I've been a full-time ephemera dealer for over 30 years, and a member of The Ephemera Society of America since its beginning in 1980.
I'm particularly intrigued by time capsules of junk mail.
Years ago, workmen renovating a former post office in our village began finding odd paper stuffed between the wall studs. The owner paused the project long enough for me to rescue what turned out to be a 'snapshot' of West Sand Lake in 1911. Some time in November of that year, the postmaster used the accumulated undelivered junk mail and promotional material as insulation.
I organized what could be salvaged (from the ravages of rodents, damp, and chimney heat) and placed it with the New York State Library. What the grouping showed, over all, were the inroads that mail order businesses were making to the local economy. And it showed how active in our area were organizations, now defunct, like the Hebrew Farmers Association.
Just last week, I found another such time capsule.
The Woman's Club of Albany, begun in 1910, had by this century dwindled to four octogenarian members. It was rescued by a new group of women anxious to save the 1895 mansion near Washington Park and to reanimate support for education, culture, women's rights, and public service. I joined last month when I discovered they wanted to organize their archives.
The papers were stashed in crannies and cupboards all over the house. And, in one dark corner, I found a shabby leather medical satchel – stuffed with unopened junk mail of 1916. We haven't yet carefully excavated it fully – but it is clear that this 'capsule' will indicate the network of associations of the Club. There are newsletters from women's groups throughout the country; information packets from other organizations working toward social betterment – particularly those aimed at city planning (the Club is proud of its campaign to begin garbage collection in Albany); and a variety of advertising aimed at upper middle class women (fancy shoes; Willys-Knight automobiles; elegant dresses).
Every so often, on return from many weeks away, I bundle up the junk mail, label it, and stash it away for future ephemerists! Diane DeBlois firstname.lastname@example.org.