This website seeks to encourage researchers and collectors to discover and study obscure ephemera that document American culture and life.  Worldcat reveals that most of the items that I post cannot be found in more than a few research libraries–often none at all.  Alternately, research libraries do not bother to catalog ephemeral publications like these.  I believe, however, that because these were distributed free, or at nominal cost, to consumers, they were the publications most likely to make their way into homes and be read by large numbers of Americans.

I acquire pre-1960 examples of the kinds of publications that prove so useful when scholars study 19th-Century America.  The limited competition that I encounter for them suggests that libraries, which could easily outbid me, have little interest in post-Civil War and 20th-century ephemeral publications in general.

I try to anticipate what materials future historians will find useful.  Being an historian first and a collector second, I organized this website to encourage others to do this too—even if this means new competition for me. I am aware that I could be wrong in prizing particular ephemera or even whole classes of ephemera.  I may even be wrong to encourage scholars to study obscure ephemeral publications; these may be obscure for good reason.

Ephemerastudies.org will permit me to share with others the information and imagery that I am acquiring, and to benefit from the knowledge, intelligence and experience of other scholars and collectors.  Please contact me with your impressions of the site.

~ Saul Zalesch

Title

1918 Bulgarian Language American Almanac

Category
Almanac, gallery
Date

1918

Why It's Interesting

This hefty 266-page almanac was issued by Naroden Glas, which called itself America’s only Bulgarian language newspaper.  The text is in Bulgarian, and, according to a colleague who reads Bulgarian, an old variety because she does not recognize some of the characters.  There are also many photos, drawings, and ad pages, such as for phonographs, banks, and general stores around the country.  Only the New York Public Library and the University of Chicago report owning copies.  I can’t prove it, but the cover suggests that this almanac contains information useful to scholars of World War I.

I bought this item last week on ebay at the opening bid of 99 cents [plus $2.99 shipping.]  I bid $13 plus and expected to lose it to some institution.  My getting it for 99 cents is practically criminal.  Why aren’t reference libraries bidding on the incredible historical documents such as this still available at nominal costs?  Several librarians told me that libraries have no money, but who can’t swing $4 for something of obvious documentary significance [and rarity]?  Is it more of a failure of imagination than of the pocketbook?  I am thrilled that I can still acquire important ephemeral publications cheaply, but as a scholar I am distressed that even with the steady growth of interest in popular culture and ordinary daily life, libraries show little more imagination and openmindedness about sanctioning new classes of documentation than they did 50 or even 100 years ago.  I do not like being shrill, or even preachy, but the time to acquire documentary items is when they remain available, not after some fashionable consensus upon their desirability has finally evolved.