Maurice Rickards Award of The Ephemera Society of America

In 1985, the Ephemera Society honored Maurice Rickards for distinguished service in the world of ephemera by giving him our first merit award. Rickards, along with several of his countrymen and American Calvin Otto, had founded the English ephemera society in 1975, was a guiding force behind numerous conferences and fairs, had an admirable list of publications to his credit, and helped establish our own organization. To further honor Maurice, we named our merit award after him; henceforth, all winners would be given the Maurice Rickards Award.

The Maurice Rickards Award is presented to a person or persons who have made important contributions to the field of ephemera. He or she does not have to be an American or even a member of the Ephemera Society; however, recipients must be seriously involved in the discipline of ephemera as a collector, dealer, researcher, institutional curator, or conservator. Accomplishments in the field include scholarly publications, the preparation of exhibitions and catalogs, the development of new or improved methods of conservation, placement of ephemera collections in public institutions, and the promotion of ephemera as one way of understanding our country's history. Including Maurice Rickards, there have been fourteen winners of our award, and it has been given twelve times through 2002.

In 1986, we presented the award to Robert Staples and Barbara Charles. In addition to multimedia presentations and exhibition design at such places as the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, and Chicago Historical Society, Staples & Charles were involved in exhibit planning projects at a variety of sites that involved the imaginative and educational use of ephemera.

One year later Georgia Baumgardner-now Georgia Barnhill-received the Rickards Award. Georgia, or Gigi as she is more familiarly known, was on the staff of the American Antiquarian Society as curator of prints and had organized exhibitions and had done publications based on the holdings at the society. Another museum worker, Deborah Smith, was given the award in 1991. At that time, Deborah was at the Strong Museum as Curator of Advertising Paper and Documentary Evidence. In this capacity she was responsible for the care of a collection of 80,000 items. In addition, Deborah did grant writing, was in charge of the preservation of the museum's scrapbook collection, and had organized exhibits that highlighted ephemera on such topics as theater posters, advertising, and sheet music.

In 1988, the society recognized Rockwell Gardiner for his career as a dealer of ephemera. Rocky was instrumental in placing countless items and collections that had come to his attention in public institutions and with private collectors. A true pioneer in the field, he encouraged and inspired many dealers as they embarked in the profession. A second dealer, Samuel Murray, received the award in 1997. Sam had worked as a publisher's representative and often traveled on business up and down the East Coast. Wherever he went he haunted bookshops, antique stores, and flea markets, and when he returned home he stored his purchases in his basement. When he retired in the 1960s, Sam opened these boxes and embarked on a second profession as a dealer. His letterhead explained it all: "Samuel Murray-Trafficker in Paper Americana."

In 1989, the society recognized Barbara Rusch for her many contributions, including establishing the Ephemera Society of Canada. Ian Wilson, chief archivist of Ontario's Ministry of Culture and Communications, wrote of Barbara: "The Ephemera Society of Canada embodies a concept very much in tune with our times, and we must all applaud the efforts of its founders-particularly its president, Barbara Rusch-in responding to the challenge of history. In rescuing, conserving, studying, and displaying these vital fragments, the Society is enriching us all in a hitherto neglected area of the nation's heritage."

Artist, graphic designer, and teacher John Grossman received the Rickards Award in 1990, and a decade later, in 2000, we honored Marcus McCorison, longtime director of the American Antiquarian Society. John's collection of tens of thousands of items of paper ephemera inspired him to create a company called The Gifted Line, which produces products based on his collection. In his administrative capacity, Marcus spearheaded the growth of ephemera collecting at the AAS over many years, and he served on many library and museum boards during his impressive career.

Lifetime ephemera society member Stephen Paine received the Rickards Award in 1998. Stephen worked as an investment counselor in Boston and was a passionate collector of ephemera who inspired everyone he met as an ambassador of the importance of ephemera in American life. Stephen was a trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Clark Art Institute and an honorary trustee of Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art.

We recognized the achievements of Blair and Margaret Whitton in 1999. Their work as collectors, researchers, writers, exhibitors, and dealers in paper toys and ephemera is well known. Together, they served as curators on the staff of the Strong Museum and later operated a business called The Paper Palace in Keene, NH.

In 2002, the award came full circle as the society honored Calvin Otto, present at creation, longtime board member, inveterate collector, and wonderful proponent of ephemera collecting and studies.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

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

   © 2012 The Ephemera Society of America