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

Custom Finished Furniture 1926

Category
Catalog
Date

1926

Why It's Interesting

William Leavens & Co., Boston, ordered reproductions of traditional furniture finished and decorated to the consumer’s tastes.  The introductory headings in this lovely catalog read: “Leavens Furniture is Painted or Stained just as You Want It;” “Hand Decorations at Small Additional Cost;” “Leavens Furniture is Authentic;” “Leavens Sets are What You Make Them;” and “Leavens Furniture is Moderately Priced.”  The illustrations in color featured colonial butterfly tables painted: jade, antique mulberry, old blue, antique rust, Chinese red, and maple; kidney, end, gateleg, and nesting tables that could be obtained in any color, including cafe au lait, orchid, and apple green; breakfast sets in any color; rush seat chairs; and chamber suites.

Fortunately this catalog retains its original 2-page price list.  To provide a few examples of pricing in 1926: gateleg tables finished in stains cost $19.50, in gloss enamel $22.50, and in rubbed enamel $25.50.  A chestnut rocker in those finishes cost 9, 10.80, and 12.60 respectively.  The most expensive item offered was a bureau with glass costing 78, 81.75, and 85.50 respectively.

I also happen to have Leavens’ 1927 catalog, which has an equally nice cover.