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.

~ Saul Zalesch

Title

Modigliani Hanging in Kitchen: Film Still 1930

Category
gallery, Illustration
Why It's Interesting

This still from the film Divorcee (1930) shows a painting [or print] by Amedeo Modigliani hanging in the background.  Several questions come to mind.  First, how modern did Modigliani, who had died in 1920, remain in 1930?  Second, is it significant that he hangs in a kitchen?  Third, is his presence [or that of modern art at all] related to the controversial nature of this film: divorce, an issue that would be all but forbidden a few years later by Hollywood’s Production Code?  That the man holds a cocktail shaker while Prohibition remained in force further testifies to the “modernity” or perhaps “immorality” of the scene.

The biggest question raised is what role modern works have played in movies over the years.  Has this ever been studied?  Many films have mocked modern art, but did genuinely avant garde art show up in many movies while its artist or style remained “cutting edge?”