More than tokens of female expressionism, women’s friendship albums are artistic gems rich for material culture studies. From the bindings to the beautiful calligraphy, such volumes are relics of artistic portrayals of feminine identity and thought. By shedding insight on the process by which friendship albums are created, the political and literary aspects of these materials can be understood in a wider context.Friendship albums (and complementary gift books) are prime specimens of the commodification of American print culture. Marketed with beautiful bindings, often black morocco leather, these volumes typically manufactured in England, were exported to America and sold by booksellers, as well as at fancy goods stores and auction houses. Promoted as luxury items, often toward women, the albums would be advertised with phrases such as “A variety of beautiful albums from one dollar to five, newly bound, and pages ornamented with flowered designs, or fine steel engravings” (Public Ledger, 1844).

Materiality of Cassey Binding
The physical quality of the Cassey album, particularly the hand-rolled gilt trim on the embossed Morocco binding, evokes a luxury item. To create the trim, the binder laid a thin sheet of gold leaf on the leather cover and quickly rolled a heated press in the desired pattern. The leaf patterned gilt roll used on the Cassey album required a more expensive roller, increasing the value, and likely the price of this album. The use of grey silk moiré as opposed to paper to line the inside covers as well as the interspersed color pages also suggest a higher-end album.

Materiality of Cassey pages
The color of a page may have influenced the placement of a contributor’s essay. Many entries are undated with those containing a date not in chronological order. Also of importance concerning the physical pages is the apparent absence of a number of them. Trimmed ends appear between full pages. Possible reasons for the exclusions include a contributor removed a page after erring in writing or drawing; Cassey removed a particularly important or private piece from the quasi-public album; or, although contradictory to the communal thought sharing nature of the album, the missing pages may have been taken by contributors or viewers wishing to keep the piece for themselves.