What Would Columbus Think? 1916
|Why It's Interesting|
This is the cover of the October 1916 issue of The Watchman, published by the Southern Publishing Association, which served unspecified Protestant denominations. It features intriguing articles about the spreading War and Zeppelin travel to the United States, thereby transcending the traditional protective barrier of the Atlantic. Indeed Columbus would have been startled by airships and submarines, but he would have been horrified by The Watchman’s anti-Catholic content and rhetoric. If the pious Columbus–who may have been seeking the Garden of Eden–could have foreseen the anti-Catholicism that underpinned American politics for much of its history, he might have turned back before reaching Hispaniola, or at least suppressed all knowledge of what he had found. [Whether that would have been good or bad I leave to each reader to decide.]
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.