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John and Jane Adams Ephemera Collection

Identifier: MS-0384

Scope and Contents

The John and Jane Adams Ephemera Collection (1856-1996) offers a glimpse into some of the ways printed materials were used to capture the interest of American culture from the late 1800s through the late 1900s. Such a collection can be used to trace shifts in cultural norms, as these items of ephemera typically reflect the prevailing sentiments of the population for whom the materials were created. The subject matter of the ephemera in this collection varies as wildly as the materials used to create it. The collection has been divided into six series based on subject: Business and Commerce (1880-1982), Political (1903-1996), Travel (1901-1981), Games and Hobbies (ca. 1880’s-1942), Religious (1856-1950), and Educational (1907-1935).

I. Business and Commerce Inclusive Dates: 1880-1982 Predominant Dates: 1880-1939 The Business and Commerce series predominantly features advertising materials in a variety of formats. While the bulk of these items were manufactured in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many of the formats found in this series remain commonplace to American consumer culture, such as brochures, flyers, and business cards. The series also contains a wide variety of advertising novelties popular in the mid-nineteenth century. Many of these novelties were manufactured with the intent of be useful to the consumer, thus creating incentive to retain the item for a longer period of time. Items represented in the series include: calendars, cigarette silks, fans, matchbook ads, and orange wrappers. This series focuses on American business and commerce and is particularly strong in local San Diego advertising. The arrangement of the series is alphabetical by the format of the advertisement.

II. Political Inclusive Dates: 1903-1996 Predominant Dates: 1960-1982 While the inclusive dates for the Political series encompass nearly a century, the bulk of the records span twenty years, from the 1960s through the 1980s. This large series includes seven sub-series: Campaign Mailers, Campaign Souvenirs, Campaign Newspapers, Political Events, Propaganda, Pamphlets, and Wartime materials. The majority of this series is comprised of Campaign Mailers seeking financial or election day support. Republican, Democratic, and third party candidates are represented in this collection of campaign mailers. Certain candidates hold larger proportions of the records, such as Congressman John Anderson, Senator Barry Goldwater, and former Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The series also includes many political action committees, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Democratic Party, and the National Organization for Women. A complete list of the campaign mailers included in this series is provided in the Box and Folder Listing.

The remaining subdivisions are more sparsely represented. The Campaign Souvenirs sub-series includes both paper and non-paper items, such as calendars, comic books, buttons, and vinyl records. Campaign Newspapers contains publications by various campaign committees, such as newspapers from The Rockefeller Campaign Express published in 1964 and one from a 1980 The Republican Record covering the Bush/Reagan presidential election. Political Events contains newspaper clippings from local San Diego presses and primarily contains campaign news, such as 1966 San Diego Union Tribune election coverage, as well as booklets and programs, such as transcripts of the Richard Nixon Watergate Tapes and the program from the 1964 Republican National Convention. Propaganda contains newsletters and pamphlets from a variety of organizations, including Christian Crusade, MacArthur Freedom Association, and Constitutional Alliance. The sub-series also includes several pamphlets published by American Opinion on a variety of subjects relating to American morality, including problems with sex education in schools and pornography. Pamphlets includes informational materials, such as a history of the National Republican Congressional Committee and a series of excerpts printed by the Education and Public Welfare Division of the Library of Congress in 1963 regarding the federal government’s role in providing medical care to citizens. The Wartime sub-series includes information pamphlets on various events, such as an undated publication by The Naval Weekly about the Destroyer Disaster at Honda Head, a pamphlet about war loans published by the U.S. Treasury, and battle maps of the 4th Division Aisne-Marne Offensive of 1918. The sub-series also includes wartime propaganda, such anti-Japanese publications, and souvenirs, such as war insignia stamps from World War II and military songbooks. The series primarily focuses on American politics, both local and national. The arrangement of the series is alphabetical by subject.

III. Travel Inclusive Dates: 1901-1981 The Travel series features information about travel destinations in a variety of formats, most not dated. Souvenirs of various types from many locales comprise the bulk of this series. Examples include a box of art cards from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, as well as photographic prints of national monuments, such as Mount Hood and Mount Rushmore. The series also contains examples of hotel tariff cards, which list the amenities offered by the hotel, as well as hotel stationary. Also included in this series are several visitor information guides from both national and international destinations, such as the Petrified Forest of Arizona, Carlsbad Caverns, and a guide to Singapore. Transportation and admission ticket stubs from numerous destinations, both local and foreign, are also found in this series. Languages included in this series are English, Italian, German, French, and Dutch. The arrangement of the series is alphabetical by subject.

IV. Games and Hobbies Inclusive Dates: ca. 1880’s-1942 Games and Hobbies materials in this series are often undated. Items in this series include board games, puzzles, stamp collections, and cards of various types, such as magic and study cards. The bulk of the series is comprised of scrapbooks. The subject matters of the majority of the fifteen scrapbooks included in this collection are representative of the interests of the later Victorian era, particularly Scrapbooks 1-7, which include cutouts and cards of women, children, flowers, and animals. Scrapbooks 8 and 9 include news articles about society men and women, as well as fashion trends. Scrapbook 10 includes a collection of Opera House programs. Scrapbook 11 details the construction of the Coulee Dam. Scrapbooks 12 and 13 include pictures and articles about United States travel destinations, primarily National Parks. Scrapbook 13 also includes hand written travel accounts. Scrapbook 14 features prints of nature and architecture. Scrapbook 15 includes advertising brochures. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

V. Religious Inclusive Dates: 1856-1950 The Religious series is a small collection that includes a variety of materials, from calendars with proverbs to religious lessons on cards. Of particular note is a handwritten letter in a small notebook from a mother to her daughter, written in 1905. The letter provides instruction on overcoming temptation. This series only contains one folder of materials, arranged in a roughly chronological order.

VI. Educational Inclusive Dates: 1907-1935 The Educational series is the smallest of the Adams Ephemera Collection. The sparse content includes a pamphlet on keeping politics out of schools, an “American Education Week” stamp, and a fifth grade promotion card from 1907. This series only contains one folder of materials arranged in rough chronological order.


  • Creation: 1856-1996
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1880-1982


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Historical Note

This collection of ephemera—defined as materials created for a particular, limited purpose designed to be thrown away after use—is the result of decades of collecting by John and Jane Adams. Epehemera is one of many collecting areas the Adams dedicated themselves to, frequenting yard and estate sales as well as purchasing items through dealers and collectors.


10.35 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Business and Commerce, 1880-1982

II. Political, 1903-1996

    1. Campaign Mailers, 1903-1992

    2. Campaign Souvenirs, 1939-1996

3. Campaign Newspapers, 1964-1980

    4. Events, 1909-1981

    5. Pamphlets, 1946-1966

    6. Propaganda, 1946

    7. Wartime, 1918-1964

III. Travel, 1901-1981

IV. Games and Hobbies, 1880-1942

V. Religious, 1856-1950

VI. Educational, 1907-1935

Source of Acquisition

John and Jane Adams

Accruals and Additions


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Jane Adams Recipe Collection

John and Jane Adams Ephemera Collection
Kira Hall
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US