Ephemera - The Elegant Intersection of Art and History.

Every picture tells a story, but some do so much more than that!  Fine ephemera - antique paper items originally intended as short lived advertising materials, brochures, maps, posters, greeting cards, correspondence, and other highly aesthetic communications - is truly transformative, bringing the past to life in a way unlike any other. 

The Book and Paper Fairs team recently had the pleasure of talking with Barbara Loe of Stillwater MN.  Barbara is an ephemera dealer, collector, and the Conference Chair of the Ephemera Society of America's annual convention, called ESA36.  Like many of us who have a collecting passion, Barbara recalls the moment that she realized ephemera would become such a central part of her life.  She says,

"I remember when the bug first hit me.  I was in an antique mall and spotted a trade card in a display case.  I kept coming back to that item and finally decided to buy it.  That was the beginning.  Then I found Dave Cheadle and Russ Mascieri's book Victorian Trade Cards: Historical Reference & Value Guide and it was over - I was hooked!" 

To get readers even more in the mood for the upcoming Ephemera Fair on March 19th and 20th - the largest gathering of ephemera and ephemera enthusiasts in the United States this year - we asked Barbara to share two examples of interesting items - those at the elegant intersection of paper and history - that she will be bringing along to this event. 

Eight is enough when it comes to Barbara's first selection.  Here we have some great octavo prints of Indian chiefs and warriors by George Catlin from the 1830's. "Octavo" here means that these portraits were printed and cut eight per page.  George Catlin (1796-1872) was an artist best known for his skillful and authentic paintings of American Indians.  He was fascinated with American Indian culture from childhood.  After a brief stint as a lawyer, Catlin dedicated his career to painting and preserving all things related to American Indian history.  Today, many of Catlin's works are held by various Smithsonian institutions, as well as the American Museum of Natural History, and he is credited for capturing and preserving the beauty and diversity of many native peoples across the U.S. and the world. 

Barbara's second selection will have you seeing ephemera in a whole new light.  Here we have two turn of last century holiday postcards.  The first features a young woman in a white dress, holding a fan, and standing under mistletoe.  The card is attributed to Helena Maguire (1860–1909) a British artist best known for her charming paintings of children and animals.  She also did numerous other Christmas postcards. 

The second postcard, which is not signed, features two cherubic looking little girls sleeping in bed, perhaps on Christmas eve.  Both postcards offer Christmas greetings - but not in the flashy way we celebrate it today in America.  Both also share an all-but-forgotten secret as well.  Notice on the first postcard the words, "When through this card the light doth glow, We kiss beneath the mistletoe," and on the second one, "To see their guardian Angel bright, just hold this picture to the light."  These are "hold-to-light" postcards, meaning that when they are viewed close to a light source, another image appears.  Before the days of iPads and iPhones, this "communication" technology was truly awe-inspiring! 

According to Barbara, "Ephemera brings history to life in a way that a textbook could never do. It shows us a window into our lives that is real and unvarnished.  But it also provides us with some of the most beautiful graphic images you can imagine.  The printing and design are spectacular and still inspire our artists and designers today.  Ephemera is really a beautiful art form." And we could not agree more!

Come meet Barbara as well as over 70 world-class ephemera dealers at the upcoming Ephemera Fair on Saturday, March 19th and Sunday, March 20th in Greenwich, CT.  For more information on the event, including links for discount advance tickets please click here. In addition to the Catlin octavo prints and "peek-a-boo" postcards, Barbara will have a fantastic archive of arctic and polar items, including lecture tickets, maps, and trade cards; wonderful mechanical trade and advertising cards, moveable Valentines from the mid-19th century, a series of most unusual Chinese items, and as well as politically themed materials on display and available for purchase.  

The Ephemera Fair is brought to you by Book and Paper Fairs, producers of the top book and ephemera fairs in the Northeast US.  Our professionally managed events have a long history of bringing together the finest buyers and sellers in the industry, and are held in major locations including Boston, New York City, Brooklyn, Concord, NH, and Lexington, MA. For more information and a complete calendar of our shows, please see www.bookandpaperfairs.com.