Who Contacts the Ephemera Society?

Who contacts the Ephemera Society, how do they get to us, and why are they in touch?

During the first few months of 2003, scores of emails—seemingly the favorite way for many people to communicate these days—came to the society via our web site. Some were from members and others were from other ephemerists who learned about the society online. Details from email addresses suggest that people from a variety of states, as well as Canada and England, are interested in 'speaking' with the society.

One of the most gratifying recent emails was from an eighth grade student, Mia, who was assigned to do a research paper on the emergence of advertising in America. She was interested in any and all information on the topic; specifically, the impact of ephemera as it related to her topic. We look forward to welcoming youngsters like Mia into the growing community of individuals who appreciate the value of ephemera for studying America's rich history.

In contrast, a volunteer from the Albany Institute of History and Art, Phoebe Bender, wondered about the best way to organize the institute's ephemera collection. What is the best way to file ephemera? What subject thesaurus is preferable for descriptions? Where should tickets go? Under dances if they are for dances, under dinners if they get people into dinners; under train excursions if they are used for traveling the rails? Or simply under a category headed Tickets? What is best practice?

On February 13, a resident of Arizona emailed because she was doing a story on bookmarks and wondered if a member of the society would offer comments on their appeal as collectibles. Thankfully, the society's web site has a page devoted specifically to bookmarks. That very same day a dealer from Victoria, British Columbia wrote: "I have a programme dated 1878 for an evening of entertainment to aid Yellow Fever sufferers in Irvington, N.J. The programme was printed by B.S. Whitehead, printer, 19 Arlington, Newark. Does anyone have information on this printer?"

Also, we get emails from people who are interested in joining the Ephemera Society. A very generous person who picked up one of our membership brochures in San Francisco said that she was interested in coming in at the Lifetime Level, the highest category of membership.

Moonlighting from her job as a marketing director of a firm in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin that makes playground equipment, someone asked if any members of the society were acquainted with decorative dressing screens. She had a six-panel Victorian wood screen with "absolutely beautiful examples of 1870-1880 ephemera" pasted onto it. Included were trade cards and prints of birds, flowers, fruit, and animals. Perhaps from Europe, the screen came into her possession from an antique store in San Antonio, Texas.

Graham Hudson, secretary of the Ephemera Society in Great Britain, was in touch to find out about a topic he was researching for a book, provisionally entitled The Printer's Art: Design and the Jobbing Printer in England and America, 1725-1925. "What I need at present is information as to sources regarding the design education of printers and engravers in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America."

Other communications involved administrative details involved in running the society, notices about upcoming sales or auctions (especially the sale of the Mastai collection of ephemera relating to flags on February 8, 2003), and emails about Ephemera 23, the society's annual weekend conference and fair in March. Of particular note were press releases from Ephemera 23's promoters, John and Tina Bruno of Flamingo Promotions, and an email about the many exhibits that were planned for the event from the society's exhibit coordinator.

Interestingly enough, the emails that come in today closely match letters received from earlier years before emails ever existed. These letters regularly appeared in Ephemera News, the society's quarterly newsletter. One, from the autumn of 1982, from volume 2, number 4, concerns the thrill of the chase and was actually reprinted from the Washington Post. It reads: "If an ad in the paper says there's a piano, I go. Where there's a piano there might be a piano bench. And in that bench…" Obviously sheet music.

However people choose to communicate, by letter, telephone, fax, or email, we encourage individuals to contact the society. Chances are that we have members whose interests mirror your own and would be happy to find another enthusiast.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

[This article originally appeared in the Northeast Journal of Antiques & Art.]

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America