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Noel Wisdom Collection of Chromolithographic Prints

Identifier: N02

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of more than 3,500 individual prints of varied size and format.


  • Created: 1860-1910


Conditions Governing Use

None.  The contents of this collection may be subject to copyright.  Visit the United States Copyright Office's website at more information.

Biographical or Historical Information

Cuthbert Noel Wisdom, born in Chicago in 1897 to parents who had recently moved from England, found himself back in England at the age of two after the death of his father, a schoolteacher who had moved to Chicago and opened a private school on the Chicago's south side. His mother, a nurse, returned with baby Noel to England, where the two stayed with relatives until Noel was old enough to go to boarding school. Wisdom dropped out of school at age 14 and began working, first in a draper's shop, then soon he was making signs and show cards, all a pre-cursor to his film career--he "set up titles on a black velvet board, hand-tinted movie film, carried tripods for cameramen, was an extra. I'd have been a cameraman if the war hadn't come along." In 1915 Wisdom was accepted for service and found himself in the British trenches. Most of what he did in the trenches consisited of sketching profiles of his platoon. One member of his platoon commented to Wisdom that he would always be able to earn a living as long as he was sketching. When the war ended, Wisdom found a job in London creating ad layouts for trade magazines; in his spare time he was sketching. In 1924, when the British Empire Exhibition landed in London, Wisdom saw a display of silhouettes (and an exhibit from Australia) and knew his life had changed forever. He borrowed a pair of his mother's surgical scissors and, from black paper, carved a few profiles. Within six weeks, Noel Wisdom had landed on the shores of Australia. He worked in Melbourne for a year, cutting silhouettes at night while working in a studio during the day. At the end of the year, he returned to England to marry an amusement park cashier he had known; however, the two realized that they had changed their minds and Wisdom set off once again. He spent much of the next nine years braving sea voyages, where he would snip silhouettes of passengers and crew between his journeys to islands such as Tahiti and Pitcairn Island. He wound up in the United States during the Depression, finding work difficult to come by; as a result, he freelanced in amusement parks on the west coast. Another return trip to Austrailia only proved to last three years, and Wisdom decided to return to the States once again. Upon his return in 1937 Wisdom found work at a department store in Ithaca, New York where he trimmed windows and made signs. He eventually made his way around the United States, travelling to such cities as Miami Beach, Chicago, and St. Louis, snipping silhouettes everywhere he landed. During World War II he snipped hundreds of servicemen for free. Wisdom "retired" to St. Petersburg, Florida in 1962, preferring warmer climes to those of New York and Chicago. About this time he penned his still unpublished Around The World On Scissors, a retrospective of his life as a soldier and silhouette artist. In his retirement he enjoyed his hobbies, among them continuing to cut silhouettes, and corresponding with old friends; additionally, he was a member of the Canadian Legion Post 114 in St. Petersburg. Cuthbert Noel Wisdom passed away in St. Petersburg in December of 1983.

Note written by Rebecca Rieve


4.88 Linear Feet

9 boxes

Language of Materials



This collection is comprised of chromolithographic prints collected by Noel Wisdom, a silhouette artist. This collection consists of a variety of 19th and early 20th century chromolithographic prints, lithographic prints, etchings, and engravings. Collection areas include: occasion cards, advertisements, rewards of merit, calling cards, decorative prints, booklets, and oversized materials.

Arrangement Note

Alphabetical by maker, when identified. Alphabetical by subject when maker is not identified.

Source of Acquisition

Noel Wisdom

Method of Acquisition


Related Materials

Noel Wisdom Collection, Special Collections Department, Tampa Library, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.

Noel Wisdom Collection of Chromolithographic Prints
AM, 2009; Sydney Jordan, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USF Libraries - Special Collections Repository

4202 East Fowler Ave.
Tampa FL 33620-5400 US