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


Kinds of Commercial Paints, 1890s?

Booklet, gallery
Why It's Interesting

This amusing booklet sang in verse the praises of Neal’s Carriage Paints, from the Acme White Lead & Color Works, of Detroit.  [The only library reporting this booklet is Historic Deerfield Village].  Alternate pages provide poetry and ads.  Each ad page promotes a line of paints.  Besides the carriage paints, there were Acme decorative paints, for family use; granite floor paints, a lightning dryer; Acme interior fresco paints [with “Eight Beautiful Shades for Wall or Ceiling, and Five for Bordering”]; Acme sash paints, in six beautiful shades; Acme Wagon and Implement Paints; Our prepared house paints; and barn and roof paints.  Each ad preserves useful information about these bygone products.

Deerfield dates its copy 1900, but I suspect from the style and typography that this booklet dates to the 1890s, or even earlier.