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


John Wanamaker Store Magazine 1925

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Why It's Interesting

This is the second issue of a Wanamaker Store and Home Magazine that I have posted.  Wanamaker, Altman, Fields and other department stores issued beautiful journals for its steady customers. So, for that matter did many small, local stores.

I doubt that this particular cover would now pass muster with PETA, or even less-devoted animal rights advocates.  But this points to a key problem in writing history: not imposing one’s modern views on past ages or people.  Being Jewish, I could feel antipathy to most past figures because they regularly expressed anti-Semitic feelings almost casually, as if they took such beliefs for granted, and knew that others would take what they said almost as axiomatic.  Condemning them for such conduct would be inappropriate and certainly unhelpful in unraveling the web of past cultures.  Unless a person’s beliefs and behavior go beyond their society’s norms, their biases were as automatic as breathing and hardly worth exploring.  Only those individuals who managed to free themselves from such assumptions, or who, as George Bernard Shaw said [I hope ironically], were more hostile than what seemed called for, demand our attention.