Published: April 1, 2008
“This is our all-time favorite show,” proclaimed promoters John and Tina Bruno in regard to the Ephemera 28 International Fair and Conference that took place March 14‱6 at the Hyatt Regency. Presented by the Ephemera Society of America, the event began on Friday with a series of conferences and seminars, the show on Saturday and Sunday and conferences and collectors’ forums continued throughout the action-packed weekend.
The popular event has become the pinnacle of paper shows, with dealers traveling from England and Europe to display their stock. It is also an interesting and exciting walk through history.
While the term ephemera limits, for the most part, the offering to items produced on paper, the selection of materials, the broad base of subjects and collecting areas is practically limitless.
For those that have never been to a “paper” show, they are filled with great items, and virtually every collector will find something of interest within his or her own collecting categories. Print dealer Robert Newman was seen shopping the show, as was Americana dealer David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles, who both found things and made purchases. “I love this show,” proclaimed Schorsch, “there are great things here. And they don’t break the bank when you buy them.”
There were indeed great things at Ephemera 28. Wanted posters from the “Wild West,” autographs by America’s founders, wonderful artworks that ranged from original watercolors and gouaches executed for advertisements to first-rate prints, colorful travel posters †including lots of American subjects ranging from midcentury advertisements for Yosemite to the 1982 Gay Olympics †books of all sorts, photographs, postcards, early bill heads and catalogs from potteries, ironworks, glassmakers and gun manufacturers.
It is also a fun and informative event; everyone has the time to talk about their collecting and to help patrons find what it is that they may be seeking.
The event is as much a business meeting/convention for the Ephemera Society of America as it is a show. The weekend got underway on Thursday evening with a meeting of the board of directors, followed by a reception for early arrivals. Conferences begin first thing Friday morning and continue throughout the day. Jeremy Rowe got things started on a lively note, presenting “Collecting Outside the Box,” a look at early Western-themed photographs, followed by a panel discussion presented by academics with unusual collections. Two afternoon sessions were also presented. Collector Forums and additional talks took place throughout the weekend.
Saturday morning brings about the most anticipated event, the opening of the show. A long line of society members anxiously awaited for the Brunos to let them gain access to the mountains of paper material spread about in the ballroom and adjacent hallway. The crowd of society members rushed in at 9 am for their early buying privilege, and a new line began forming soon after for the public’s general admission at 10 am.
Ascutney, Vt., dealer John Waite offered an interesting selection of historical materials, including an invitation to view Lincoln’s corpse at the executive mansion. Also offered from the Lincoln memorabilia was an invitation to a reading on the assassinated president presented by Walt Whitman and a varied selection of memorial cards. A rare Eighteenth Century printed sermon booklet by Samson Occum was said by Waite to be the first published work by an American Indian, titled A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian convicted of the 1771 murder of Moses Cook, who had been murdered when leaving a tavern in Waterbury, Conn.
Eric Caren, The Caren Archives, Lincolndale, N.Y., was on hand with a wide variety of historical ephemera ranging from a 1776 broadside protesting the imprisonment of a loyalist, $12,500, to two slave-related pieces, both protesting their treatment. The first, a 1698 broadside from London, was priced $6,000, and the other was an unusual 1794 Quaker appeal for the abolition of the slave trade.
Caren, who, in association with The New York Times Store, sells autographs and ephemera alongside the Times’ archived photographs, is also a participant in the about-to-open Newseum in Washington, D.C., having sold a major portion of his collection to the institution.
Portland, Maine, dealer Elizabeth Baird offered a collection of very graphic cutout silhouette figures from Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes . “They were cut out by a school teacher in Lincoln, Mass., right around the turn of the century,” explained the dealer of the pleasing images that included Jack jumping over the candlestick and an image of the Pied Piper in a rendering very much in the flavor of Hunt Diederich.
“It is as close as you can get,” stated Southbury, Conn., dealer Marc Chabot of his pulled-from-stone lithograph by Rembrandt Peale depicting a copy of the painter’s “porthole portrait” of George Washington. “This is really autographic,” said Chabot. “Peale painted Washington from life, as did his father, but one very interesting thing about this is that the litho is Rembrandt after himself.” Chabot stated that the extremely rare image was one of no more than ten known and that he had discovered it at a flea market. “It was just leaning up against a piece of furniture, framed, but without any glass protecting it. It is amazing it survived.” Even more amazing is that the litho retains its full margins and restoration is minimal.
Fairfield, Conn., dealer Paul Brzozowski displayed a wonderful student’s art book that belonged to William Sonntag Jr that was filled with interesting letters and well-executed watercolor illustrations throughout.
Jean’s Books, Hatfield, Penn., was across the aisle with a selection of children’s books that included a colorful Pictorial Gift for The Little Ones from 1863, as well as other important books, such as Picture Companions and Lyrics Pathetic and Humorous from A to Z by Edmund Dulac. On a different note, Richard Bishop’s tome Bishop’s Birds, Etchings of Waterfowl and Upland Game Birds, a signed and dated edition, was attracting attention.
“Talk about some rare cards, if they were only in here,” said Gil Rodriguez of the Topps 1951 baseball card box that was in his booth. Empty now, the box would have been used to send packets of baseball cards to retailers, and it originally contained 120 gum packs. “They just don’t exist,” said the dealer of the rare and colorful mint condition box. A varied offering was presented by the dealer; also shown was a Maurice Sendak pen and ink drawing done when he worked as a window designer at FAO Schwartz. A rare albumen print of Alexander Hamilton’s New York City home, then his country home and now being moved from its current location, was also displayed.
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