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


Ms. Annie Malone: First Great African-American Woman Entrepeneur

Catalog, gallery


Why It's Interesting

This image is a photo of Annie M. Pope Turnbo-Malone, the first African-American cosmetics queen.  [She had been the mentor of the better known Mme. C. J. Walker].  This photo is taken from a 1922 booklet/catalog published by the Poro Hair & Beauty Culture College, of St. Louis, the center of Malone’s operations.  She was listed as Founder and her husband Aaron Eugene Malone as President.  The booklet begins with a brief biography of Ms. Malone, who began manufacturing beauty products in Lovejoy, Il, in 1900.  She relocated her business to St. Louis in 1902.  Ground was broken for Poro College in 1917.  A photo shows it and records that the plant cost $750,000.

One page proclaimed Malone’s ideals and goals, declaring: “Our Aims and Purposes—To contribute to the economic betterment of Race Women.  To train to useful lives.  To develop proficiency.  To encourage thrift and industry.  To awaken latent forces.”  It added: “To inspire to higher things through inculcation of ideals to personal neatness and pride, self-respect, physical and mental cleanliness.”  It concluded: “PORO COLLEGE is consecrated to the uplift of humanity–Race women in particular.”

The next page stated that “SEVENTY-FIVE thousand Race women throughout the world have become Agents of PORO COLLEGE.” As a result: “Homes are being acquired.  Families are being provided for.  Children are being schooled.”  It added: “It may be conservatively stated that PORO COLLEGE is affording a more far-reaching economic opportunity to a greater number of Race women than is any other one commercial enterprise.”

The remainder of this rare booklet shows photographs of the facilities, staff, and students, and drawings, in color, of Poro’s many products.  The booklet has a beautiful cover whose horizontality does not lend itself to illustration on this site.