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

Hellish [?] Furnace 1917

Category
Booklet, gallery
Date

1917

Why It's Interesting

This vaguely threatening image struck me the moment I first saw it.  There’s something scary and worrying about a little girl, on tip toes, her head framed by fire–her hand possibly being burned by the hot door of the furnace.  In short, I don’t understand this image at all, what would make it appealing.

This is the 1917 sales booklet of the Wolverine Stove Co., Marshall, MI.  The Wolverine was Michigan’s nickname animal, even though none had been spotted there since the early 19th century. [The first modern spotting did not take place till 2004.]  The Wolverine was famous for a ferocity that permitted it to outfight animals many times its weight.  This seem to be the idea here: a stove/furnace that heated way beyond its size and cost.  Central heating was just coming within the reach of middle-class families.  Many companies competed for this lucrative business.  This is the most striking of their catalogs that I have managed to acquire.