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


Cure All Female Diseases: 1885

Booklet, gallery


Why It's Interesting

This booklet was issued in 1885 by Dr. J. A. McGill touting his Orange Blossom female suppositories as a wonder cure.  [Another copy of this, with slight cover variations, is posted by The Duke University library.]  The back cover states: “The famous Orange Blossom is a positive cure for the following diseases: inflammation, congestion and falling of the womb, anteversion, retroversion, prolapsus, dropsy of womb, ulceration, polypus, tumors, leucorrhoea, profuse and difficult menstruation, ovarian tumors, fibroid tumors, inflammation and congestion of the ovaries, cancers in their earlier stages, and lacerations of cervix (due to childbirth) radically cured.”  Did women in 1885 actually know what all of these ailments–5 of which fail spellcheck–were?  [Did they all even exist?]  This is one of the boldest and most all-inclusive claims to be found on the hundred or so 19th-century quack-medicine ephemera I have acquired.

Directly below this claim the back cover says in large capital letters: “INTELLIGENT LADY AGENTS WANTED.”  They were needed to peddle this elixir to friends, family, and neighbors.

The pamphlet describes various ailments and prints numerous testimonials from users.  Six libraries report owning this booklet; one reports an edition from 1883.