1981, just a year after it was founded, the Ephemera Society published
the first issue of Ephemera News. This quarterly publication
was intended to bring society membersall 375 of them at
the timecloser together within the organization. As president,
Jack Golden wrote in the inaugural issue: We now have the
wonderful opportunity to present our members news of national
and regional interest, as well as the opportunity for everyone
to exchange their views and comments with other members.
The big news in volume one, number one was that
the society had achieved non-profit status with the IRS. In addition,
Ephemera 2, the societys annual conference and fair, had
been an outstanding success in every respect, and
plans were in the works for Ephemera 3, which would be held in
Windsor Locks, Conn. Also, society officials were hopeful that
a special trip, the Piccadilly Special, would attract members
to travel to England for several special events planned by our
Volume one, number one was all of four pages and
it appears to have been produced on a photocopy machine. One full
page was devoted to photographs taken at Ephemera 2. Interestingly
enough, the leading one showed two subsequent Maurice Rickards
Award winners, Marcus McCorison, the director of the American
Antiquarian Society, and Ephemera Society co-founder Calvin Otto.
In contrast, volume twenty, number two, published in 2002, was
32 pages long, had two inserts, and displayed a touch of color.
Even though Ephemera News has changed in
appearance over the years, the nature of its contents has remained
surprisingly constant. Issues from the early 1980s contained a
letter from the societys president, announcements about
programs, book notices, reports about society fairs and conferences,
auction notices, articles by members, and advertisements. Today,
Ephemera News includes these items plus a classified section
for members and non-members alike, which contains questions about
specific kinds of ephemera, as well as collecting wants and offerings.
A members forum spotlights the activities of personal and
institutional members; longer member profiles highlight the collecting
and research interests of individual society members. Names and
addresses of new members are provided to supplement the societys
annual membership directory.
During the 1990s, there were theme issues. Coinciding
with our own election of directors, articles about ephemera in
the fall 1998 issue were entitled The Peoples Choice:
Advertising White House Candidates and Political Campaign
Stamps. In the fall of 1996, Ephemera News
featured articles entitled Nineteenth-Century Seed Catalogs
and Advice for Gardeners: Vicks Monthly Magazine.
Most recently, a single issue of Ephemera News was devoted
to the conservation of ephemera.
Members who are unable to attend the societys
annual conference can catch up with some of the presentations
by reading Ephemera News. In advance of speaking about
the ephemera of salmon fishing, Charles Wood wrote about it, and
after speaking about ephemera associated with Bakers chocolate,
Anthony Sammarco submitted an article on the topic. In 1997, Will
Shortz, New York Times crossword puzzle editor and puzzlemaster
for National Public Radio, informed and entertained society members
as banquet speaker about the history and popularity of crossword
puzzles. Four years later, in 2001, he committed his words to
paper for Ephemera News.
Current editor Eric Johnson is optimistic about
the continuing prosperity of Ephemera News. I enjoy
working with members of the Ephemera Society in putting out the
magazine, he says. Their enthusiasm is catching, their
interests are broad and deeply held, and all of this makes for
a lively publication. The only difficult part is deciding what
to coverits like putting a chocolaholic in front of
100 pounds of M & Ms and then forcing him to choose two favorites.
A recent reader survey was instructive. Eric notes
that the responses were important because they gave the societys
board a clear indication of the value members place on the magazine.
Eighty four percent read all or most of Ephemera News,
half pass it on to one or more readers, and the overwhelming majority
(79%) save each issue. Of those who recycle it, some readers leave
it in their office waiting rooms or local libraries.
What is in the future? Thirty-eight percent of members
would like to see Ephemera News online. Apart from the
immediacy of an electronic version and the potential of using
it as a vehicle to increase membership, a digital version would
mean full color. Right now, selected articles that first appeared
in Ephemera News are part of the societys Web site.
Together with its customary news and communications,
the next issue of Ephemera News will contain an article
on vintage baggage labels, by Ian Nicholson, and ephemera associated
with Philadelphia department store entrepreneur John Wanamaker,
by society board member Bruce Conner. If you are not a member
already, become one and see what everybody is reading and talking
E. Richard McKinstry