Filmstrip for Movie Alexander the Great (1955); United Nations
|Why It's Interesting|
In grade school during the 1950s and ’60s we were often shown filmstrips that came in tiny cans. They were advanced through small projectors a frame at a time. This is the storyboarding for such a filmstrip put together by one William Lewin, Ph.D. using stills from the United Artist film Alexander the Great (1955) starring Richard Burton. [Lewin also prepared one for Kirk Douglas’ Ulysses and billed himself on the opening frame of this strip as the author of Photoplay Appreciation.]
Did many films sponsor educational filmstrips as part of their marketing campaign, or was this limited to historical epics? What interested me most about the storyboarding, and why I post this group of stills rather than those showing action and romantic scenes, is the conclusion pondering if the United Nations would achieve Alexander’s unfulfilled ambition–a sentiment that obsesses the fringe folk who keep expecting UN black helicopters to attack their communities any time. This seems to be a wishful sentiment here, a longing for a stable world government just 10 years after the end of World War II.
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.