ESA 38 – “Let me Entertain You!”

 Speakers – Exhibitors – Ephemera FairVideos

Mark your calendar for the Ephemera Society of America’s thirty-eighth annual conference,  “Let me Entertain You!” on March 15–18, 2018, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

As far back as we can remember, people have sought refuge from the day to day in various forms of entertainment.  And for their part, entertainers have devised ways to amuse us, to edify or astonish, to elevate our spirits or simply to loosen our inhibitions, transporting us outside our ordinary lives.  Public entertainments are woven into the very fabric of a culture - and, in the United States of the 19th and 20th centuries, traditional amusements developed distinctive American forms.

This year's conference selects eight subjects from the vast field of entertainment, dating from the early 19th century to the present day.  Our speakers — museum curators as well as entrepreneurs and independent collectors and scholars — will use ephemera — broadsides, posters, invitations, tickets, handbills, programs, advertisements, articles and other memorabilia — to illustrate their subjects:  the early days of the American circus, traveling entertainers at the turn of the 20th century, one of New York's earliest pleasure gardens, American's oldest winter festival, a controversial female silent film director, the age of jazz, the short-lived national craze for competitive aviation, the birth of the crossword puzzle, and the history of rock and roll.

In other words, they will use ephemera to take us ‘backstage’ at the traveling shows of the large circuses, the smaller peripatetic acts, and barnstorming aviation racers; the dramatic performances of early “garden” theaters and controversial silent films; as well as quintessentially American winter carnivals, crossword puzzles, jazz, and rock’n’roll. What drew people to these diversions, and what characterized the lives of these performers and their managers? As a 2018 audience, we will experience the hucksterism of the past.

Attendees who come early, on Thursday, may attend an afternoon presentation on the use of ephemera by college students in the classroom. On Saturday and Sunday, ESA will present our widely anticipated Ephemera Fair considered by many the best in the country. The Fair runs from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, however, there is an early preview for Ephemera Society members only at 9 am. On Sunday the Fair runs from 11 am to 4 pm. There will be exceptional material from a wide spectrum of knowledgeable and experienced dealers, displaying their freshest and best ephemera relating to the myriad topics ESA members search for. You can attend just the Fair if you are not able or interested in attending the conference.

Following the Fair on Saturday, the Ephemera Society will hold its annual fund-raising auction, preceded by cocktails and followed by our banquet, open by reservation to all ESA members. Our banquet presentation will feature a presentation by Craig Inciardi who is the Curator and Director of Acquisitions for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. And on Sunday morning we will feature a presentation by Will Shortz who is the crossword editor of the The New York Times and puzzlemaster for NPR.

The speaker bios of Ephemera 38 are presented below:


Benjamin FeldmanBenjamin Feldman has lived and worked in New York City for the past 47 years and is the author of three works of non-fiction about 19th and early 20th century New York. His essays and book reviews about New York City and American history and about Yiddish culture have appeared online and in print in CUNY’s Gotham History Blotter, The New Partisan Review, Columbia County History &, Heritage, Ducts Literary Magazine,  The Forward, New York Archives Magazine and in his blog, The New York Wanderer. He is the chair emeritus of the Board of The National Yiddish Theater — Folksbiene, and currently chairs the Board of the New Yiddish Repertory Theater. Ben maintains a vital relationship with Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, the source of many of his projects and stories.


Art GrotenArt Groten has been an active collector of stamps, books and ephemera for over 60 years. He retired from radiology a number of years ago to concentrate on writing about and exhibiting his collections. He is a past president of The Ephemera Society of America, a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London and recipient of the American Philatelic Society’s Luff Award for Outstanding Philatelic Research.



Moira HarrisMoira F. Harris has served on the Board of Directors of The Ephemera Society of America and has written several articles for the Journal. Ms Harris is an art historian (Ph. D, University of Minnesota), a member of the Ampersand Club, and the historical societies of Minnesota, Ramsey County and Hennepin County. Her book Fire and Ice. The History of the St Paul Winter Carnival was published in 2004. More recently she served as a consultant to a public television documentary on the Carnival in 2016.





Craig Inciardi Craig Inciardi is the Curator and Director of Acquisitions for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum who, in 1995, was charged with building the initial collection necessary to open the Library & Archive. He has curated numerous exhibitions including “Rock Style,” a collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1999, and curated major exhibitions on The Rolling Stones, The Who’s Tommy, The Clash, Rolling Stone magazine, and Louder Than Words — an exhibition about rock and roll and politics. He formerly developed specialized sales of rock memorabilia and other pop culture collectibles at Sotheby's auction house in New York.



Marty NordenMarty Norden teaches film history and screenwriting as Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. With more than one hundred publications to his credit, he has presented at numerous scholarly conferences across North America and Europe. He is currently at work on Lois Weber: Interviews, an anthology to be published as an installment in the University Press of Mississippi’s “Conversations with Filmmakers” series.




Hank O’NealHank O’Neal, over a half century in the music business, formed two record companies (Chiaroscuro Records and Hammond Music Enterprises), built two recording studios (WARP and Downtown Sound), produced over 200 jazz LPs/CDs and over 100 music festivals from 1983 to 2002. He has written books and articles on jazz, photographed most of the giants of jazz from the second half of the 20th Century, exhibited these photographs regularly, and served on the boards of various non-profit organizations that serve the jazz community, including the Jazz and Contemporary Music Program of The New School (1985 to present), The Jazz Foundation of America (1993 to present) and more recently the Jazz Gallery (1995 to present) and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. He is a lifetime member of The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.


Will ShortzWill Shortz is the crossword editor of The New York Times and puzzlemaster for NPR. He holds the world's only college degree in Enigmatology, the study of puzzles, which he earned in 1974 through a self-designed major at Indiana University.








Pat SweeneyPat Sweeney is a long-time Sustaining Society member and has contributed numerous entries to the Society website “What is Ephemera?” Here he greatly expands and updated an article he wrote for the Ephemera News in 1996.







Matthew WittmannMatthew Wittmann, Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection, holds a doctorate in American culture from the University of Michigan and is the author of Circus and the City: New York 1793-2010 (2012) as well as a co-editor of The American Circus (2012). His scholarly work has focused on the cultural, material, and transnational history of the United States during the 19th century and on the dynamics of popular entertainment in particular. He is a former a trustee of the Circus Historical Society, a former curator at the American Numismatic Society, and presently a member of many organizations dedicated to libraries and the performing arts.


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