Date: Fri 24-Apr-1998

Date: Fri 24-Apr-1998

Publication: Ant

Author: LAURAB

Quick Words:


Full Text:

When A Word Is Worth A Thousand Pictures: Ephemera Society Show And Sale

(with cuts)

GREENWICH, CONN. -- Jacqueline Sideli is one promoter who really means it when

she says her show has something for everyone.

Sideli manages the Ephemera Society of America's annual conference, fair, and

exhibition in Greenwich, where prices start at just pennies for material

covering the entire spectrum of human endeavor.

That's nothing to sneeze at. At the March 20-22 event, ephemera's barely

scratched surface yielded broadsides, posters, invitations, postcards,

magazines, catalogues, and cards relating to art, politics, science,

entertainment -- you name it.

The inherent fascination of the field is demonstrated by who collects it.

There's Stephen Miller, a collector of Shaker ephemera who sits on the boards

of the Hancock and Canterbury Shaker villages. And Edward Atwater, a professor

emeritus at the University of Rochester Medical School. After collecting old

medical books and ephemera for years, Atwater began assembling AIDs ephemera.

The historically significant artifacts were recently part of "Graphic Alert"

at the Brooklyn Museum.

University of Kansas law professor Michael Hoeflich, the author of more than

50 articles and five books, collects printed and manuscript ephemera relating

to law and legal history. Currently, he is working on a photographic history

of the law in Kansas.

Particularly interested in picture engravers, vignette artists, and bank-note

companies, corporate attorney Mark D. Tomasko collects security engraving. He

has organized exhibitions on the subject for the Grolier Club and the Museum

of Financial History.

Miller, Atwater, Hoeflich, and Tomasko spoke at Ephemera Society of America's

conference, joining lecturers on the ephemera of scandal, automobile travel,

and Western land promotion. It was a wonder that shoppers could tear

themselves away to join the commerce on the floor, where 86 exhibitors from

England to California were set up.

"It was, as usual, wonderful for me," said Dennis Holzman, an Albany, N.Y.,

dealer in photographs, historical ephemera, and rare books. "At this show more

than any other people offer serious ephemera items, and the people who come

are serious about what they are looking and willing to spend money. I sold

almost across the board -- lots of autograph material, prints, watercolors --

and a whole range of lesser general ephemera such as trade cards, letter

heads, pamphlets, and manuscripts.

As is typical, the Ephemera Society's annual fair draws collectors from around

the country. Some, such as John Dan of the Clements Library at the University

of Michigan, represent institutions.

Some less intent buyers were deterred by the weather. "Our gate was off this

year because of the weather," said Sideli, who, like every other promoter in

the metropolitan area, coped with a messy early spring snow. "The really funny

thing was that people who came stayed all day and bought, so business was


"Sophisticated customers were looking for top-level things," continued Sideli,

who has organized the event for ten of its 18 years. Sideli may have had John

Reznikoff of University Archives in mind. The Stamford, Conn., dealer sold a

$35,000 letter before the show. The 1778 document signed by John Paul Jones

was addressed to Robert Morris, a New Yorker who helped finance the

Revolutionary War. "Only a handful of Jones letters are known," noted


The flotsam and the jetsam of the printed world, ephemera can look trifling

but can be quite valuable. "We sell political Americana, buttons, ribbons,

autographs, and portraits," said Peter Scanlan. In his stand was a Teapot Dome

button priced at $2,900. "Political buttons have sold in $50,000 range,"

acknowledged the Albany, N.Y., dealer.

"I buy account books, ledgers and diaries," explained Roy Kulp. The Hatfield,

Penn., dealer was happily pouring over a Seventeenth Century account book from

Massachusetts that he had just bought on the floor. His wife, a dealer in

children's books, was set up nearby.

Year after year, one of the Ephemera Society show's greatest pleasures is

Marjorie Parrott Adams and her husband, Michael. The Lancaster, Mass., dealers

specialize in some of life's greatest pleasures: food, wine, gardens, and

France. Marvelous for framing were pressed ferns from the 1860s, collected in

Madeira and Tenerife, $180. A French bread certificate dating to the third

year of the Republic, 1793, was $75. Most intriguing of all was a handwritten

list of gardeners' wages from Blenheim Palace. Dating to 1709, it was composed

by the stately home's head gardener, one of the most famous horticulturists of

his day and the designer of landscapes at Hampton Court, Kensington, and

Windsor castles.

Postcards are elevated to higher status by Martin J. Shapiro, a dealer from

Hamden, Conn., who handles, among others, Wiener Werkstatte, Art Nouveau, and

other art cards. Shapiro made a point to have currently fashionable Titanic

souvenirs. Manufactured by an Italian firm, a 1912 colored rendition of the

sinking was $1,000. Another view, a picture of the White Star Liner Titanic,

was $450.

Rockland Bookman Thomas Cullen was also on top of current events. "Scholastic

people go with the trends," said the Cattaraugus, N.Y., dealer, who offered a

newspaper account of the Amistad affair for $150.

"I've been part of the Ephemera Society of America's show since the very

beginning. It is the only show that I can say is consistently wonderful,"

concluded Dennis Holzman, offering the highest praise there is.