“a little museum of common printed things, to illustrate at one and the same time the historical development of our social life and the development of printing”
The term ‘printed ephemera’, although used privately by the great English collector, John Johnson, was established in the public consciousness in 1962 by John Lewis’s work of that name which drew on Johnson’s collection, among others, to illustrate the range of ephemera.
Inspired by his career as a papyrologist, Johnson began collecting in the 1930s and viewed collecting ephemera as excavating the waste paper of the recent past. Unlike previous collectors, Johnson collected everything.
He wanted to make “a little museum of common printed things, to illustrate at one and the same time the historical development of our social life and the development of printing”.
Johnson succeeded spectacularly but failed to deliver a ‘little museum’ – he assembled about 1.5 million items, divided into 680 subject headings. It is held at the Bodleian Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford.
The term came into use in the 20th century but the material collected is often older
But while the term printed ephemera came into use in the 20th century, it refers to material produced from the 18th century onward.
The great collections like that of John Johnson collection was chiefly made up not of contemporary material but of ‘old material’ with the aim of preserving a record of the past made up chiefly of mainly printed, mainly single sided material.
At the end of 2013, Wikipedia refers to the defining characteristics ephemera as: being transitory; and written or printed. It updates the examples of ephemera with a reference to zines.
It also considers the collection and management of video ephemera.
In 1973, New Jersey’s favorite son, Bruce Springsteen, used a linen Tichnor postcard (although with a more generic, and boring, background) for the cover of his first album, making it the most recognized large-letter postcard out there.
From the 1930s through the 1950s, tourists taking their first road trips in their newfangled automobiles would frequently stop along the way to pick up a few colorful postcards to mail to the folks back home.
The most popular form of eat-your-heart-out greeting was the large-letter postcard, which had been around since the first part of the 20th century but whose heyday was during what we know today as the linen-postcard era.
Made of textured paper rather than actual cloth, linen postcards were printed by companies such as Curt Teich & Company of Chicago, Tichnor Brothers and Colourpicture of Boston, E.C. Kropp of Milwaukee, Beals Litho & Printing of Des Moines, and Dexter Press of Pearl River, New York, among many others.
Their souvenir postcards for states, cities, military bases, and tourist attractions were usually heralded at the top by the words “Greetings From,” below which were large, blocky, dimensional letters filled in with illustrations or photographs of the destination’s most scenic or noteworthy sights.
Radiations of color was a popular background treatment on many large-letter postcards. This Fargo card was printed by Curt Teich in 1942.
Since 2009, the primary resource for fans of this popular postcard genre has been “Large Letter Postcards: The Definitive Guide, 1930s to 1950s,” written by Fred Tenney and Kevin Hilbert. Published by Schiffer, “Large Letter Postcards” features more than 2,200 examples, from several dozen versions of Atlantic City cards (Curt Teich’s first linen large-letter) to cards for Coney Island, Niagara Falls, and Death Valley.
Also included are several examples of how large-letter postcards were created, from the card’s initial sketch to its final design, courtesy of materials loaned to the authors by the Curt Teich Postcard Archives.
Hannibal, Missouri, is the birthplace of Samuel Clemens, who can be seen within the letter A. Printed by Curt Teich, 1944.
William E. Clarke of Providence, Rhode Island produced and marketed “Hunt’s Remedy”, a widely sold nostrum for kidney complaints, for decades. Research into Providence city directories from 1859 (no mention of Clarke) through 1910 provides insight into Clarke and his activities.
His name first appears in 1860, listed as a clerk at a business located at 43 Wickenden Street; I suspect the number “43” might be a typographical error and that Clarkemay have worked at the apothecary and dry goods store of Benjamin Bailey at 46 & 48 Wickenden. Clarke’s home address is given as 58 Sheldon Street, which is also the address of John Clarke, “Carpenter & Builder”.
I strongly suspect that John (whose directory appearances and advertisements date back to 1850) was William’s father.
The Hunt’s store at 28 Market Street with his traveling wagon posed out front, complete with dog sitting in the front, 1860s. The man in the doorway is likely William E. Clarke, and the driver holding the reins may well be his traveling salesman W. B. Blanding. ( from a stereo view in Sheaff collection ).
William’s name does not appear again until 1864, at the end of the Civil War. Research in other sources indicate that he enrolled in the 11th Regiment of the Rhode Island Volunteers on September 15, 1862.
On November 4, 1863 Clarke married Emma P. Mason of Providence. In the 1864 directory he is listed as an apothecary at 233 South Main Street (“Corner of South Main and Transit Sts.”), and as boarding at 58 Williams Street. In 1866 he is listed as a clerk again, at 40 Weybosset Street (the address of Mason, Dawley & Baker, apothecaries).
Importantly to the story of his career, in 1866 the earliest advertisement for Hunt’s Remedy of Providence which I have so far uncovered (appearing on a broadsheet “The National Hotel Register”, December 5, 1866, Worcester, Massachusetts) lists “William E. Clarke, Proprietor, 28 Market Street, Providence.
” The 1867 Providence directory lists him as the proprietor of an apothecary at 28 Market Street. Later, in an 1883 Hunt’s Remedy “ABC” advertising pamphlet, Clarke states that Hunt’s Remedy “had been on the market several years prior to 1867” and also that “In 1867 Hunt’s Remedy attracted my particular attention”.
The most common Hunt’s Remedy trade card “Copyrighted 1883”
Is this an image of a librarian carefully reaching for a carefully placed book, carefully arranged in a carefully-odd Borgesian-style library housing only books of the same height and thickness?
Or is this a librarian in a Library of the Same Book, housing thousands of copies of copies of the same book, climbing the ladder to make sure that he had a copy of just the copy that was requested (“a copy held at least 5 feet from the ground, near a side window though not touching a vertical piece of wood”)?
Neither. These are shelves filled with nothing but uncut sheets of playing cards, housed for the playing card factory somewhere in Paris (?) “during the reign of Louis XIV”.
Playing cards, which were introduced to Europe via Marco Polo from China or traders coming from the Middle East or etc., are much older in Europe than one would think, I think, and by the time this print was made, playing cards were already quite popular there for two centuries.
I can’t identify all of the activities of all of the twelve tables of card preparation here, though some seem pretty obvious: the trimmer working near the pressman, the sorters and assemblers of decks of cards at the lower left corner, the paper preparer (?) just to the right of the man on the ladder, the pair of men preparing the type trays at middle-bottom, and that’s about it.
In any event I’m right or I’m wrong on this guess, about the same odds as being dealt “nothing” in a game of five-card poker (almost 1:1 odds), but that’s fine: I just like the composition of the print.