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


World Tours 1931

Catalog, gallery


Why It's Interesting

This 1931 catalog from Armstrong Educational Tours, Baylor University, Waco, TX, offered fabulous–and incredibly long–tours to Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa.  Most of the tours lasted more than 60 days; some more than 90.  The idea of Americans going away for the entire summer seems odd now but was, of course, normal for the affluent before air conditioning became common.  The tours for adults ranged in price from $1475 for the “unusual tour” to $550 deluxe [or $445 first class] for a 28-day post-Rotary Convention tour around Europe.  Seven student tours cost between $495 [40 days] and $860 [54 days; and a European extension could be added for another $255].

This catalog is one of a number of items I have acquired to make the point that not everyone in America was poor during the Great Depression.  Historians already know this down deep, of course, but studies continue to focus primarily upon the horrendous suffering endured by a large [but unknown] percentage of Americans [including my grandparents and parents].  This focus parallels the way that early studies of Realism looked almost exclusively at paintings of the poor and the marginal, ignoring artists like Tissot, Bacon, and Stewart.