Around here, we’re suckers for ephemera.
For those not completely familiar with the term, it means (at least, in bookseller-speak) something – either printed or handwritten – that was produced for a very specific reason, but was not intended to be saved for any long period of time.
For example, those receipts you get from the grocery store with coupons printed on the back? That’s ephemera. Your cell phone bill? Ephemera. A party invitation or the junk mail selling you lawn fertilizer? Ephemera, too. Today, they’re worthless. Three hundred years from now, historians will drool over today’s junk mail and will use it to document 21st US culture.
These days, however, most booksellers take a broader view of what ephemera is, since 18th century junk mail is hard to come by. Ephemera can be a pamphlet, a small notebook or even small book. It can be a handwritten 18th century receipt for lumber. In our NERGC booth, we’ll have three crates of interesting ephemera with pieces relating to each of the New England states, New York and eastern Canada, along with some handsome display pieces.
For example, I just finished writing the description for two long handwritten and signed account receipts for blacksmithing work by Zaccheus Pond of Watertown, Massachusetts for a man named Samuel Stearns. There’s a list of all the jobs performed for Stearns from 1810 through 1814. I also finished a 1795 “love and affection” manuscript deed from Eleazer and Abigail Mitchel of Southbury CT to their daughter Hannah, wife of Zephaniah H. Smith of Glastonbury.
Last night, I described a tailor/seamstress accounting sheet from Camden, Oneida County, New York for sewing jobs performed for local residents between September 1841 and July 1842. A day and a quarter’s work was valued at 38 cents.
Anytime you can find a list of rural residents in between census years in mid 19th century central New York, you have what could well be a genealogically significant item. Think documenting an individual in a particular place and a particular time by finding his/her name on a tailor’s accounting record.
We’ll also have a copy of the September 1938 Rhode Island “Hurricane” book with great photos of the damage done and lists of the cottages destroyed. Plus, I catalogued a number of funeral sermons just for NERGC. There will also be lots of pamphlets on local history, church history and the like. There’s a truly rare piece that documents Armenian-American soldiers in World War II, with photos and capsule biographies. There are no copies in WorldCat and none being offered for sale anywhere.
Later today, I’ll sort out some original maps and prints. One of the ones I’ve already picked is an original Thomas Worth woodcut that was published in Harper’s Weekly showing the 1870 census-taker interviewing folks on the porch. This link will show you what it looks like. Note that ours is the original engraving from Harper’s, not a reproduction.
You have to admit it would look great framed and hanging in your office.
If you’d prefer something a bit older, we’ll also have a circa 1791 copperplate engraving of “View of the Attack On Bunker’s Hill, With the Burning of Charles Town, June 17, 1775”. Yes, there’s some minor foxing and light wear. Still, if you were born in 1791 like this engraving, you’d be foxed and lightly worn, too. The print is triple-matted and ready for your frame.
The list goes on and on.
Today is Monday and we’re getting down to the wire. Next, we'll have to make sure it all fits in the van!