Artistic Almanac 1888
|Why It's Interesting|
Hundreds of almanac titles competed for consumers dollars during the late 19th century. Several emphasized artistic offerings. (A competitor was entitled Almanack Illustrated by Celebrated Artists–one of whom was Thomas Moran.) This example was published for Manchester, NH, as shown by the ads. The publishers J. A. & R. A. Reid do not disclose their headquarters on the title page, but an ad, calling them book and job printers, located them in Providence, RI. This almanac has 11 full-page illustrations and a number of smaller ones. No artists’ name are given. Several images bear signatures that I cannot read. Several scenes have artistic themes, with titles like Study of a Head, The Young Artist, and Our Artist Abroad. The other pictures included such standard late-19th-century themes as a monk eating and drinking; a Pompeian maiden; and a 17th-century warrior. The fact is, however, that many almanacs of that era making no pretense of artistic merit contained comparable pictures, sometimes in even greater quantity.
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.