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

Am. Bankers Assn. Travelers Checks, 1920s

Category
Booklet, gallery
Why It's Interesting

This is one of 4 colorful images in a booklet Travel Trails issued during the mid to late 1920s to promote American Bankers Association travelers checks.  The portrayal of a stereotypical African-American Pullman porter seems peculiar because the booklet mostly dealt with overseas travel, where one was unlikely to find such a scene.  Perhaps such a representation was simply so integral to travel then that the issuer could not omit it.  The other scenes show a woman posed before an airplane, a woman walking the deck of an ocean liner, and a couple riding in the back of an open car.

This item sheds light on an age when travelers were advised to arrange in advance “some standard cable code for use in case of emergency.”