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


Great Depression Block-Aid 1932

Card, gallery


Why It's Interesting

Before there was the New Deal, Block-Aid was President Hoover’s effort at community relief at the depth of the Great Depression.  There is an official message in his papers commending this voluntary relief campaign.  This particular effort was sponsored by the Emergency Unemployment Relief Committee of New York City as an effort to coordinate neighbors trying to help their neighbors.  The exceutive committee of this committee reads like a roll call of that era’s establishment, with names like Marshall Field, banker George Baker, Cornelius Bliss [whose wife helped found MOMA], Harry Emerson Fosdick, a Harriman, Robert Lovett, and Elihu Root Jr.  Very little is recorded about this campaign, suggesting that it kept a low profile and did not manage to accomplish much.  Only centralized New Deal programs could redress suffering of the magnitude seen during the Depression, a kind, that thankfully, has been much rarer in America since World War II–limited mostly to members of marginalized minorities and regions.