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

Esther Williams Seducing Myron’s Discobolus [1955]

Category
gallery, Illustration
Why It's Interesting

This is a slightly cropped film still from the 1955 film Jupiter’s Darling (1955), in which swimming goddess Esther Williams played the mistress of a Roman general.  I have no idea why she is cuddling up to and practically seducing a copy of Myron’s Discobolus [discus thrower].  Another still I acquired from that film shows Williams standing next to and striking the same pose as the Borghese Warrior [Gladiator].  Were these scenes intended for an audience far more informed about classical art than would certainly be the case today?

When I was a kid, I was too young to see the Esther Williams movies, but they were often mentioned in the Archie comic books I occasionally read [and satirized in Mad Magazine.]