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What’s So Interesting about THAT?

By Richard Sheaff

One of the pleasures of collecting ephemera is coming across details that are intriguing or surprising or revelatory or surprisingly relevant or interestingly obscure.

The banner running around and through the word “DUNHAM” does something sophisticated, rarely attempted in wood engraving: emulating transparency. The banner is rendered as if one can see through it to the letters beneath . . .

Here is a similar effect, in chromolithography . . .

After viewing tens of thousands of Victorian trade cards over the years, this is only the second example I’ve ever seen of a merchant simply writing in his information on a stock card, rather than having it printed . . .

Here we have animals encouraging folks to eat a different animal . . .

A musician’s joke: “Sometimes sharp, never flat, always natural” (Not really a knee-slapper, but perhaps one had to be there.) . . .

This postcard has affixed a playable 78 rpm Tuck gramophone record . . .

This promotional card for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad illustrates its rail lines much like the heavenly constellations are often shown as if together depicting a human figure. And, for good measure, it throws in a pun . . .

This very rare test cancellation was used for only three hours (!), from 2:00 to 5:00 pm on January 2, 1895 . . .

A real photo advertising postcard using type to effectively communicate worries swirling around in a restless night . . .

One pun after another . . .

“I love my husband—but Oh, you vote” . . .

An attempt to influence social etiquette on the new-fangled telephone. (Helpfully, it also provides a place to write your name, in case you might forget it.) . . .

This card for a paint company brags about offering all the colors of “any reasonable” rainbow, but prints its rainbow in only black and brown! And it even seems to point out this logical inconsistency, saying “There is something out of the ordinary run in this rainbow.”

Each of the following three items is right on target as a reflection of the predominant art style of its respective era . . .

A bounty of $1 per bushel of dead grasshoppers . . .

This folder sure looks like a social protest item, but in reality, is an advertisement for pocket watches . . .

This 1906 postcard has a genuine Indian Head penny attached . . .

A rather fragile souvenir of New York City, which features a dried real leaf from a Bauhinia tree (also known as the Hong Kong Orchid tree) . . .

When I was a kid, we still had in our neighborhood two small grocery stores put together like the 19th century one below, with a door on one end and a U-shaped counter around the other three sides, the merchandise on shelving against the walls. Items on the higher shelves were lifted down by the shopkeeper using a long pole with a squeeze grip on the bottom and pinchers at the top.

This image was drawn with one, continuous spiraling pen line . . .

A rather lukewarm Valentine message . . .

The snake oil salesmen would stop at nothing to promote their nostrums, but showing a dead fellow who had neglected to take the potion was unusual . . .

A trade card printed on real wood veneer . . .

The USA and Cuba, friends back in the day and now again in 2015 . . .

Well, it has come to be. Get used to it. The blatant racism in much early material is shocking to modern eyes.