Ephemera articles and stories that will
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Stretching the Truth

by Richard Sheaff
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 visual to sell its new, tough canvas denim…

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 the…

We Are All One

by Richard Sheaff
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…

A Towering Eyeful

by Richard Sheaff
The Eiffel Tower in Paris celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2014. Built in 1889, the Eiffel Tower served as the entryway arch and, at over 1,000 feet tall, the centerpiece of the 1889 World’s Fair. It remains to this day an immensely popular tourist attraction. The Liebig company put out…

Whale Washing

by Richard Sheaff
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 item of 19th-century ephemera featuring…