Garrick ephemera


This old matchbook gave me a laugh - check out the message on the spine. Dubious selling point, eh?

December 11, 2018 in Chicago Observations, Ephemera, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Peepshow token

At HiLobrow, Kio Stark writes an elegy for Times Square, through the prism of an old peepshow token. 

We got the new radio, but forgot the batteries. My uncle pulled over again and I hopped out, ran into a fluorescent-lit store and bought them. I felt utterly wild, alone in a flashing, raunchy world with a handful of cash. He was watching me the whole time, and I was never more than 20 yards from the van, but it was wild still.

July 2, 2017 in Current Affairs, Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (2)

Guitars! Hamsters!

Guitar hamster

While searching for history on a faded ad that I photographed this week, I came across this 1951 issue of Popular Mechanics. I find these classifieds - play guitar! raise hamsters! - simply fascinating. And reassuring in how they make you realize that human dissatisfaction is by no means just a 21st Century condition. We've always been looking for something, or something else, to do with our lives.

March 29, 2015 in Ephemera, History | Permalink | Comments (2)

Happy New Year!


May you have as joyous and festive an evening as these two bottles (brandy and champagne?) seem to be having, and an even better 2014.

December 31, 2013 in Current Affairs, Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Cries of London"


Spitalfields Life presents a charming 19th Century pamphlet, titled "The Cries of London", which displays the cries of various London street merchants. Though I wonder why someone ever published this in the first place - maybe for tourists? - it's a lovely relic that I'd love to own.

December 6, 2013 in Ephemera, History | Permalink | Comments (0)



Love this 1907 ad, which apparently appeared in Chicago theater programs. (I wonder how many people waited until the show was over, and how many snuck out for a quick nip during intermission.) Wonderful graphics, but oh, such shoddy punctuation: the incorrect usage of "it's", and the accent mark placed above the S instead of the E in "cafés."

October 11, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Ephemera, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Occupational Alphabet, 1850


This oddity was apparently a school primer, though I don't think the content would have kept many children interested for very long. There are also some interesting musings here on how many of the occupations mentioned in the book still exist today.

(Via The Paris Review.)

February 19, 2013 in Books, Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (0)

Polo Beer


I haven't posted any Joliet ephemera here in a long time, so here you go: a Polo Beer label from Pioneer Brewing, circa 1930s or 1940s. (Here's another Pioneer label that I posted earlier.) It would have been pretty incongruous, and even comical, drinking a bottle of Polo at some gritty neighborhood tavern, because back then Joliet was about as far from the polo-and-ponies set as you could get. Even more so than today.

December 14, 2012 in Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (0)

Introducing...your 1914 Chicago Federals!


Just love this vintage flyer for the opening day of Weeghman Park, later known as Wrigley Field. The image is one of many accompanying Eric Lutz's interesting piece at Newcity on the Chicago Whales, the city's entry in the short-lived Federal League of 1914-15. The name "Whales" must have been a later development, as it appears nowhere in this flyer. And apparently "Chicago Ball Team Owned by Chicagoans" is some sort of precursor to "Made in America."

July 9, 2012 in Chicago Observations, Ephemera, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)



Besides the anachronistic Gay Nineties imagery of this 1957 Schlitz ad, I have to admire the sheer chutzpah behind all of the Schlitz neologisms: Schlitzfest, Schlitzfellows, Schlitzchums, Schlitzlight ("Sits light because it's Schlitzlight"), Schlitzfestive, Schlitzkept, Schlitzness and Schlitzer. Interestingly, in the company's mania to propogate a catchphrase, they push the hard-earned Schlitz brand name dangerously close to meaninglessness.

(Via Today's Inspiration.)

June 29, 2012 in Art, Ephemera, History | Permalink | Comments (1)

Behold my new online addiction


Calumet 412, a fascinating collection of Chicago ephemera from the same tireless folks behind Forgotten Chicago. That photo above is of Stouffer’s Top of the Rock, atop the Prudential Building, circa 1960. Now, that was style and class.

February 3, 2012 in Chicago Observations, Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (3)

J. Elsinger & Co.


Interesting piece of Joliet ephemera here, from the bygone era when retailers still printed up advertising cards - though, admittedly, this is a stock image to which the store's name was imprinted. But I'm a bit perplexed by the store's street address. First, that it lacks the east/west designation that's standard today, but more importantly that during that era neither 34 West Jefferson (the Will County Courthouse) or 34 East Jefferson (the Woodruff Hotel) would have been a likely storefront location - unless Elsinger was located inside the Woodruff. Or it could be instead that, sometime after this card was printed, the city changed its street address system. Back then there were plenty of storefronts along the entire north side of Jefferson (on the opposite side from the Courthouse and the Woodruff) that could have housed this store. A mild mystery.

July 9, 2010 in Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunnyside Beverage


Now, here's a real rarity on eBay - a TOG soda bottle label, circa 1950s, from Sunnyside Beverage in Joliet. A Google search for "Sunnyside Beverage" and "Joliet" returns just one result, from some bottle collector's wish list. I'll have to check the old Joliet city directories next time I'm at the library and see if there's any information there on this company. How pleasantly simple that ingredients list is: just water, sugar, lemon and lime flavors, and vitamins B and D. No sodium benzoate, no high fructose corn syrup, just natural ingredients. And vitamin-fortified too!

April 15, 2010 in Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (0)

B.J. & Dirty Dragon


That image above is an autographed photograph from Chicago's "The BJ and Dirty Dragon Show", circa 1972. The human in the photo is BJ (Bill Jackson) and to his right is the smoke-spewing Dirty Dragon, while the big-grinned google-eyed character just below BJ's right hand is Weird. I've long since forgotten the names of all the other characters shown. The show was on every weekday right after school back then and was a beloved part of my childhood.

Readers of a certain age may recall the "BJ's Gigglesnort Hotel" show which ran nationally (on CBS, I think) during the mid-70s, but the Dirty Dragon show actually predated Gigglesnort Hotel and ran only locally, on WFLD Channel 32. Both shows had many of the same characters (some puppets, some human actors in costume) and the same weird brand of humor. My favorite part of the Dirty Dragon show (don't remember if it was also part of Gigglesnort Hotel - I didn't watch that show very much) was with Blob, a formless hunk of modeling clay which BJ crafted into a different object each show. Though that might not sound unusual or particularly interesting, I should point out that Blob was an actual character of the show who would talk to BJ in a lively but completely unintelligible voice as BJ worked - and also emitted moans of discomfort and/or pain when BJ carved up large pieces of him. A very odd routine, but my seven-year-old self loved it.

The photo was my reward for running a backyard carnival on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which was Bill Jackson's favorite cause. My carnival consisted almost entirely of very lame games (Bozo Buckets, sack races, etc.) that neighbors and friends played for prizes (mostly candy bars, as I recall), with all of the proceeds from game tickets, refreshments, etc. being sent to the MDA via the Dirty Dragon show. It was my first exposure to fundraising, and though I probably didn't raise more than ten or twenty dollars I was pretty pleased with myself for accomplishing even that little. I would have been more than satisfied with just that, which made the completely unexpected arrival of this wonderful photograph to be doubly sweet.

February 15, 2010 in Ephemera, Personal | Permalink | Comments (2)

Schmitz and Gretencort


Nice 1912 postcard here, which advertises the Schmitz and Gretencort department store (click on either image for the full-sized version). Interesting to note that the "holiday sale of questionable relevance" concept ("4th of July Home Coming Sale") is by no means a modern-day development. I've seen ephemera from this store before and had assumed it was a Joliet company, but based on the ordering of the locations listed on the back, it appears to have been an Aurora company with a Joliet branch. This building is still standing, but the interior has been fully modernized and this view is now long gone.

November 25, 2009 in Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (0)

Silverfross Drive In


Sharp matchbook here from the old Silverfross Drive In, on Lincoln Highway on the east side of Joliet. The restaurant is obviously long gone, but I'll have to drive past that intersection and since if the building is still there. I don't know about you, but even though it's only ten o'clock in the morning a pork tenderloin, fries and root beer sounds pretty damned good right now. 

November 16, 2009 in Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (8)

You are cordially invited to a brawl


The poet Langston Hughes was apparently both a socialite and ephemera buff, if this collection of rent party invitations from the Beinecke Library at Yale is any indication. Rent parties are a bygone pastime in which renters would throw a party at their apartment, pass the hat and with any luck take in enough money to pay the rent for the month. Though many of the invitations shown are for "whist parties" (whist is a card game, similar to bridge), I suspect that genteel title was cover for much more nefarious and entertaining goings-on. Which makes me really admire the party host from the invitation shown above, whose blunt honesty I find quite refreshing.

June 24, 2009 in Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday"


This is certainly the loveliest piece of feminine hygiene ephemera I've ever seen. And probably the only one too.

(Via Boing Boing.)

June 14, 2009 in Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (0)

Carl Erickson, the local boy unexpectedly done good

I regularly follow the illustration blog Today's Inspiration but was particularly struck by this quote that appeared there this week:
"There is no reason, of course, why the suave delineator of chic femininity, whose drawings for twenty years have given poignance to America's smartest fashion magazine, should not have been born in Joliet, Illinois."
The quote is about Carl Erickson, who was born in Joliet in 1891 and went on to a celebrated career as illustrator, under the oh-so-chic singular name "Eric", in the fashion industry. I had never heard of him before but now am quite impressed by his work. The blog has been running a series on Eric this week, which I encourage you to check out:

Carl (Eric) Erickson (1891-1958)
Eric: "the suave delineator of chic femininity"
The Extent of Eric's Influence
Carl Erickson: The "Deceptively Simple Line" of the "Lifestyle Illustrator"
The Art of Carl Erickson: "Easy or Impossible"

From everything I've read about Joliet in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - rough and tumble, blue collar, pervaded by heavy industry - I'd say it's indeed remarkable that the "suave delineator of chic femininity" hailed from here. Yesterday I found this bio on his father, Per Erickson, who, quite true to the city's rough image, was the "keeper" (warden? jailer?) at the Joliet Penitentiary.

March 29, 2009 in Art, Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (0)

Peet's Service Station


Another matchbook (my eBay searches are turning up a lot of them lately), this one from Peet's Service Station. My best guess is that the station was located at what is now the intersection of Illinois Route 53 (the former Route 66) and Zarley Boulevard. While the "groceries" and "notions" are still part of modern-day gas station convenience stores, I love the mention of "heated cabins", which indicates the station featured a motor court motel for weary travelers. There's still a gas station on that corner (a Speedway) but from the satellite photo it looks the cabins are no more. I'm sure I'll be driving past this intersection soon to check it out.

February 14, 2009 in Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (1)

Best to instill good habits early in a child's life...


I'm endlessly amused about what was considered socially acceptable a century ago which would horrify us now.

(Via Weekend Stubble.)

February 8, 2009 in Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (0)



Another interesting bit of Joliet ephemera - a matchbook from Otto's, which once served the unbeatable combination of root beer (undoubtedly homemade) and barbeque. This address is just a few blocks from where we live now but the place is sadly long gone (the building currently houses a Polish bakery/grocery/deli/restaurant/bar) as apparently also are the Lankenaus, for whom I could find no listing in the phone book.

Presumably the "Always Cold" referred to the root beer, and not the barbeque.

January 17, 2009 in Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (1)

Record Cover Ephemera


At first I thought this might not qualify as ephemera, since it's an actual record album and thus more of a tangible, functional object. But then I realized that if I owned this, I probably would never play the record, but instead frame this beautiful cover and hang it on my wall. Which, to my mind, does make it ephemera. So there.

(Via Record Cover Lover.)

December 14, 2008 in Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (0)

A treasure trove of old restaurant menus!

Here's a website that I'll be wallowing in quite contentedly for the near future: the Los Angeles Public Library Menu Collection. The database lets you search by city, so of course I pulled up all the Chicago restaurants. Here are my favorite menu covers (and if you click through the links, you can see the inside of the menus too):

Barney's Market Club

Cafe Bohemia


Edgewater Beach Hotel




Probably my favorite of the bunch is the Riccardo menu, whose stylishness is not at all surprising given how renowned the restaurant was for its art collection. And though the Colosimo's and Walgreen's menus have little artistic merit, I included them here for the sake of curiousity. Colosimo's was located in the notorious Levee vice district and was operated by Big Jim Colosimo, who was the kingpin of the Chicago mob before Capone took over. And the Walgreen's menu is notable for the breadth of its food selections - I've always imagined the old Walgreen's to only have soda fountains, but clearly they were regular short-order grills. (And I love how "perch" is crossed out with red ink on "Deep Fried Filet of Perch" and replaced with "haddock." Perch happens to be native to Lake Michigan, while haddock is an ocean fish. Odd that they ran out of the local species.)

It also occurred to me that this database is an excellent resource for fiction writers, especially those who write historic fiction. If one of your scenes is set in a 1950s restaurant, this would be a great place to skim old menus so you can get the old menu items (Swiss steak, anyone?) and prices just right.

November 27, 2008 in Chicago Observations, Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (2)

Joliet Citizens Brewing


Another sharp keg label, this one from Joliet Citizens Brewing Company, which operated here from 1904 through 1948. (Its latter incarnation, Bohemian Brewery, brought Joliet's long brewing history to an end when it closed in 1958.) Not exactly sure what Joliet Citizens produced during Prohibition to keep the doors open - I'm sure on an official basis it was "near beer", but Joliet was a pretty wide-open town back then, so my guess is that they never stopped brewing the genuine article while the authorities looked the other way.

UPDATE: The comment below from "Mr. X" prompted me to take a closer look at that label - despite the "Keg Beer" moniker, the label isn't from a keg at all, but instead a 64-oz. bottle. But I didn't mean to imply that this label was from the Prohibition era - instead it's probably from the 40s or 50s. The fact that it doesn't say "near beer" or "tonic" or any of the old euphemisms from the dry days indicates this is the full-strength variety and is most certainly "legit." Now, whatever the brewery happened to ship out through the back door during Prohibition under the cover of darkness, that's another story...

November 22, 2008 in Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (3)

Pioneer Brewing


Lovely bit of ephemera from here in Joliet - a beer keg label from Pioneer Brewing, which operated here briefly in the 1930s and 40s. That street address is for a Chicago distributor, presumably the one the keg was to be returned to. But just above that, in oddly inconspicuous type, it says "Brewery - Joliet, Ill." The brewery operated in the previous location of the Fred Sehring Brewery, which had been a pretty big operation prior to Prohibition. Pioneer closed in 1948. The building is, rather remarkably, still standing, now housing an auto body company.

(Some guy's asking $8.50 for this label on eBay but was kind enough to put up a full-size, high-res image without one of those disfiguring watermark things, so I just downloaded it instead. If I thought I'd ever get around to renovating the basement into the billiards room I've always pined for, I might have bought the original for framing, but that's unlikely so I won't.)

November 14, 2008 in Ephemera, Joliet | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kitchen Ephemera


While scrubbing and scouring the kitchen of our house four years ago when we first moved in, we found these two soap coupons behind a drawer. Looks like they're from the 1960s. Of particular note is that back then Dial was manufactured by Armour and Co. of Chicago. If that name sounds familiar, it's because Armour used to operate the biggest meatpacking and slaughterhouse operations in the world, so the ingredients for that soap came guessed it, pigs and cows. It's enough to make a committed vegan swear off bathing, ever again.


One of the estate auction lots we brought home last weekend included a set of kitchen canisters, the coffee one of which included several single-serving Sanka packets like this one. This packet is from the mid-1970s or later, because the address on the back includes a zipcode, but came from far enough back in time that the now-obsolete spelling "caffein" was used. And this didn't even come from a grocery store - the packaging reads "General Foods Corporation, Institutional Food Service Division", so apparently someone swiped a bunch of these from a cafeteria or diner somewhere but never got around to using them. The "coffee" (because let's face it - nobody is really sure what Sanka is actually made of) is still in there, just daring to be consumed. But though I'm fascinated by the promise of those "Fresh 'Flavor Buds'®", I'm not nearly devoted enough to food science to subject my insides to the onslaught of thirty-year-old fake coffee.

September 28, 2008 in Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (1)

Literary Ephemera


Several years ago, my brother-in-law Al passed along a large collection of books that had belonged to his parents. The idea at the time is that I would sell them on eBay on his behalf, and take a commission for my efforts. Well, I quickly discovered that most of the books - a lot of popular fiction from the 1950s and 1960s - have little market value these days, so the books have mostly languished in the basement of our former and current houses. I hauled some of them out yesterday to try to sell at our garage sale, with no takers, and our local charity thrift store wouldn't take them either. So while I try to figure out their next possible destination (which very well might be our alley), I've been enjoying digging into some of these old relics.

The books themselves are fascinating in themselves, in a kind of time capsule sort of way, but inside one of them I was pleasantly surprised to find a Literary Guild book club circular ("Wings") from September 1960. It's been great fun to page through this, not just for the throwback illustrations, but also to read the promotional flack that the Literary Guild used back then.

The feature title for that month was Diana, by R.F. Delderfield. That image shown above is presumably the fair Diana herself. Here's the first paragraph of hype on the book: "This is a love story in the old-fashioned style. It is sentimental and it is simple - a poor boy meets a rich girl, they fall in love. Will they marry? Compared to all the sordid stories that have been published lately, Diana is refreshing and very touching." I'll say one thing about Literary Guild: they sure knew their audience - suburban housewives like my brother-in-law's sweet but extremely straight-laced mom.

There's a short profile of the author, who is quoted as saying: "My real aim in writing Diana was to protest against the cheapening and exploitation of young love in current fiction and entertainment. I wrote it in the spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites in the mid-nineteenth century - a plea for the return of the Romantic Age - or reaction, if you like, against the squalor of our Angry Young Men's approach to Romance - and that of your Beatniks." Ah yes, those sordid and squalid Angry Young Men and Beatniks. How our society ever survived such tawdry, non-Romantic filth is simply beyond me.

And here's a photo of the author, looking quite starched, erudite and thoughtful, in a manner you simply don't see in author photos these days of anyone other than Tom Wolfe:


One other book of note is The View From the Fortieth Floor, by Theodore H. White, "The Dramatic Story of the Collapse of a Great Magazine Empire!" The image below is presumably that of the protagonist, John Warren, and his estranged wife whom he's trying to win back while simultaneously struggling to "rebuild Trumpet and Gentlewoman, national magazines which had once helped to shape America's dreams and thoughts."


Given the mindset of Delderfield (to whom Literary Guild presumably was sympathetic enough to make him their featured writer for the month) that was cited above, I'm guessing the dashing Mr. Warren saved both the magazines and his marriage, and the story didn't end with Warren as a bitter and solitary alcoholic suicide candidate, both magazines in bankruptcy, hundreds of employees out of work and, most importantly, America's dreams and thoughts hopelessly adrift.

I've uploaded pdf files of the pages for each of these books, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Download wings_diana.pdf
Download wings_diana2.pdf
Download wings_diana3.pdf
Download wings_white_teenage.pdf

September 28, 2008 in Books, Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (2)



I have a real weakness for ephemera. Were it not for my general reticence to spend money - okay, cheapness - our house could easily be soon filled with esoteric items which would be considered valuable to only a few people in the world other than myself. But my resistance has been sorely tested the past two weekends, when we've gone to a couple of local estate auctions. I don't know how other estate auctions work, but this particular auctioneer combines smaller household and memorabilia items into individual boxes, so a box may contain one or two interesting things while the rest is all junk.

This past Saturday I was tempted by a box that included a bunch of old advertising blotters from long-defunct Joliet businesses, and the previous Saturday it was two 1960s vintage Chamber of Commerce-type publications that purport to show how proud local merchants were of their fair city of Joliet, but in reality are really just advertising vehicles. (Which is fine with me - I love the old ads, regardless of what was really behind these publications' coming into being.) But I never saw either box come up for bid, and after being at both auctions for several hours we had had enough and went home, and I realized I really didn't need any of that stuff.

But Julie went back to Saturday's auction for a second time, and after picking up a few more items of her own she also got some free books that the auctioneer had been lugging around for a while and was glad to get rid of. The quirky old books were interesting enough in themselves, but to our surprise one of them contained the photo shown above. I have no idea who this pleasant couple is (they're not even necessarily the old couple whose estate was being sold off) but I've decided to call them Phil and Estelle. The photo is now my favorite bookmark.

August 18, 2008 in Ephemera | Permalink | Comments (0)