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

Beauty Parlor Torture Apparatus 1936

Category
gallery, Illustration
Why It's Interesting

THIS IS THE 500TH POSTING ON THE WEBSITE.

It is a detail from a film still from Swing High, Swing Low, featuring Carole Lombard, one of my favorite movie comediennes.  Is this a hair drier, a curler, or some fake apparatus devised just for the movie?  It looks more appropriate for–and perhaps was inspired by–the Frankenstein movies of that era.  The luxuriousness of this setting will come into context when I post next a 1941 film scene showing a beauty parlor exclusively for African Americans.