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


Hollywood’s International Reach 1945: Mildred Pierce

gallery, Illustration
Why It's Interesting

Joan Crawford dominated film during the 1930s and 40s, rivaled only, among female stars, by Bette Davis.  [Unfortunately, she may be better known today as the cruel mother of Mommie Dearest than for her film work.]  Of all of the roles she played she is probably best remembered and most admired as Mildred Pierce, heroine of the film of that name, who, as a single mother, builds up her own thriving business but then sacrifices everything to save her daughter from  the  consequences of her criminal activities.  The Mildred Pierce persona remained vibrant enough in the late 1960s that Mildred Fierce became Carol Burnett’s most famous movie parody.   A recent article in the New Yorker surprised me by stating that Mildred Pierce holds a special allure for many gay men.

My main reason for posting this image, however, is the Turkish stamp pasted at the top of the still.  I could not find a translation online, but I assume that this represented either a censor’s or some tax agency’s approval for using the still in advertising or showing the film.  This is the only still I have seen with an actual stamp pasted onto it.

Hollywood had long operated internationally, but in the wake of World War II, it enjoyed a near-monopoly of the production of expensive films until various national film industries could reorganize and get back to full operation.  Films like Mildred Pierce marked the high point of American international cultural hegemony [at least until the advent of a new level of globalism in the 1980s].

If anybody can translate the words on the Turkish stamp for me I would appreciate that information.