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

Woman Skydiving Altitude Record 1939

Category
gallery, Magazine
Date

1939

Why It's Interesting

This neat ad features Marie McMillin, holder of the altitude record for women skydivers, attributing her calmness to Camel cigarettes.  A few years later, she topped this jump of 20,800 feet with one of 24,800, which jump got her mentioned in the New Yorker‘s Talk of the Town on July 17, 1943, when McMillin lived in Queens.  She then took WAC basic training and, as a private, served as a parachute rigger at Fort Benning, GA.  By 1945 she had made 3996 jumps.

This is the inside front cover of an amazing college humor magazine, The Wisconsin Octopus, vol. 20, #7, March 1939.  The 5 issues of this title that I recently acquired have striking covers and remarkable illustrations and content.  That same issue, for example, has a full page cartoon showing DAR women of DC kicking a small African-American girl [Marian Anderson].  The September 1938 issue carries a fake full-page ad for ROTC seeking applicants of IQ 70 or below, who believed in the Red Menace and wanted never to grow up.  Only the University of Illinois and the NYPL Reserve collection report any copies of this delightful title.