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


20,679 Physicians Recommend Lucky Strike Cigarettes, 1930

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Why It's Interesting

This is the back cover of the program of Ye Wilbur Theatre, Boston, for the week of October 13, 1930.  (The current show was Jed Harris’ production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.)

During the late 1920s and early ’30s, Lucky Strikes cigarette ads dominated the back covers of theater programs in New York, Chicago, and, to a lesser extent, Boston [where Vose Pianos often occupied that space.]  Previously Murad cigarettes, also from the American Tobacco Company, controlled back covers, with gorgeous ads, most noteworthy, the lady with whip riding a giant turtle.  Lucky Strike ads on programs used health themes, notably this one touting doctors’ recommendations, and the “shadow” ad, urging readers to reach for a luckies instead of a sweet.  This doctor-recommendation ad would become common during the 1930s and last into the War-era.  It remains notorious among cigarette ad campaigns.

This ad mentions toasting the tobacco, but other Lucky Strike ads featured that claim prominently.  Fans of the show Mad Men might remember that at its very start Don Draper came up with this slogan idea to differentiate luckies from competitors.  But of course, this claim had been in use nearly 40 years when he supposedly conceived it.