Thrift Store Score - Family Story in Ephemera

Over the weekend, Pat and I  hit up a local thrift store that's going out of business.At first only these two tins caught my eye.

However, as I neared the check-out counter, I spotted an old book and started flipping through the pages to find a brittle, aged piece of notebook paper. The owner noticed my interest and asked me if I like old papers. I issued an enthusiastic "Yes", and she showed me to this box.
It was a bit more. . .overflowing when I first saw it.

I couldn't resist  the call of this ephemera and paid what I thought was a reasonable price. (Was $25 too much, tell me after you see what was in there.)

Back at home a few hours later, I sorted through the box to find this treasure trove.
These Workmen's Time Books took up much of the space at the top along with the Day Book. There were also several books of what I think are deposit slips.
Unfortunately, the Day Book is mostly ruined but I can maybe salvage some of the top and outside portions.
The Time Books are full of names, dates, and hours worked.
This is one of the earlier ones, dating back to 1920
There were also several old, ragged books in the box.
I found only these three photographs in there. The portrait is an autographed picture of George Wallace.
It seems the man of the house possibly had a concrete construction business of some kind (I think) and there are all kinds of typed business letters and a few blueprints.
Letters, cards, and other written material (a play, a poem, recipes) were scattered in with the business papers.
Then there was the rest: old newspapers, pamphlets, cook books, travel souvenirs, certificates, and more.

As I dug through the box, the history of a family unfolded before me. The husband's business correspondence and documentation, the wife's letters from friends and family, recipes and cookbook pamphlets, school papers and valentine cards of their daughter's as well as her engagement announcements, and the father's obituary. I was touched at the story that played before my eyes and amazed that it all fit into the one box.

I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with all of it yet. I know some of it will find its way into my new mixed-media, art journal obsession and my jewelry (somehow). I'll likely make copies of some of the materials rather than tear them up, as well as share some with others interested in ephemera (let me know if you are), as that was my initial intention with getting the box. But, the history it holds now feels personal somehow. What would you do with a box of papers dating back to the early 1900s?

I'm sharing this post at:
Thrifty Things Friday at Melissa's Antiques
Treasure Hunt Thursday at From My Front Porch to Yours
Thrifter Share at Hey What's For Dinner Mom
Junkin Joe at The Cottage Market 
Show and Share at Coastal Charm
Thriftasaurus at Sir Thrift-a-lot
History and Home Party at We Call it Junkin
Let's Talk Vintage at Bella Rosa Antiques
Vintage Inspiration Link Party at My Salvaged Treasures 
What's it Wednesday at Ivy and Elephants


  1. Oh my goodness what a find! I wonder if its possible to track down the descendants.

    1. Anny, It was indeed a find. I don't think it would be hard to track down the descendants as there are names all over these papers. However, I also think that the descendants are the ones who got rid of them and probably don't want them back. The lady at the thrift store says she often has/had papers that other people would come in and buy, this was her newest collection. There aren't any family photos or anything like that in there so I think they weeded out what they didn't want. At least that's what I'm trying to convince myself of.

  2. That is AWESOME! You have to frame a few of the pieces. You could easily make very cool gift tags with some of the receipts. The book covers could be repurposed into journals. The possibilities are endless. I would have spent hours going thru all that stuff. wow - VERY cool!! I'm so happy for you.

    And yes, $ 25.00 was a good price just for the fun of going thru it all, but you'll make it back on the items you make and sell.

  3. Great post and photos, as usual. I think I'm in love with this stuff. It's manly. Blue prints (Here's the low cost fire proof home), time books, and business stuff. I'm also really glad that I don't go to all these sales, as I could easily become a hoarder.

  4. I can play with old papers like this the way you play with beads. For our first anniversary, which is "paper" I made a huge collage' of our first year papers - like ticket stubs, plane tickets, programs, etc . . . I would spend a year looking through every one of those treasures!

  5. Oh goodness what a find! I wonder if there is family left that would treasure these keepsakes? Otherwise I keep thinking how wonderful to use as photo backgrounds.

  6. Cool beans! what a fun treasure!


    1. Debbie, Yeah. I thought so too. Just digging through it is fun. And, I love that you use 'cool beans', I do too! :)

  7. I think it's cool and will look great in your work. If you feel guilty about the $ spent, you could sell the Wallace autograph on Ebay and recoup your cost.

    1. Tammie, I don't really feel guilty about the money, I just wasn't sure if it was a fair price. The hubs thought I was crazy, but I thought it was reasonable. Of course, I have already considered selling/trading some of the bits and that would make it back for sure. Thank you!

  8. OH MY! That is seriously an amazing find! I could only dream to come across something like that... and for ONLY $25!! Thanks for sharing @ TTF!

  9. I love all old ephemera. I scan mine into the computer to avoid using the actual old paper. Will you be listing these in your Etsy store? i would be interested in some pieces. Email me and let me know.

  10. I feel your excitement. I know it was interesting to go through.

    Hope your weekend is wonderful.

  11. You will make fabulous mixed media creations with these, I'm sure :) And I can understand why the descendents have hesitated to just destroy them and chosen to give them away - it is difficult to part with something members of your family have held in their hands, even if it is useless to you!

  12. OH wow!! that has to be the coolest purchase I've seen in a LONG LONG time, so amazing. I'm not sure what I would do with it! I'm slightly craft defective, I THINK I make cool things and then I realize that no I don't .... Cant wait to see what YOU do with it though!!
    Sorry it took so long to come from Thrifter Share BUT I finally made it around to everyone who linked up, what a CRAZY week it was!

    1. Laura, I thought it was a pretty neat score too. There's so much of it that I'm a little overwhelmed with it. I need to sit down and REALLY go through it, make some copies, and make some decisions. No worries about getting over here at all. I understand completely. :)

  13. What an interesting find. I love the typography on those old time books. Good luck figuring out what to do with it all, I'm sorry I don't know what to tell you, but I understand your feeling it's personal now. Still if you use it for what you bought it for, at least it's keeping it all out of a landfill, where it would be totally forgotten. You can preserve some of their history by repurposing it...

  14. You were sure in the right place at the right time! What an amazing treasure box, and for only $25 you did really well. Thank you for sharing at Vintage Inspiration Party.


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