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


Home for Homeless Children 1866

gallery, Magazine


Why It's Interesting

This magazine was issued by the “Baldwin Place Home for Little Wanderers.”  The inside cover of this journal recites its Constitution.  Article 5 states that any vagrant or homeless child might be accepted by the institution, to place it in a proper Christian home.  When the child was properly surrendered by a parent or legal guardian, the institution would try to place the child “not as a servant, but as a member of the family.”  The children were to be trained for usefulness or apprenticed for a trade.

Agencies like this were desperately needed because homeless children proliferated on the streets of large cities.  The shined shoes, sold newspapers, and struggled to survive.  Comfortable citizens feared them greatly as a social menace, threatening the social peace.  Many strange and awful things were written about these children in the late ’60s and through the ’70s.  The “menace” they posed was softened by painter John G. Brown’s super-popular images of street urchins enjoying themselves and showing no signs of their genuine suffering.  The psychic relief these paintings provided made Brown, for a while, the most successful painter working in America.

Catherine Lorillard Wolfe, who would bequeath the Metropolitan Museum in 1887 her large art collection and its first permanent endowment fund, $200,000, was best known when alive for establishing a respectable lodging house for homeless newsboys.