Collections > Library Collections > Graphic Arts > Ephemera


The American Antiquarian Society collection of ephemera includes several thousand tickets for all sorts of activities including train excursions, dances and lectures. The tickets range in date from the eighteenth century to 1910 and, like those of today, are small, sturdy objects printed on heavy paper or card stock. They were required for admittance to events or as receipt for payment for travel or services purchased. Tickets kept a crowd moving and under control. One promoter noted in his advertisement for a multi-part lecture on electricity, "TICKETS to be had at Mr. Timothy's printing office in Broad-Street, and at the bar of Mr. Backhouse's, at Forty shillings currency for the whole course. No person to be admitted without a ticket, by paying at the door, as the inconveniency is great ... " (South Carolina Gazette, April 20, 1765).

In the early nineteenth-century, tickets were often saved by their owners as souvenirs of an event such as concerts by the famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind or lectures by speakers such as Charles Sumner (tickets for both are found in the collection). Dance and dinner tickets were printed for the organizers of social events and then distributed (for more on dance ephemera, see the Society's online exhibition An Invitation to Dance). Commemorative events such as founding days and Fourth of July celebrations were held by towns around the country, and tickets were required for admittance. Additionally, agricultural and mechanics fairs, art exhibitions, college commencements and Sunday school graduations all required tickets.

The Society's ticket collection is arranged by size and by type, with tickets for transportation separated out from all others. In the transportation sections, tickets are arranged by issuer, with all tickets for one rail or steamer line grouped together alphabetically. Within each non-transportation category, the tickets are housed by date, from the earliest to the latest. Undated tickets are placed at the back of each category. Please use the box list to access this collection.

- Lauren B. Hewes, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts

Berkshire Medical Institute, lectures on general anatomy & physiology, lecture ticket, n.p., September 1825, Fisher, sc., engraving, 8 x 11.5 cm.

Balloon ticket
Balloon ascensions, entrance ticket, Boston, July 4, 1866, letterpress 5.5 x 9 cm.

Hartford & New Haven, turnpike gate ticket, Connecticut, engraving, c. 1820, 4.5 x 6.5 cm.
Evansville, Cairo & Memphis, steamship ticket, Cincinnati, lithograph, Ehrgot & Krebs, 1873, 6.2 x 10.2 cm.
Tilton vs. Beecher trial, day ticket, New York, 1875, letterpress, 6 x 9 cm.
Worcester baseball club, game ticket, Worcester, c. 1880, letterpress, 5.5 x 10 cm. Gift of Miss. M. P. Mellu.



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