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

Prohibitionist Subdivision, NYC, 1908: Westerleigh, Staten Island

Category
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Why It's Interesting

This is the full back cover of the June 1908 issue of The Circle, which labelled itself on the front cover “A Modern Department Magazine for all People.”

It sketches the details for this prohibitionist subdivision of 200 lots on Staten Island, run by the National Prohibition Park Co., [B. F. Funk [Funk & Wagnalls] President.  Residents already included Charles Evans Hughes, then Governor, and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Like later ads for Florida real estate, however, the ad promised improvements that would never be made, such as the extension of NYC’s subway to Staten Island.  Lots ranged in price from $55 to $1600 and could be bought on terms of $5.00 down and a dollar a month.  Purchases were called “an absolutely safe investment.”  Considering the price of NYC real estate, buyers–104 years later–have probably done OK.  This neighborhood has its own Wikipedia entry, and one can find on the web photos of many of its older houses.

The real interest here is the idea of a Prohibitionist subdivision, and this in NYC.  [Westerleigh, apparently, lost this core value after the repeal of Prohibition.]   How common were such developments?  How did they enforce Prohibition?  Do any remain Prohibitionist under old restrictive covenants?  Some scholar can probably have real fun with such questions.