Sunday, February 20, 2011

Material Culture Minute: The Best Things in Life are (Almost) Free

A few weeks ago, just before the spring semester began, Tyler and I ventured to the Paper Americana Show in Elkton, Maryland. Paper and ephemera shows attract an interesting group of people. Paper and ephemera collectors are definitely different from collectors who gravitate toward furniture, ceramics, etc. Many ephemera booths categorize their stock into themes. For instance, someone who specializes in trade cards and trade catalogues often creates categories such as "food and drink;" "health and medicine;" "animals"; "sports"; specific states such as "Delaware"; "foreign," etc. Why? Because paper and ephemera collectors tend to collect items that fall into only a handful of themes. I didn't quite get this until after I attended a few of these shows and found myself looking through only a handful of themes (health and medicine, needlework, etc.). This makes sense, as paper and ephemera shows feature way more stock than a regular antiques show does. You couldn't go through it all if you wanted to. The problem arises when you run into a collector interested in all things "Delaware" who takes over not only the "Delaware" box of postcards, menus, car dealership advertisements, etc., but also a three feet perimeter around the Delaware box. That means that Connecticut and Florida collectors will have to wait for an untold number of minutes to see if they can find any treasures in their respective boxes. Not all paper and ephemera collectors are this territorial, but there are enough out there to make browsing difficult. Beware.

At any rate, Tyler and I didn't find anything extraordinary, but we picked up a few interesting photos and other pieces of ephemera for a few dollars here and a few dollars there.

For example, here is a great late nineteenth-century tintype featuring some ladies wearing identical plaid or checked skirts.

And here, we have a snapshot of a woman in a well-stocked general store.

And who can't resist shoes? Below is a 1866 receipt for a pair of shoes. The cordwainer in question worked in his trade through the nineteenth century in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, in York County, and he also served in the Civil War.

Here, we have a late nineteenth-century trade catalogue for paper collars. Tyler and I were hoping that the brand name was the same as the one of the paper collar box I purchased in Michigan in January, but, alas, we misremembered the name. Either way, the catalogue can be used in conversation with the contemporaneous box.

And finally, I got all this at a steep discount. About a week ago, I found an envelope in my mailbox from the Singerley Fire Company in Elkton, MD. I immediately thought of the paper show and the door prize drawing I entered, but I also wondered if I was being tapped to donate to a firehouse 20 miles away.

Sure enough, the envelop contained a lovely note congratulating me on winning ($25, which covered about 80% of the total cost of my purchases) and letting me know that they hoped that I had had a lovely time!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post. Antique trade shows are huge here in Knoxville and I always love seeing stuff like this.