Skip to main content
american broadsides banner

American Broadsides and Ephemera

Rare, printed documents illuminate the history and culture of the United States
Learn what makes this product unique
  • Thirty thousand searchable images of rare, printed items that weren’t intended to last
  • Includes colorful political notices, confessions, songs, menus, advertisements and much more
  • A powerful resource that captures the daily lives of earlier Americans for modern researchers

Broadsides and ephemera were an affordable way for many 18th- and 19th-century Americans to express their views, share news, or distribute their writings publicly, and they vividly capture the daily lives of earlier Americans in a way that no other material can. Nearly every town had a newspaper printer, and these printers kept their presses busy creating inexpensive material like broadsides, advertisements, trade cards, billheads and ballads. Much of this ephemera was subsequently destroyed by the elements, reused, or simply tossed away. 

Built in partnership with the American Antiquarian Society, American Broadsides and Ephemera features searchable, full-color digital facsimiles of these rare, locally-printed documents from across the country. This digital collection includes 15,000 broadsides printed between 1820 and 1900 and 15,000 pieces of ephemera printed between 1749 and 1900. Many are graphically stunning, in contrast to other contemporary printed items. 

Fascinating documents on local and national subjects 
The remarkably diverse subjects of the broadsides in this collection range from contemporary accounts of the Civil War and natural disasters to government proclamations and town meeting reports. The collection also offers confessions of convicted criminals, theater playbills and concert programs, publishers’ prospectuses, patriotic and popular songs and poems, campaign literature, items illustrating political party organizations and controversies and much more. 

An unfiltered glimpse into 18th- and 19th-century America 
The ephemera in this digital edition include a large number of detailed advertisements, often with full-color illustrations. Among them are image-rich ads for the clipper ships that sailed between the east and west coasts after the discovery of gold in California. Others include early trade cards—generally a printed notice of available goods or services—which offer insight into the consumer culture and business practices of the period. Billheads not only offer information about tradesmen’s products and prices, but also document what consumers purchased. In addition, there are hundreds of stock certificates illustrated with manufacturers’ vignettes, invitations and agendas for civic, political and private meetings, and other image-rich items. 

Seamless integration with all Readex collections 
American Broadsides and Ephemera is fully integrated into Readex AllSearch for a seamless searching and browsing experience with all other Readex collections to jumpstart research and quickly navigate results.

Give It a Try
Take a step toward access for your library
“…increasingly important…
“Broadsides and ephemera....are visual, easy to get a quick sense of, and have an immediate impact on students.”
J. Andrew Armacost, Collection Development Librarian, Duke University
Areas of Study
This product supports the following subjects
American Studies
Early American Studies
Literature & Theater
Religion & Theology
US History
Women's Studies
Title List
Reviews & Accolades
Notable Titles
Chronological Segments
Series List
Case Study
Advisory Board
Request Product Information

I am interested in:


Tell your Library

Recommend this product to your institution

Provide your contact information, and we’ll let your library know of your interest.

Note: This will enable us to share your recommendation with the correct person.
institution info


Reason for recommendation
Request a Custom Course Map

Thank you for your interest in receiving a complimentary custom course map for this product.

Once your course map request is received, we'll send a customized document detailing how this product aligns with courses at your institution.

I am also interested in:


Contact Information

Stay in Touch

Receive product news, special offers and invitations, or the acclaimed Readex Report

Sign Up

By clicking "Sign Up", you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.