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

Advertising Jewelry in 1927

Category
Catalog, gallery
Date

1927

Why It's Interesting

This is one of the loveliest jewelry catalogs I have seen.  Two features here make this catalog particularly interesting.  First is the introductory page.  It explained to consumers why they should buy their jewelry by mail, with the headline: “Every Day Millions of Americans Buy by Mail–Because it Pays them!”  After another headline claimed that “Royal’s Tremendous Buying Power Gives You Greatest Values,” a third said: “Use Your Credit–It’s Your Greatest Asset.”  Do consumers, even today, buy expensive jewelry by mail, or does so special a purchase require still the in-person experience?

The second revealing aspect is the 82-page booklet’s back cover, which proclaims against a colorful background of magazine covers: “87 National Magazines tell the story of Royal fine Jewelry.”  Many of the magazine titles are legible.  One does not find here the top names, like Saturday Evening Post or the Ladies Home Journal.  From top left, working down the page, the legible titles are: Sea Stories, Motion Picture, Smart Set, Detective Story, Argosy All-Story Weekly, Shriner, Fawcett’s, Dream World Romance, True Romances, Physical Culture, True Story, Hearst’s International, Motion Picture Classic, Complete Story, ElksRed Book, Railroad Trainman, True Experience, Film Fun, Photoplay, Adventure, and Snappy Stories.  It thus seems that the market for this mail-order jewelry was not the carriage trade but Babbitts and the dreamy.