Ephemeral Advertisements

‘Ephemera’ is a term used by archivists to describe written or printed materials that were not created to be preserved. Unlike official legal documents or important personal papers, the importance and relevance of ephemera is considered short-term. This includes items like tickets, correspondence, flyers, posters and more. Nevertheless, most archival collections include ephemera in their collections. This might sound odd if you consider that we have already deemed these documents as having temporary importance. However, how many of you have held onto concert tickets, birthday cards, or fortunes from a fortune cookie? It turns out that ephemera is really interesting and quite telling–whether it is used to examine a time in a person’s life or a wider societal trend.

This week I have been scanning some very interesting ephemera for the CLIR Water Project. I wanted to share some of what I have found that I thought was interesting. These examples were all taken from a single Municipal League of Los Angeles Bulletin from December 1, 1929. The bulletin details several issues related to the Colorado River, the Imperial Valley, Flood Control programs, and upcoming elections. Additionally, within the bulletin there are several advertisements I found particularly interesting.

The first advertisement offers details on a merchant tailor whose prices range from $60 to $75 for a custom suit. The advertisement states that this tailor “Specializes in Scotch and Irish Tweeds, the Ideal Cloth for Southern California Wear”.

The panel below the tailor advertises a sanitarium in Santa Monica that specializes in osteopathy, a type of alternative medicine. This sanitarium promises to care for people with “mental and nervous diseases” and that “in the calm of these quiet gardens patients are finding their way back to normal living.” The title of the advertisement is “All’s Quiet on the Western Front.”

There is an advertisement for the Woodhead Lumber Company that features a mascot by the name of Woody. This advertisement warns that the “winter rains are due,” an appropriate advertisement for early December.

The next advertisement is for a bookshop that specializes in rare books. The panel is quite small and includes very few details other than that you can receive “Catalogues on Request.”

The last advertisement is the largest in the bulletin and promotes a music store. In particular this advertisement addresses women, stating, “The modern home demands a baby grand piano and every woman is eager to buy one.” The advertisement also guarantees that there are pianos available to “fit every income.”

Each of these advertisements gives insights to what the commercial life was like in Southern California in December, 1929. Which advertisements did you find interesting?