Published: April 12, 2011
Celebrating its 31st year, the Ephemera Society of America conducted its annual conference and ephemera show over the weekend of March 18′0 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Eagerly anticipated by paper aficionados and successfully managed by John and Tina Bruno of Flamingo Eventz, the show is considered the “gold standard” of ephemera gatherings, combining lectures, conferences and roundtable sessions with a show that presented 70 nationally recognized dealers displaying highlights of their inventories.
The show itself opens with a preview for society members early on Saturday morning, with the retail public crowd coming in at 10 am and show hours continuing on Sunday.
Always bringing compelling historical documents and items, Eric Caren of the Caren Archives, Inc, Lincolndale, N.Y., was doing well in his corner right booth at the show. “Among the highlights that I sold were an autographed military appointment signed by George Washington and an group of documents that formed the beginning of the partnership between Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill when Buffalo Bill ran into financial trouble in the early 1900s,” said Caren.
Eclectibles, the collection of Tolland, Conn., dealers Sheryl Jaeger and Ralph Gallo, was highlighted by a nice selection of handmade Victorian friendship tokens. The larger examples are known as heart-in-hand and the smaller as woven hearts. Prices ranged from $200 to $300 per item. The dealers reported brisk business that kept them busy until the last minute of the show.
“Sales were above average in many categories, but we did particularly well with love and friendship items, transformation ephemera, manuscript materials, children’s books and ephemera and historical memorabilia,” said Jaeger. “An item of note was a fine 1830s friendship album of an English lady with artfully arranged cuts from printed material surrounding manuscript muses and extracts with delicate paper cut border decorations, accented with pages of paper cut scenes.”
For Marc Chabot of Marc Chabot Fine Arts, Southbury, Conn., sales were just a little down from last year’s show. His focus is more on the fine arts †original prints and other works on paper †than on ephemera. Still he did report numerous sales, including a number of hand colored and chromos of military uniforms, spy prints, many issues of Art News from the 1950s and other vintage fine and applied arts magazines with great graphics.
“I did have one standout sale to a museum,” said Chabot. “I sold a wonderful photojournalistic photo of a fireman and a young boy in full firefighting regalia, both holding a fire hose spraying at full throttle. The sense of joyous awe and camaraderie on the young boy’s face is palpable, you can almost hear him thinking, “I’m a real fireman.” The photo sold to the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., which has an unparalleled collection of historic material relating to America at play. “I also sold a beautiful atmospheric signed etching by Lester G. Hornby, ‘Le Jardinaire Matin, Marne,’ which had been exhibited in the 1911 Paris Salon,” he said.
A hard-to-find, large-format poster for Dr Mollins’ horse remedies and a “Dr Uncle Sam” poster, circa 1917‱8, an example of World War I US propaganda, were a couple of standout items being shown by Kit Barry Ephemera, Brattleboro, Vt., who reported that sales were “reasonably good” at the show. Barry, who specializes in Nineteenth and selected Twentieth Century ephemera, said he sold a mix of different formats, from small pieces like trade cards, letterheads, booklets, etc to large-format posters, such as the Dr Mollins example. “What I love about this, in addition to its size, is that the picture shows him standing in front of two horses, showing the product, and there are photos of deliveries being made to customers,” said Barry.
Barry has created what he calls the Ephemera Archive for American Studies, a body of Nineteenth through Twenty-First Century printed material for licensed image use and research. “A challenge that is slowly emerging over the past ten years is how to broach the noncollecting market in relation to ephemera, specifically, how to introduce the academic world to ephemera,” he said. “The reason the two belong together is that ephemera is a rich resource for history, and from a different approach than the traditional book approach to studying history.”
Arrowsic, Maine, dealer James Arsenault brought along a selection of Americana in various forms that support his penchant for strong visuals. The selection was highlighted by an original pen and ink drawing by the “father of American cartoons,” Thomas Nast (1840‱902), circa 1865, satirizing the “blood and iron” policy of the Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck. A handsome and desirable original document being offered was an Abraham Lincoln pardon for Charles Cowlam of Virginia for stealing from the US mail, dated Washington, May 28, 1861. The document was signed by Lincoln and secretary of state William Henry Seward.
While the center ring throughout the weekend is the show taking place in the ballroom and adjacent hallway, the conference portion of the event is no less compelling for society members who want to keep current with trends in the market. Friday brought lectures on subjects such as “The Ephemera of Magic” by Robert A. Olsen, “P.T. Barnum †The Man, The Myth, The Legend” by Kathleen Maher, executive director and curator of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Conn., and “American Theatrical Photographs, 1860‱930” by Michael Morrison, a New York-based writer and teacher.
And in a nod to the effect of new platforms like Twitter and Facebook, there was even a presentation on Sunday morning before the show opened by Lauren Sodano, the society’s social media coordinator as well as collections manager at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., “The Other 362 Days: Ephemera Enthusiasts and Social Networking.” Clearly, the great paper chase is not standing still.
Ephemera 32 will be conducted at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on March 16, 17 and 18, 2012. For information, contact the Ephemera Society of America at 315-655-9139 or www.ephemerasociety.org or Flamingo Eventz at 603-509-2639 or www.flamingoeventz.com .
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