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


“Entirely New and Original Art for Ladies” 1884

Card, gallery


Why It's Interesting

This is the reverse of a lovely trade card, copyrighted 1884, showing 2 children playing in a jewelry box.  With this Mrs. A. K. M. Heath, who operated Mrs. Heath’s Art School, announced “An Entirely New and Original Art for Ladies,” Iridese Painting.  It promised to give an enduring beauty to painting on velvet, plush, felt, satin, and Leather, using powder colors that would not fade.  Heath compares the effects to illuminated manuscripts, but adding the effect of raised relief.  The method was intended to be used to decorate household articles.

I cannot find any other references to Iridese Painting.  One A. K. M. Heath is recorded selling artists’ supplies in Boston in 1886.