Ephemera articles and stories that will
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Stretching the Truth

Exaggeration abounded in mid-to-late-nineteenth century imagery, for comic effect and/or to emphasize product features. One oft-repeated graphic, in numerous variations, showed a pair of pants resisting mighty efforts to pull it apart. This may have originated with Levi Strauss, who used that vi…

Split Fountain Printing

Split fountain printing is a time-honored technique for printing in two or several colors in one pass. It was a way to have more colorful pieces without the expense of full color. Modern printing presses have ink trays, or “fountains”, situated above the press sheet. Rollers below then spread th…

We Are All One

To make a personal long long story very very short, I was a stamp collector before I was an ephemera collector. But the more 19th-century stamps on envelopes I saw, the more I began finding my eyes roving to the left, finding myself less interested in the postage stamp at the upper right, or its…

Whale Washing

Today as I write, this large, reverse-painted-on-glass nineteenth-century advertising sign is to be auctioned by Morphy’s. The image of a whale being cleaned by Soapine is one of those truly classic vintage images, and variations on the theme are popular collectibles. (For that matter, any i…

Yankee Peddler

In an earlier blog, I made the point that the “separate hobbies” of collecting paper, stamps, postal history, prints, and antique objects are often—perhaps always—part of the same historical trail, one encompassing hobby. Some folks chose to focus in one or another aspect, others collect a bit o…

Scratching the Surface

So many kinds of interesting ephemera, so little time. I find match scratchers, a useful thing to have on hand back in the day of ubiquitous wooden matches, to be pretty interesting. There are all sorts of ceramic and other pottery match scratchers (also called match strikers) out there; tho…

Greetings from “Over There”

Holiday and other greeting cards in the United States developed throughout the 19th century, but by the first decade of the 20th century, the industry was dominated by postcards designed and printed in Germany. That ended with the outbreak of WWI. During “The War To End All Wars” (yeah, right…

Marbled Edge Continental Currency Challenged British Counterfeiting

Early American paper money is separated into two categories: colonial currency, issued by the individual colonies as early as 1690 and continental currency, issued from 1775 until 1779 by the newly formed Continental Congress. The paper bills issued by the colonies were known as “bills of credit…

Over The Top

One of the basic human needs is to have a roof overhead to protect from rain, sleet, snow, high winds and wildlife looking to nest. In new construction, roofing structure (lumber) is installed, topped off with some all-important waterproof sealant . . . tiles, slate, shingles, asphalt, tin, iron…