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Ephemera On Display At Greenwich Convention

Sheryl Jaeger and Nicholas Lowry at the Ephemera Society of America's 35th annual conference. It is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Claude Johnson, of Greenwich, was one of the speakers at a conference devoted to ephemera, paper, posters and postcard collectibles dating to the 19th century. Johnson spoke about early basketball ephemera. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
An example of ephemera advertising for Old Town canoes and boats. The 35th annual conference of the Ephemera Society of America is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

GREENWICH, Conn. -- It may have been a poster that was only intended to advertise a boxing match or a small card given away by retailers to help promote their business, but to people like Sheryl Jaeger it tells a story.

"There is some story behind each piece of paper, and it is sort of a pursuit for the curious mind," she said.

Jaeger is on the board of directors of the Ephemera Society of American, which is holding its  35th annual conference, Ephemera/35, over three days at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Old Greenwich. The theme for the weekend was "The Sporting Life."

Ephemera is material such as postcards, posters and advertising materials that was produced to sell products or to promote events. The overwhelming amount of material began to be produced as printing became more sophisticated in the mid-19th century and continued through well into the 20th century, she said.

Victoriana, items produced during the reign of Queen Victoria who ruled from 1837 to 1901, have traditionally been popular, Jaeger said, but she has noticed a trend in the last decade of people moving away from that era and toward the early 20th century. She believes that's because people have fewer connections to that era, while they can easily connect with the earlier 20th century in a time when their grandparents lived.

Friday was devoted mainly to speakers including Greenwich's Claude Johnson, who is an author and a historian and has deeply research pre-1950 African-American basketball. He is president and executive director of the Black Fives Foundation. The Black Fives refers to the name given to all-black teams before the NBA integrated in 1950.

He said discovering a new piece of material helps to round out the history that he is researching and promoting. "The thrill is that you get an opportunity to fill holes that are missing in information or just to shed more light on that particular sliver of history," he said.

Nicholas Lowry, who is well-known for his work as an appraiser on "Antiques Road Show is president and principal auctioneer of New York City-based Swann Auction Galleries. He was one of the featured speakers on Friday. He specializes in posters, and at the conference his talk was about pre-World War II sports posters, such as posters advertising skiing to people riding on trains. The posters had to make an immediate impression on riders in order to get the them to open their wallets.

"They had to be bold, they had to be colorful, they had to be appealing, and all of these are," he said. "Some of them are just beautiful artwork by important artists."

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