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


Vending Machine 1942

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Why It's Interesting

This striking ad occupies the inside front cover of the souvenir program for the Ice Follies of 1942.   Such machines were relatively new then and still offered limited choices of merchandise.  Also, the beverages all came from the same spout and thus the flavors tended to merge.  Right up into the ’70s, and possibly even the 80s, some machines offered coffee, tea, and soup, and all tasted similar.  This was a standing joke on some sitcoms of the era, especially those like Barney Miller that were set in offices.  I challenge anyone to find a machine that still dispenses Green River, which happened to be a major national advertiser up through World War II.

Is it possible–I merely speculate here–that vending machines began to proliferate during World War II because of the wartime influx of women into factories and offices?  I have no inkling why gender would be involved but the presence of three [six] women and no men in this ad gets one to wondering.