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Recent interesting finds

By Dick Sheaff

There is always something new to find . . . so much ephemera, so little time! It is of course particularly satisfying to find a new addition to some existing collection.

Original art for a Christmas card in the retro, pseudo-Edwardian style popular from the 1920s up into the 1940s.

I wrote an article in the Ephemera Journal in 2014   about the “Excelsior” motif of a youth striding up a mountain with a flag., so popular following Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1841 poem of the same name. I recently found this addition to the genre.

Just a great image, a writing tablet cover page. Not many helmets in evidence, and the ones shown were no more than simple straps of leather which would not have cushioned any shock whatsoever. Perhaps they served merely to keep youthful locks in place.

A popular image album on my old website features images of people with their caught fish. Alas, that website—though still viewable—became dysfunctional some time back, so I can no longer add additional images. Here is another one I recently found.

I like ephemera showing tigers, and I like well done paint-by-numbers paintings, so how could I resist?

A folk art singing gospel choir napkin holder. Probably a collection of one.

I seem to have a thing for lobsters, also. This collecting thing is a disease! 

I love 1950s era advertising postcards that are, in one way or another, laughable.

A favorite collection is carte de visite photographs with interesting photographer backmark imprints. Once in a great while a photographer would use a the back of some business card or trade card as a photo mount. In this case, an extreemely rare Great American Tea Company engraved card was used: steel engraved on coated porcelain stock!

Olney & Floyd produced a number of wonderful graphic labels. This is a ca.1970s-1980s decorative sign based on one of those 19th century labels, silkscreened in several colors onto a board.

A tremendous, wonderfully complex “Gaslight Style” trade card design.

A postcard featuring the “new” Kodak Brownie box camera.

As did Jean Berg years ago, I love 19th century cards printed on orange cardstock. Over time I find myself also looking for items printed on green, yellow, blue and black stock.

A stock card entitled “The Esthetic Drive” (at lower left) which parodies the Aesthetic Movement. 

I have long found embossed postcards of great interest. (An assortment of them can be found on one of my Pinterest pages at

As each holiday approaches each year, eBay sellers tend to offer relevant items and the picking becomes good in that category.

This self-portrait was by a talented fellow who was a physician, surgeon, wood engraver and printer!

Porpoise oil . . .. who knew!?

A 14 x 20 sign on cardboard in like-new condition, found at a New England bottle show last Fall.

This early trade card is engraved on porcelain coated stock. Richardson was in business at this location from 1853 to 1856. The design was engraved by noted engraver Nathan Dearborn.

Before Adolph Hitler came along, the swastika was a widely used symbol of good luck, which dated back centuries in different cultures.

This automobile, advertising The Palms Ice Cream & Floral Company, was laboriously covered in 37,700 foreign postage stamps, said to include every country in existence at the time. It took 1,576 hours to execute.

My personal favorite is my collection of photographers’ backmarks / backstamps / imprints on the backside of carte de visite (cdv) photographs and tintypes.

A miniature Christmas card with matching envelope in 1920’s-1930’s style was a fun find.

A Johnson & Johnson product which contained 10% cannabis.

On the wagon . . .  alcoholism cured in just 3 days!

This is the town center of New Harbor, Maine. When I was a kid, we vacationed on the seacoast near this town. For many years I have collected real photo postcards documenting the locale, and have been in close touch with the local historian who specializes in the area. One outstanding question has been just where this photographer, A.E. Merrill, kept his New Harbor store. This Merrill photograph pins down the location.

Always happy to find a new example of anamorphic writing to add to the collection! This 1878 “Happy New Year” example, by somebody named A.G. Johnson, was clearly drawn by pen.

For information about anamorphic writing:

Sandpaper match striker cards are a category I like, this one from a “shoeist”.

Lions rampant, European heraldic and royal symbology since the 12th century, used to promote Midwestern flour.

An unusual CDV portrait of a Doctor Galen E. Bishop of St. Joesph, Missouri, with lengthy text on the back disputing what he saw as widespread rumors that he was dead and/or always drunk and/or incompetent. He urges patients to visit him, and see for themselves how sober he is. And his photograph stands as proof that he is still alive.

The text on the back of this stock card gives proof of the barter system being still alive and well at the time: this merchant gives notice that he will take maple sugar in exchange for his products.