About Archives, Inc. and Fabled Labels® Archive

In the 70s Sharon Dinkins worked as a free-lance artist and ran a small gallery in New Orleans. Her pen and ink drawing for the 1974 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is an enduring image from the period and was used on the first limited-edition Jazz Festival poster.

1974 Jazz Festival Poster   1974 Jazz Festival Tote   Fess at the 1974 Jazz Festival   1974 Drawing Updated to 1975   1975 Limited-Edition Poster

In 1975 Dinkins generated excitement among scholars and collectors when she discovered thousands of 19th and early 20th century chromolithographed trade labels in forgotten printer’s proof files at the Walle Corporation, a New Orleans firm that had by then been printing trade labels for nearly a century.

Dinkins and Betsy Salmen Sterck formed Archives, Inc. in 1984 and ran it as a wholesale business for ten years. Archives marketed post cards and ceramic serving ware under the Past Cards® and Fabled Labels® trademarks respectively. Archives found a receptive market in the U.S. and abroad and was particularly successful in high-end museum, gourmet, gift, and resort shops. Archives showed original labels in libraries, bookstores, and galleries, including the prestigious O.K. Harris Gallery in New York. Numerous newspapers and magazines published stories about the product line. As one writer for the trade put it, Dinkins had “invented a new product category”. At the company’s founding, there were few, if any, remaining U.S. sources for the fine ceramic decoration the partners demanded; consequently, the little company went to Japan for manufacturing. Eventually, exchange rate volatility sent costs spiraling, and the partners reluctantly closed the business in 1994.

Vintage Archives products recently offered online.

Almost anyone today who admires Louisiana labels — whether or not they know that it was Von Ehren whose work made them superior — owes that awareness to Dinkins and Sterck. There have been numerous Archives knock offs, which are almost always accompanied by bogus provenance claims and are invariably of inferior quality to authentic, vintage Archives products. Nevertheless, Past Cards® still sell briskly all over Louisiana and online at Art and Cards and vintage Archives ceramics are sought as collectibles and often turn up on sites such as eBay and Etsy.