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

American Hebrew Almanac 1882

Category
Almanac, gallery
Date

1882

Why It's Interesting

This fascinating almanac was issued in Philadelphia, but distributed nationally, to serve Jews of German descent.  Almost all of its text and ads are in German, as are the captions of its many cartoons and drawings.  This was a difficult time for these people.  Genteel discrimination got started in Saratoga, NY a few years earlier and was spreading wildly as Jews from Eastern Europe began to arrive in large numbers after 1880.  German Jews, the “Our Crowd,” wanted nothing to do with the “rest of us” and resented being themselves tarnished with the brush of alienness.  [Both of the terms used here are titles of books by Stephen Birmingham.  I wrote my masters thesis on synagogue architecture in Baltimore in the 19th century and delved deeply into the split between the “old” and “new” Jews.]  Many of the German-speaking Jews continued to use German in the home and even in public family discourse until anti-German bias during World War I discouraged this.