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


Lifelike Statuettes from Photos 1936

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Why It's Interesting

This ad in the June 1936 issue of Independent Salesman sought agents to solicit orders and supply 9″-tall color, lifelike statuettes made from any photograph.  I have published on many kinds of cheap art, including sculpture, but this is my first introduction to such a category of sculpture.  It is possible, of course, that this ad was misleading and/or there proved no demand for such statuary.  This magazine is filled with ads offering opportunities to earn good livings selling one product or another–this being while the country remained mired in the Great Depression and unemployment was high.

But statuettes like this are precisely the kinds of goods that now lend themselves to being made using the new 3-D printers that are beginning to transform manufacturing.  It is easy to image scanning a photo, and a computer transmuting it into a 3-D matrix design to be sent straight to the printer.  Perhaps this ad was just way premature.