I want to read about old ephemera, preferably with good commentary.
September 22, 2018 11:09 AM   Subscribe

I adore The Avocado's Let's Read Old Magazines. Lileks is okay, but I've mostly gone off of it. I'm craving more 20th-century ephemera -- what are your favorite sites? (Books acceptable too, but I'm really looking for instant gratification/something I can browse of a weekend morning with my coffee here.)

I like the range Lileks offers, but a) I've pretty much read it all and b) I can't stand his commentary. (Or him, frankly.) I like his oldest stuff best, although some of that may be nostalgia.

Let's Read Old Magazines offers intelligent, funny commentary with a fair amount of historical notes, and I would love to read more like that -- recognizing the incredibly bizarre hilarity of old ads/catalogs/etc., but also providing an historical context, for both ads and longer-form pieces found in ephemeral objects. I'm most drawn to early 20th-century, but would be delighted with anything from before about 1990. Basically, my greatest dream would be to find a page-by-page analysis and commentary of a Sears catalog from like 1935. What are your favorite sites (or, secondarily, books) like this?
posted by kalimac to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
The Vault of the Atomic Space Age is pretty good for casual browsing purposes, but doesn't have much in the way of commentary. Lots of old ads and ephemera on it, though.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:26 AM on September 22, 2018

Are you looking mostly for retail culture?
posted by rhizome at 1:00 PM on September 22, 2018

Response by poster: ...huh, that's a good question, I never thought about my interests though that lens before, but it fits really well, thank you. I'm going to go with 'yes, but I wouldn't immediately dismiss non-retail stuff'. I'm definitely very much focused on social history, though.
posted by kalimac at 1:29 PM on September 22, 2018

Collectors Weekly has lots of ephemera with articles about them. The link here is to their Culture page which shows categories with books of all types, cards of all types, postcards, sheet music, etc. It's a really cool site to browse around. Enjoy. CW Culture Page
posted by MovableBookLady at 2:06 PM on September 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Dark Roasted Blend: Weird & wonderful things
DRB is the online magazine to complement your daily coffee ritual, specializing in highly-visual, "weird & wonderful" content.
Includes articles on a variety of themes, e.g. Futurism "See What the Future Used to Be!"
posted by Little Dawn at 3:23 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Public Domain Review is wonderful. (Skews toward older and less kitschy material)
posted by neroli at 6:47 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Dark Roasted Blend and the Public Domain Review came closest to what I was looking for, although I honestly loved everything everyone suggested.
posted by kalimac at 9:20 AM on September 23, 2018

The Ephemera Society of America might be of interest. Here's their blog.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:59 AM on September 23, 2018

what about anthology movies like The Atomic Cafe? I think there some others over the decades of the "60s commercials and housewifey shit" persuasion.
posted by rhizome at 3:32 PM on September 23, 2018

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