Home Dyeing in 1892
|Why It's Interesting|
Diamond Dyes were a product of one of the largest American firms that almost no one remembers. Wells, Richardson & Co., of Burlington, VT, not only was the leading supplier of dyes for home use, but sold what was called lactated foods, “improved butter color,” and various patent medicines such as kidney-wort. Recommended uses for the dyes included coloring garments, refurbishing shop-worn goods, coloring photographs, engravings, maps, feathers, Easter eggs, ribbons, and neckties. There were also diamond paints for art works. Wells, Richardson published several lines of almanacs and many fascinating booklets, a number of which will eventually be posted here because I find their publications of unusual beauty and interest. After 1900 it published fairly lavish Diamond Dye Annuals, several of which, from the teens, I have been lucky enough to acquire.
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.