Report on Ephemera 24

From March 19-21, 2004 members of the Ephemera Society gathered in Greenwich, Connecticut for Ephemera 24, the organization's annual conference and fair.

One day earlier, on March 18th, the board met, welcoming many new members, including Gigi Barnhill of the American Antiquarian Society; Diane DeBlois, proprietor of aGatherin'; dealer Ralph Gallo; Art Groten of The Printer's Stone, a business focusing on poster stamps; Matt Isenburg, a collector of daguerreotypes and author of Photographica; Wayne Morgan, from Canada and an expert on the Brownies, and James van Pernis, printer and owner of Saturn Press, a company on Swan's Island, Maine.

In addition, the Society has a new president: Nicolas Ricketts, curator at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, who succeeded Ron Stegall, the organization's extraordinarily effective leader for the past three years.

This year's conference talks ranged from a presentation about Palmer Cox's Brownies to ephemera associated with our country's hotels, from the ephemerality of American magazines to the production of English ephemera, from Arts and Crafts greeting cards to trade cards featuring images of magic.

The benefit auction Saturday evening following our buffet dinner included over 150 lots. As in years past, Gary Garland of Swann Galleries in New York City was the auctioneer. Thanks to the generosity of members who both contributed items to the sale and made purchases and Gary's leadership, the Society netted about $5,500

For the first time, or at least the first time in recent memory, an article about the Society's meeting appeared in the local press. Greenwich Time, the local paper, contained an article on March 20 by reporter Michael Dinan entitled "Life's Snippets Gathered by Collectors of Ephemera." In promoting Ephemera 24, Michael detailed the exhibits on display. Check it out online at

Michael Ragsdale, a new member of the Society, exhibited a portion of his collection of ephemera having to do with the events of September 11, 2001. Michael, a senior technician for Audio Visual Services at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and a cameraman for C-SPAN, collected his first piece of 9/11 ephemera at an ATM machine in New York City, where many people had dropped dated receipts carrying the message "transaction denied" because of the interruption in communications that the World Trade Center attacks had caused.

Ron Stegall pointed out that "his collection is really history speaking in its own words without the layers of interpretation and analysis of third parties."

This year the Ephemera Society's Maurice Rickards Award was presented to John Dann. The award was named after one of the founders of the Society and an acknowledged leader in the study and appreciation of ephemera from all areas of the world. John Dann is head of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, one of the foremost collections of Americana in the nation. Serving at the Clements for nearly thirty years, John has been responsible for making a superb collection even better through an active acquisitions program that has included active pursuit of ephemera in its many forms. In accepting the Rickards Award, John reminisced about his early introduction to collecting by his grandfather. As John told it, his grandfather interrupted a meal to which he had invited several important guests to check a dealer's catalog just after it had arrived in the mail. He didn't look at it at the dinner table or even in the house. Instead he pored over it sitting on the curb next to the mailbox. Collecting was indeed foremost on his mind and an important activity!

Ephemera 24 leads to Ephemera 25, which will celebrate the Society's 25th anniversary. Ron Stegall heads up the committee planning the festivities. A special fundraising effort leading to the establishment of The Star Fund got underway to support our silver anniversary activities. For $25 contributors got a lapel button, for $250 a star paperweight in addition to the button, and for $2,500 a three-night stay at the Hyatt Regency, where Ephemera 25 will take place, two dinner tickets, and a paperweight and two lapel buttons.

Plan to join us for Ephemera 25 next March and consider making a donation to The Star Fund, using the address listed below.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

PS: Congratulations to the Poster Stamp Society for having such a successful meeting in St. Louis. Read all about it in the April 2004 issue of The Poster Stamp Bulletin.

[This article originally appeared in the Northeast Journal of Antiques & Art.]

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