Ephemera Journal, Volume 9

The Ephemera Society has published volume nine of Ephemera Journal. Containing three articles with more than 90 color and black-and-white illustrations, the Journal is free to members and costs them just $15 for extra copies; for those who have not as yet joined the society, the Journal is $18.00. Postage is an extra $1.50.

The first article is entitled "Chromolithography and the Cigar Label: Sometimes the Label was Better than the Cigar." Author John Grossman has worked as a graphic designer and a lettering and design instructor, served on the California Arts Commission, and is the proprietor of The Gifted Line, a company that makes gift wrap and other paper products. John has a wonderful collection of paper ephemera that he began to assemble in the early 1970s. He received the Ephemera Society's Maurice Rickards Award in 1990 and delivered the initial Rickards Lecture at the English ephemera society's twenty-fifth anniversary celebration in June 2000.

John sketches the history of the cigar beginning with Christopher Columbus, who learned about it from American Indians and took it back to Spain. In America, cigar smoking grew steadily until the late 1800s when the emergence of a large and prosperous middle class provided a significant market for the product. Advertisers contracted with chromolithographers to produce advertising labels and, as a result, established a new printed art form. By the 1880s and 1890s, there was a profusion of colorful labels, and in the decades that followed, the designers and printers of cigar labels perfected their art and technology. With the decline in use of chromolithography beginning about 1920, the quality of cigar labels likewise declined.

John concludes that the popularity of cigar smoking during the late nineteenth century helped lead to the commercial perfection of chromolithography.

The second article is by Sandra Markham, librarian at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Earlier in her career, Sandra was archivist at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale and museum registrar at Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester. Sandra's article is entitled "Living Preachers, Through Voiceless Lips: The Art of Selling Seeds and Plants, 1840-1920."

Sandra focuses on the printing businesses in Rochester, New York, that produced catalogs, illustrations, magazines, and other items issued to advertise the products of local nurserymen. There were many opportunities for printers to stay busy producing these publications since Rochester was at one time the horticultural center of the United States. It was nicknamed the "Flower City." In the 1870s alone, there were thirty-one nurseries, dealers, or seed merchants in town, and in the surrounding county, there were twenty-six more.

Nurserymen and printers were dependent upon each other for their livelihoods, and as Sandra points out, "their individual ambitions spurred each other's growth and achievements."

Thomas Beckman is the author of Ephemera Journal's third article, "North American Cameo Stamps, 1850-1880." Tom is a longtime member of the Ephemera Society; his name appears in our 1981 membership directory. An accomplished speaker, Tom gave a talk entitled "Japanese Influences on American Trade Card Imagery and Design, 1875-1890" at the Society’s 1992 conference that was later published in volume seven of Ephemera Journal. Tom is currently the registrar of The Historical Society of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware.

Tom adds to the information presented in the Ephemera Society's publication, Cameo Cards & Bella C. Landauer, a booklet that illustrates 200 nineteenth century business cards, some embossed in a manner reminiscent of bas-relief cameo gemstones. Having seen nearly 2,500 cameos thus far, Tom identifies more than sixty of their designers and makers in the United States and Canada. In addition, he includes a five-part definition of cameos--or "stamps" as they were called originally--suggests several sources from which they derived, explains how they were simultaneously color-printed and embossed from brass and gutta-percha dies, examines their major design subsets along with a number of variants, comments on the careers of some of the diesinkers who made them, and speculates on their demise.

John Grossman and Sandra Markham presented their papers at the Ephemera Society's fifth symposium in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1995. Tom Beckman's originally gave his paper as a talk at Ephemera 20, the society's 2000 conference, in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

The articles in volume nine of Ephemera Journal are indexed in America: History and Life, an online and published resource issued by the American Bibliographic Center-CLIO Press, Santa Barbara, California.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

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

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America