The Daily Heller: Pop Goes the Paper

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Despite UX, UI, AR, AARP and all the other letters in the digital alphabet soup, I get no kicks from AI. Rather, paper engineering is my special FX stimulant of choice. With so many pixels running rampant on phones, watches and smart-this-and-that, cut and transformed paper—and especially pop-up devices—hold my attention.

That breed of vintage material may seem quaint compared to the marvels that are easily downloaded from the cloud—but it remains quite satisfying. And if you agree and want to be satisfied with old but no less complex engineering, an exhibition at the Grolier Club in New York City may be right for you. Animated Advertising: 200 Years of Premiums, Promos and Pop-ups highlights eye-catching and informative materials that promoted food, fashion, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, travel, music and politics.

Currently on view through Feb. 11 in the Grolier Club’s second floor gallery, the exhibition is curated by Ellen G. K. Rubin and drawn from her extensive pop-up and movable book and ephemera collection. She traces how advertising advanced during the 19th century with printing and manufacturing inventions. The 170 or more objects on view in the exhibition are embellished with interactive paper features—such as pull tabs and moving pieces—and comprise games, trading cards and collectible sets.

“To sell a product, one’s attention must be grabbed and held onto,” Rubin noted. “Paradoxically, the material that was the most fragile and meant not to be saved oftentimes demonstrated the most complex mechanisms. I have come to treasure and be grateful for these ephemeral objects, which are decades, if not centuries, old, and were kept, valued and passed down through generations.”

Kellogg’s. Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures, 1932. 61⁄2 x 13”. Photo: Nicole Neehan.
Kellogg’s. Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures, 1932. 61⁄2 x 13”. Photo: Nicole Neehan.
Matsuzakaya Department Store, Ueno, Japan [c. 1930]. 43⁄4 x 73/8”. Photo: Nicole Neehan.
Wonder Bread, The Guide to United States Warships [c. 1940s]. 47/8 x 41⁄2”. Photo: Nicole Neehan.
Instant Maxwell House Coffee. History of Our Presidents, Graphics International, Los Angeles [c. 1963]. 10 pp., 93⁄4 x 75/8”; with the printed mailer. Photo: Nicole Neehan.
Instant Maxwell House Coffee. History of Our Presidents, Graphics International, Los Angeles [c. 1963]. 10 pp., 93⁄4 x 75/8”; with the printed mailer. Photo: Nicole Neehan.
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