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

Alla Nazimova: Bisexual Early Film Goddess, 1919

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Why It's Interesting

This is a die cut herald for Alla Nazimova’s Red Lantern.  Heralds were given out at theaters to promote upcoming films.  Because intended to be given away to large numbers of people rather than displayed in the theater itself, they were printed in much larger quantities than other kinds of movie paper and are more common and fetch lower prices.  This one is very unusual in that its verso is gummed rather than printed with photographs or information about the film. Die cut heralds were not used often, and since heralds were often folded and otherwise treated roughly, examples in this mint condition are scarce.

Nazimova was one of the most intriguing of early film stars.  Born Jewish, in Russia, she nevertheless managed to join the Moscow Art Theatre.  Moving to New York in 1905, she soon became a leading lady on Broadway.  She entered film in 1916 and was earning $13,000 a week the next year.

She is best remembered for off-screen activities.  While party to 2 simultaneous marriages, she had recorded affairs with actress Eva Le Gallienne, Oscar Wilde’s niece Dolly Wilde, and possibly painter Bridget Tichenor.  She supposedly coined the term “sewing circles” as cover for closeted lesbians.  She built in Hollywood the soon-legendary estate Garden of Allah.  In 1921, she became Godmother to the future Nancy Reagan [Wikipedia].