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. 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


Business School: No Negroes Admitted, 1900

Catalog, gallery


Why It's Interesting

Many catalogs of commercial schools say, somewhere in their texts, that African-American students were not accepted.  This was one of the few to place the exclusion right on the title page.  This school was in Poughkeepsie, NY not the Deep South.   Even art schools set forth this discriminatory practice, including one in Detroit, a city that had very few African Americans before many migrated there to work in auto plants.

The years before World War I–in the wake of Plessy vs. Ferguson “separate but equal”– were particularly nasty for African Americans.  Sheet music, for example, savagely lampooned African Americans, especially their clergy–as chicken thieves, gamblers, and carousers.  [Even the songs of Bert Williams had to push such stereotypes for him to maintain popularity with the white audiences he entertained at the Ziegfeld Follies and through recordings.]

As we observe Black History Month, I note that many of my young students have little idea of how bad were the bad old days for African Americans, especially here in Northern Louisiana.  This living history must include how bad things had been–not just how much better things are–or the improvements will be taken for granted.  In a way this is good, but opportunities taken for granted can so often be lost.