Ephemera articles and stories that will
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Wacky Victorian Imagery

By and large, many folks think of the Victorian Era as a period of straight-laced, repressed conformity. But it was not, in any of a dozen different ways. One of the most wonderful things about Victorian graphics is the abundance of unexpected and totally delightful, off-the-wall fantasy concept…

Mining Nuggets Buried in the Fog of Time

The cultural past as codified in history books might be likened to the bare, standing steel framework of a skyscraper: we can see the broad outline, but not yet the myriad details which make the building come alive. Many a piece of printed ephemera that has somehow survived the vicissitudes of T…

Hot Off The Press!

One of my favorite types of 19th century printed ephemera are small handbills, printed by local job printers, and handed out around town to announce some immediate performance or sale, often enough touting some event to be held that very evening. These handouts commonly featured bold wood type t…

The Ice Man Cometh

I am ancient enough to well remember the days when goods and services were delivered to the home . . . ice, coal, milk, dry cleaning, firewood, fuel oil, kerosene—even doctor care. Our family doc made visits to the house whenever anyone was too ill to visit his office (which was located in his o…

“Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades”

“Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades” was one of the earliest advertising slogans used by photographers, as carte de visite (CDV) photographs became all the rage. The phrase urged one and all to capture the image (Secure the shadow) before beloved family members were dead and gone (the su…

All is well on the front lines!

Every once in awhile I come across a particular kind of WWII message-to-the-folks-back-home postcard, a novelty cartoon card with a photograph of the soldier or sailor sandwiched inside, his face appearing in a window. This one (below), mailed to Syracuse by Private Michael Herezak, stationed…

Keep your powder dry!

For some reason lost in the fog of time, baking powder had usually been packaged in cylindrical cans with bright graphics in eye-catching red, yellow and black. Baking powder is, of course, a leavening agent used in the making of bread and other foods. It is a chemical leavening agent, which gen…

Duck and cover!

During the Cold War days of the 1950s and 1960s, it began to seem inevitable to one and all that atomic bombs might well soon rain down. At first, mass hysteria ensued, slowly replaced by resigned shrugs as public attention wandered elsewhere. At the height of the phenomenon, bomb shelters g…

“Your vacation starts when you step aboard!”

Yeah, right. These days I hate to fly, avoid it whenever I can. Long gone are those halcyon days when taking a commercial flight was a joy when everyone put on their Sunday-go-to-meeting duds to fly when travelers were pampered. Nowadays airline advertising is filled with heart-warming, …