art, East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Museum, 1991.

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