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

Turning Concrete into Gold 1956

Category
Catalog, gallery
Date

1956

Why It's Interesting

This marvelous volume was catalog number 715 from the Concrete Machinery Co., of Hickory, NC.  It claimed to be the most authoritative and comprehensive guide ever published to making and selling “ornamental concrete products,” namely garden statuary of concrete.  Using CMC aluminum molds, one could start turning concrete into gold.  The back cover illustrates in color the iconic African-American jockey, garden gnome, and flamingo–those favorites of the ’50s and the ’60s that I saw daily walking to school and around my neighborhood.  Flamingos could be made in 15 model/sizes, using molds costing between $10 and $40.  “Jockey Boy” stood 26-1/2″ and the mold cost $90; a grander version, “The Cavalier,” 44″ in height, needed a $140 mold.  Other African-American figures included “Rastus the Fisherman” (18-1/2″ $85), “Watermelon Boy” (13-1/2″ $35), and “Shoe-Shine Boy” (20-1/2″ $70).  A fallen Indian chief (described as a tourist item) was 25″ long and the mold cost $45.  A 26″ tall St. Francis of Assisi required a $100 mold, but to get the proper effect with this statue, one also needed a “Rock Garden Bird Bath,” atop which it should be mounted; this combo cost $185. The catalog also offered all of the machinery and supplies that one needed to enter the lucrative field.  The last twelve pages of the book provided a beginner’s course on making the sculpture.