Although most members of the Ephemera Society carry individual
or family memberships, we also have about 60 institutions that are
on the rolls. Five are from other countries, including the Bodleian
Library at Oxford University, England; the Metropolitan Toronto
Library in Canada; the National Museum of Science and Technology,
Ottawa, Canada; St. Bride Printing Library in London; and the State
Library of New South Wales, Australia. Most of the American institutions
are historical agencies or colleges and universities.
well, there are institutions whose purposes, at least on the surface,
belie an interest in ephemera. Two are located in Delaware, and
both trace their beginnings back to the du Pont family.
Hagley Museum, set amid more than 230 acres of trees and fields,
is located along the Brandywine River on the site of the first du
Pont powder works. Exhibits and working models at Hagley highlight
the history of the economic and technological expansion of the Brandywine
region and nation. Visitors tour Blacksmith Hill to see a workers'
community and "Eleutherian Mills" to see the du Pont family home.
In addition, the Hagley site is interpreted through the powder yards,
millraces, gardens, machine shop, and other buildings and displays.
But ephemera? Yes! The Hagley Library has a treasure-trove of ephemera
assembled to document the history of American business, technology,
and consumerism. Its growing trade card collection, numbering about
3,500, shows business transactions of all kinds; its postcards illustrate
mills, factories, and railroad stations; and its letterheads and
billheads document hardware stores.
Posters cover a variety of topics, including safety in the workplace,
employee motivation, and the many expositions that have occurred
over time. The bulk of Hagley's collection of photographs came from
the Dupont company's textile information office, and many images
show the latest fashions of the day. Trade catalogs number in the
thousands and emphasize the development of American technology and
In such a collection it might seem strange to find paper dolls.
But, they are here, especially for the 1950s, as part of the Miss
America section of the Bancroft Mills Co. collection. The company
co-sponsored the Miss America Pageant, and its contract stipulated
that the winner had to wear clothes made from Bancroft manufactured
fabric. Paper dolls were then created for advertising purposes,
and Hagley has a set of them.
Other forms of paper ephemera at Hagley include salesperson's samples,
poster stamps, and napkins bearing the names of businesses.
three miles away is another institutional member of the Ephemera
Society. The H.F du Pont Winterthur Museum, known as an historic
house museum and naturalistic garden, was established by its namesake
and opened to the public in 1951. Its collections of decorative
arts made and used in America from 1640-1860 and outdoor flora are
acknowledged to be the best of their kind anywhere in the country.
Two hundred thousand visitors come to Winterthur each year to enjoy
the museums period room displays and plantings.
Winterthur, too, features an extensive collection of paper ephemera.
Its holdings have been put together to further the study of domestic
life and art in America from colonial times into the 20th
The collection features the kind of ephemera that Hagley has, but
it is collected for different purposes. Trade cards, for instance,
depict commodities used in a home, musical instruments, clothing,
and food. Posters and broadsides, likewise, advertise household
goods. A particular strength of Winterthur' growing poster stamp
collection shows early 20th century advertisements for
footwear. Illustrated billheads and letterheads are particularly
valuable for their vignettes of products.
Printing as an art form is represented at Winterthur by a collection
of items from the shop of Charles Magnus. The Magnus collection
includes patriotic envelopes, city views, board games, and stationery.
The trade catalog collection at Winterthur serves as a surrogate
museum of objects used in everyday life in America a century and
more ago. Anyone interested in the design and construction of furniture,
for example, can rely on trade catalogs as a source since the artifacts
they represent have not often survived the years. Nineteenth and
early 20th century photographs show architectural detail,
period costume and dress, and scenes associated with the Shaker
These two institutions and their printed ephemera collections are
open to the general public year round. Hagley can be contacted at
302-658-2400 and its Web site is at
phone number is 302-888-4600, and its Website is at www.winterthur.org.
As they share an interest in ephemera, they also hope that their
collections are used profitably. To this end, Hagley and Winterthur
have established a joint fellowship program. For particulars, contact
E. Richard McKinstry
[This article originally appeared in the Northeast
Journal of Antiques & Art.]