Report on Ephemera 20
What does the Ephemera Society of America have in common with the
Montclair Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,
the Columbus Museum of Art, the Elvehjem Museum of Art, and the
Musée Carnavalet, in Paris? Answer: All of us have taken
part in an exhibition on the Exposition Universelle, more familiarly
called the Paris World's Fair of 1900. The Ephemera Society's exhibition
was at Ephemera 20 on March 4 and 5, 2000 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel,
in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. The museum exhibit, organized in
Montclair, New Jersey, is a traveling show scheduled for five different
venues before ending its run later this year.
The traveling exhibit highlights the fine and decorative arts and
paintings associated with the Paris fair, while, as might be imagined,
the society's display focused on ephemera generated for the exposition.
Our exhibit primarily included poster stamps depicting a variety
of fair scenes and such products as tea, watches, and sewing machines
sold at the fair. It is said that 4,000 poster stamps were created
for the Paris World's Fair. In addition, the society's show featured
a lively selection of postcards, tickets, brochures, playing cards,
billheads, advertisements, and maps.
The society's exhibition was just one part of Ephemera 20. Over
70 dealers had reserved booths, and we had record attendance for
our two-day show. Our dealers came from as far away as Pine Grove,
California, and from as close as Westport, Connecticut. As well,
there was an international contingent represented by Canadian and
first day of the show recorded a 20% increase in attendance over
the first day of 1999, and more than 125 Ephemera Society members
took advantage of an early admission hour before the gates were
opened to the general public. Many customers remarked about how
pleased they were with the opportunities they were given to add
to their collections.
Saturday evening the society held its banquet, a splendid buffet
at Condés Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency. Everyone who came
received a commemorative mug and button. In addition to a presentation
by our banquet speaker, Peter Jackson, who talked about his collection
of ephemera on London, England, the society gave its Maurice Rickards
Award, bestowed on individuals who have made important contributions
to the field of ephemera. Maurice Rickards was one of the founders
of the Ephemera Society of the UK and is credited with being the
driving force behind the creation of both the American and Canadian
This year's recipient was Marcus A. McCorison, longtime head of
the American Antiquarian Society and since 1992 retired. During
his distinguished career, Mark served on many boards and held many
impressive fellowships and affiliations. One of his greatest contributions
at the antiquarian society was his development of its library's
collections, including its holdings of ephemeral items. By the time
he retired, Mark had acquired nearly 115,000 items, ranging from
a single broadside to voluminous runs of newspaper files.
in 1980, the year that the American ephemera society was established,
Mark received the Samuel Pepys Award from the English ephemera society
for his outstanding work in the collecting and study of ephemera.
Georgia Barnhill, the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts
at the American Antiquarian Society, spoke at the banquet about
her years working with Mark. She reminisced about his involvement
in collecting, his scholarship, and his love of the printed word.
She said: "Mark understood that ephemera documented everyday life
effectively, even before the field became defined."
After the general membership meeting on Sunday, society members
treated themselves to a second exhibition, a show made up exclusively
of Ephemera Society memorabilia, dating from 1980 to just a few
years ago. On display were posters, conference programs, early issues
of Ephemera News, flyers, our first membership directory, and a
floor plan showing where dealers were located at Ephemera 1. It
is gratifying to note that at least six dealers from our first show
were also with us at Ephemera 20.
Next year we have scheduled Ephemera 21 from March 16-18, 2001.
Friday the 16th features most of our conference speakers, and on
Saturday and Sunday, the 17th and 18th, is our fair. We will return
to the Hyatt Regency on Old Greenwich, Connecticut. See you there!
E. Richard McKinstry
[This article originally appeared in the Northeast
Journal of Antiques & Art.]