By Linda Emley
I have an old wooden trunk that I use to store my collection of local treasures. This past summer I decided to bring my treasure chest to Ray County Museum and sort my collection because I seldom take my treasures out to play with them.
I always opened the lid to add more items and then set the trunk back on my table to wait for another day.
When I finally looked inside, I was pleasantly surprised to see all the cool local items I have in my collection. I even found some old red plastic tokens that I got from my grandmother and a 1900 silver half dollar.
There are many pieces of local ephemera in my trunk. Ephemera items are things that weren’t meant to be saved, like telephone books, catalogs, postcards and greeting cards.
When I placed my collection on a table, I realized that most of the items that had Richmond printed on them were advertisement pieces of the past. I had some old match books from banks, the Richmond Hotel, Happy Hollow Restaurant and other local merchants.
One of my favorite items is a 1894 calendar from the Ray County Lumber Company. It has a cute little boy on the cover and all 12 months are still attached. I wonder where this calender had been the past 119 years.
I’m sure when it was printed, they never dreamed it would still be around in 2013, because most calendars are pitched at the end of the year. One of my biggest collections besides my postcard collection are items from the Exchange Bank of Richmond. That bank knew the value of advertising.
While looking over all these treasures, I thought to myself, “It pays to advertise!” If these old-time businesses hadn’t advertised, we wouldn’t have anything to remind us they were once a merchant in our town. They advertised in the local newspapers and in later years, they advertised in the back of school yearbooks and in telephone books.
Some of the items from my collection and other items from the Ray County Museum are currently on display in our showcase at the Ray County Courthouse.
You will also find some advertisements from newspapers from our past. One of the funniest advertisements I found was from The Richmond Conservator in 1889. It said, “He sat in the door at noonday, lonesome and glum and sad, the flies were buzzing about him, ed by a blue-winged ‘gad’. Not a customer darkened his portal, not a sign of business was there; but the flies kept on buzzing about the old man’s hair, at last in misery he shouted: ‘Great Scott! I’m covered with flies.’ And then zephyrs that toyed with his whiskers whispered: ‘Why don’t you advertise.’– Ex.”
Another advertisement from the 1889 newspaper was more to the point. “If you want your horseshoes to stay on until they are worn out, bring your horses to – H.C. BURGESS.”
When you have some free time, come out to the museum and we’ll be glad to show you the rest of our advertisement collection. If you want to relive your past, we have old newspaper and telephone books that are full of ads of your favorite childhood stores.
Our world has changed so much in the last few years. Now everything is going digital and we are losing our paper trail. I wonder what items from our lives will survive and be on display in a museum 100 years from now.
We don’t send postcards, we don’t use matchbooks and few merchants give out advertisement items any more. Sometimes we get ink pens that have an advertisement on them, but most of us use the pen and then throw it away. How long will it be before calendars and telephone books are erased from everyday life?
We need to remember the words of a very wise Richmondite from the past, Jewell Mayes.It was Jewell who always said, “It pays to advertise!”
Have some printed material from Ray County’s past? You can share it with Linda Emley at the museum or by writing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.