Ephemera articles and stories that will
educate, inspire, and delight!


Anthracite and Abracadabra

I collect items carved from hard anthracite coal. Recently I found a particularly interesting example, one which has lead me to stories beyond the object itself. As seen below, it was a presentation piece from Scranton, Pennsylvania (in the heart of coal mining and coal carving countr…

Early American Girl

Learning with Play In 1986, the Pleasant Company introduced a line of historically contextualized dolls named American Girls which were sold with books that told their life stories. America’s toy industry shares an important bond with color lithography. As toy manufact…

Education Strike

Learning with Play This nine-pin bowling set toy was designed as both a fun activity and an educational toy. America’s toy industry shares an important bond with color lithography. As toy manufacturers grew to be a major influence on children’s play and parents’ pocketbooks dur…

Charles Dickens Manuscript Surfaces

I was asked by an acquaintance to review a hoard of miscellaneous ephemera that they had been given by a downsizing friend. I discovered that there was a Charles Dickens First Edition apparently published in 1934! The book itself wasn’t in my friend’s archive. But there was a six-panel single…

Following the Breadcrumbs . . .

I recently bought a card on eBay primarily because it showed a whale, and I collect 19th-century trade cards and letterheads which feature whale images. Once it arrived, I realized there must be an interesting story behind the image and the card. The card promotes the Nautilus Dining Room on …

Collecting Bottles Illustrated on Ephemera

Or, Digging through paper instead of dirt Like many folks my age, I began collecting ephemera back in the 1960s as a result of being a bottle collector looking for advertising “go-withs”.  I was in college, married, and casting about for a career when the “bottle bug” struck.  As a result of …

Publishing the Railroad Ephemera

Publishing the Railroad: The Ephemera Bonanza By Carlos A. Schwantes History Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri – St. Louis Several years ago, I reviewed a book, massive in size and gorgeous in appearance, by Ian Kennedy and Julian Treuherz titled The Railway: Art in the Age of Stea…

From Society Balls to Buffalo Tails, Ephemera Traces Grand Duke’s Tour

“The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” could well have been the chant in 1871 as excited Americans prepared for the arrival of the Grand Duke Alexis and his entourage of Russian dignitaries. For the United States, entertaining royalty from abroad was a rare event, but the Duke was o…

Fantastic Monumental World Fair Globes

Within the period between 1891 and 1903, plans were made to construct two different monstrously huge iron buildings in the shape of the globe, for two different World Fairs. Neither came to pass. The World’s Columbian Exposition (WCE) — also called The Chicago World’s Fair — was held …