e is for ephemera

I started out with the intention of writing e is for elephant. Among the items I intend to keep is this elephant.

elephant large

This elephant is made of plaster and is weighted with sand. His tusks were lost but I have two plastic teeth that have previously been used to replace them. I would like to find a better replacement but it’s okay either way. I don’t know the story behind the elephant, only that it has existed as long as I can remember. Probably longer. That makes it really old. Collectible, vintage, antique? Well, it turns out that strictly speaking, antique refers to items at least 100 years old so probably not. I thought it was 75 years, but I was wrong.

At any rate, the elephant is old but probably, even if the tusks hadn’t been broken, doesn’t have much intrinsic value. It’s totally sentimental. Upstairs in boxes and bags headed for donation is a big box of buttons. Most of them are from the 60s and 70s and have even less intrinsic value but they are also sentimental. Like the elephant, I remember them from my childhood. I used to play with the buttons while Mom sewed. However, I am giving them away. Someone can surely use them.

Neither the plaster elephant or the buttons were likely intended to last. I would not be surprised if the elephant was a tourist item or perhaps a dime store knick knack. Broadly, at least, they might fit in the definition of ephemera.


1: something of no lasting significance —usually used in plural

2: ephemera plural: paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles


This Swedish bible and the watch are my paternal grandfather’s. They were intended to last, I assume. I’m keeping them, too, I think. But it’s what inside the bible that has more meaning to me.

My best guess is that this photo is of Grandpa’s family when he was a boy. The tow-headed little fellow in the middle is possibly him. At least it’s labeled Oscar’s family so it’s a reasonable guess. And might help with some of the other photos.

Oscar's Family

This one, I think looks a little more recent. Hard to believe that the woman could be my grandmother, but I suspect that it is. That would make the infant my Uncle Al. This is more of a guess but it’s the car in the background that makes me think it’s a little later.

possibly grandma and grandpa

This has always been the most interesting to me and true ephemera. It is the discharge document from my great-grandfather Augustus from the Merchant Marines in 1885. It’s how he came to America. Although, now that I look at it again, he was discharged in Liverpool. I wonder how he got from England to here. There are some other old documents I found upstairs, and I swear there should be more tucked into the bible. I’d like to have a couple of them restored as they are so old they can’t even be unrolled. That’s probably really expensive.

augustus discharge


14 thoughts on “e is for ephemera”

  1. I like your elephant. He’ll look at home wherever he ends up in your life. The photos and discharge doc are interesting in what they tell you… and what they make you wonder about. I like your letter “E.”


  2. I love these posts! They are very special and make the keepsakes come alive. Alison(Alifent) loves elephants. She has lots of jewelry and knickknacks.


  3. This post is simply wonderful to me! Love the sturdy little self-assured elephant! And I enjoy old papers and pictures. I’m only parting with the ones from my mom’s collection where I don’t know any person in the pic. You know, someday, when I go through that bin of pictures…


    1. I may now be able to identify (or at least pretend to) a few in my dad’s box of photos. Who knows, maybe I’ll find some clues in Mom’s someday. Or maybe I’ll burn it all muah ha ha ha ha!


  4. I love your transition from elephant to ephemera! And the photos and treasures, wow, how I would love to have such personal items from my ancestors. You are very lucky 🙂


    1. Thank you. I would make a joke about sending you some of my unidentified relatives, but you’re right, it is nice to have them. I am certain there is more around but who knows where it is.


  5. Very interesting. Love the old pictures and that certificate is fascinating. Ephemera! I have boxes and boxes of ephemera. Lots of clippings from newspapers going back decades. It should all to into my compost pile but every time I open a box and start to riffle through papers I’m drawn to the stuff. So I close the box back up and shove it back into a closet. Looking forward to F.


    1. I have found many things of interest, though a lot are rather silly. You’d enjoy some of my letters to Santa, for example. Or my dad’s 5th grade report card (he was a very poor student!). Or maybe my brother’s kindergarten graduation gown. While I hated that Mom kept butter tubs (hundreds of them) or 25 years of National Geographic, these bits of childhood are really sweet.


  6. Love the elephant! Roll Tide! 😉

    I have nothing old like these things you are sorting through. My mother’s house burned in 1998 and I had never brought home with me any of the things from my childhood that she saved. The sorting and packing sure seems like a lot of work, though.


    1. The memories are more important than the things, Hannah, but I’m sorry that you weren’t able to keep some of the things she saved. The sorting and packing is a huge amount of work but I’ve learned some things I wouldn’t have known and that’s been interesting.


Comments are closed.