Ephemera Society Archives
The archives of the Ephemera Society of Americasome would say
its corporate memoryreflects the societys activities since
its founding in 1980 and includes a growing number of publications
focusing on various topics of ephemera.
Like any archive, the societys holds records of an administrative
nature. Our incorporation papers and bylaws, names and addresses
of members of the board of directors, forms required by the IRS
to maintain our non-profit status, copyright papers, correspondence,
etc. are all included. But, beyond these routine records are many
more that detail the societys past activities.
Perhaps the most important component of the Archives is a full
run of issues of Ephemera News, the Societys quarterly
newsletter. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the
inception and formative years of the organization and in identifying
who became involved would do well to examine back issues of Ephemera
News. Also, it is interesting to look at the pictures that were
used to illustrate Ephemera News to see what our fairs and
other events looked like just as they were taking place. Show venues
may move from location to location, but the look of dealer booths
has remained remarkably constant over time.
In addition to offering a glimpse into the development of the society
and its programs, Ephemera News contains informative articles,
some relatively short and others much lengthier, concentrating on
a number of subjects. Publication of Ephemera News began
in the summer of 1981, and one year later articles researched and
contributed by members began to appear. Some of us may recall reading
the first one, "A Short History of the Paper Ballot,"
By Richard C. Maxson in volume 2, nos. 2 & 3.
Apart from telling us about the development of the society, Ephemera
News is a useful way to track the larger world of ephemera exhibitions
and publishing since most issues have contained notices of shows
and reviews of recently issued books.
Ephemera generated by the Ephemera Society makes up another part
of the Archives. We held our first fair in 1981, and the Archives
has the poster that announced it. During the weekend of March 3-5,
2000, we held our 20th fair, and to mark the occasion
we offered our members mugs, buttons, and shopping bags; they, too,
are in the Archives. As well, keepsakes distributed at our banquets,
such as playing cards in 1997 and 1998, have been kept. Other ephemeral
items include conference schedules, postcards, membership meeting
announcements, lists of dealers participating at shows and roadmaps
showing where they were located on the floor, and old membership
And, we have a complete set of membership directories, published
over the years as a benefit of membership.
Writingsmagazines, books, exhibition catalogs, and auction
catalogsnot published by the society constitute another section
of the archives. Before it ceased publication early in 2000, AB
Bookman traditionally devoted one issue every year to ephemera,
and it coincided with the societys annual fair/conference.
In addition to promoting our event, over the years it had articles
on such topics as circus ephemera, sheet music, Carnegie Hall ephemera,
and ephemera associated with advertising the breakfast food Cream
Book length studies on Halloween ephemera, playing cards, posters,
games, puzzles, Valentines, toy soldiers, photographs, and a host
of other topics are in the archives. Likewise, we have the exhibition
catalog from a show held at Princeton University in 1992 entitled
Graphic Americana: the Art of Printed Ephemera from Abecedaires
to Zoetropes, and six catalogs published in conjunction with
exhibitions drawn from the resources of the Wolfson Collection in
Auction catalogs, many of which are illustrated and contain prices,
are helpful for charting the changes in value of ephemera. Printed
ephemera itself, including a wonderful poster printed to celebrate
the 75th anniversary of Fenway Park in Boston, rounds
out the contents of the archives.
As an organization dedicated to keeping the past alive by promoting
the importance of ephemera in the understanding of our nation's
past, the society is fortunate to have established an archives to
track its own history. We look forward to its growth, both to chart
the progression of the society and to serve as a research center
for people studying ephemeral publications. It is on long term deposit
at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware.
E. Richard McKinstry
[This article originally appeared in the Northeast
Journal of Antiques & Art.]