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


Dumb Bell Drills 1916

Book, gallery


Why It's Interesting

Al Spalding dominated baseball during the early decades of the 20th century.  An ex-player, then team owner and equipment manufacturer, he not only controlled the leagues of that day but invented the myth that Abner Doubleday had invented the sport in 1839 in Cooperstown, NY.  His company’s athletic library covered every imaginable sport.  It also published almanacs of sports.  Many describe extinct sports like fancy dumb bell drills.  This little book contains many photographs of athletes performing a strange range of drills.  This volume is also a mini-catalog of sporting goods.