Welcome! If this is your first visit, you might be a bit confused. There’s a certain homogeneous look to personal / promotional websites, based on popular Wordpress templates. The big hero image, the sidebar, the boxes with icons and big text, all that crap. Or there’s something quite spare, with a picture of the host in a circle.

What is this thing?

Simple: The anteroom of the internet’s most diverse, idiosyncratic, and individually curated pop-culture museum. Note: that’s the last time I’ll use “curated.” It’s pretentious.

But it’s true! I am pretentious. Also, this site is a one-man effort, assembled over two decades, its innumerable sub-sites gathered together under general, vague rubrics.

It’s not some idle project, occasionally updated. The Bleat, a blog that’s celebrating its 21st year, contains a M-F essay, some piece of old commercial ephemera, a rotating feature on everything from cliffhanger serials to old radio to main street America to the ads of the 1930s or 1970s, and a link to the daily site update.

And that's just the blog. Scroll down for the total enormity. I hope you enjoy the site. Twenty-three years, and counting.

Lileks

2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the Institute? A good question. It began as a repository for odd things I scanned - and by “scanned,” I mean I took pictures with a video camera, and used a frame grabber to get the images. Cheap scanners didn’t exist.

As time went on, anything that was “vintage” or “retro” and could be gently mocked went into the Institute.

HERE'S the main page. Some of the popular sites:

The Gallery of Regrettable Food. The classic from 1997, it spawned two books. Still updated - with a huge addition in 2019, and more coming in 2021.

Interior Desecrations: bad interior design of the 60s and 70s.

The Gobbler: the Grooviest Motel in Wisconsin. Redone in 2019.

The Art of Art Frahm: the effect of celery on underwear elastic.

The Permanent Collection of Impermanent Art: what if we treated advertising illustration with the same pretentious analysis we use for museum art?

And much, much more.

 

 

 

Yes, I'm taking on the entire century. Except for the 90s. This has been ten years in the making, and the 50s site - the pinnacle of the project, perhaps - debuts this year.

The Oughts & Tens. New in 2019, and underpopulated.

The Twenties. Updated in early 2021. There's magazines covers, and a rather significant selection of movie ads from Film Daily magazine, and some spicy - but SFW - publications.

The Thirties. More new items coming in 2021 as well.

Sears 1934: 100 pages from the catalog, scanned, color-corrected, and annotated.

Magazine ads. I don’t know how many, exactly. Lots.

Bygone hooch. A site devoted to brands that have passed from memory.

A kitchen brochure. What things looked like.

Magazine covers.

Music. Playlists of the hits of each year.

The 1933 World's Fair. Yeah, we need another site about this - but it has some stuff you might not have seen. Also - the 1939 World's Fair!

 

The Forties.

Patriotica: a big collection of WW2 ads, brochures for the home front, and more.

Childhood magazines.

Non-war cultural ephemera, like wallpaper catalogs, 1941 Gudie to LA, Homemaker's Guide, and more.

 

The Fifites. Coming in the summer of 2021, and contining through 2022 and probably beyond.

 

The Sixties. The Twilight of the Grown-Ups. You'll find sites with these topics, and more:

Ads. Of course.

Catalogs. Huge! Two year of fashion.

Dream Homes. A collection of rambler art.

LA Dining 1962

Chain Store Age. An industry periodical.

World's Fair 1964. There are bigger sites, I'm sure.

Circulars. Meant to be tossed, but someone kept them.

Radio spots. A few brisk examples of period shilling.

1961 vs 1969. Dining tips. New in 2021.

 

The Seventies. Lots of brown horrors. We have:

The Ice Follies. Three years of programs.

The Faces of Match Game. Says it all.

The Faces of the Price is Right. The hairstyles!

Punk 77: how to be a punk

Search. My favorite show when I was a kid.

Sears 1973: a small selection of fashion.

Sears 1976: Bicentennial styles.

Bad Cartoons: Saturday morning horrors.

Swoon, girls: Odd Bobby Sherman comic.

Radio. PSAs and beautiful music from early 70s airchecks.

Dorcusella: lingerie from the early 70s

 

The Eighties. New in 2019, and one of my favorites.

1986 Sears Catalog.

TV ads. You'll also find trailers and promos

Magazine ads.

And more! Give it a look.

 

 

 

 

A study of old newspaper cartoons, as well as an extensive archive of comic book covers and ads. Contains several subsites:

Jerry on the Job, a 1920s gag strip that used the flip-take a bit too much

Scoop, the Cub Reporter. From the WW1 era.

Briggs. Influential and popular 19teens cartoonist. Through 2019.

Webster. Beloved, amiable observer of life.

Glyuas Williams. Utterly unique.

Mr. Coffeenerves, a real bastard. Updated in 2020.

Everett True, another real bastard

Lance Lawson, a short-lived Minneapolis you-solve-it strip

High-Pressure Pete, another obscure 20s strip

Worst Comics Ever. In my opinion. Includes a bad Spirit someone was kind enough to show to Will Eisner.

Abian Wallgren: his WW1 soldier comics.

King Features: the entire 1949 line up of artists and strips. More than fifty!

The Enormous & Needless Comic Book Site

Cover archive

Gee it's Swell: comic book ads from the 40s to the 70s

 

 

 

The American Motel. The great signs of the days before the chains changed everything. Ongoing throughout the yast half of the year. Hundrds of cards!

Coffee and Chrome: old restaurant postcards. Updated in the second quarter of 2021.

 

 

 

 

Quite possibly the largest collection of matchbooks on the internet, if that means anything. Certainly the most extensively annotated. A history of American 20th century advertising in its most portable form.

The main index is here.

 

 

Also known as Miscellany, depending on the year. This site began as a dumping ground for ideas that didn’t fit anywhere else. It’s grown to rival the Institute in size. As time goes on, various sites are moved to places where they fit in a bit better. The main index page is HERE. The sites are:

SCI-FI COVERS Illustrations from the days of rockets and cheap paperbacks. Updated in 2016.

FRANK READE JR. A look at the 19th century Tom Swift.

Grand Hotels: huge old hostels.

Big Tiny Little: his life in album art.

Cruise Ships of yore: the SS Lurline: the SS California; the SS Caronia.

The Distant City: a strange trope of comics.

Migny: a 70s Paris hotel brochure.

A Girl in NYC: She sent a friend a letter in the 1920s.

Postcard Portfolios: The art of the souvenir brochure

Missing: ads from people looking for long-lost friends in the 1940s

Goodbye to Telegrams: the forgotten art of telegrams.

Short History of Swimsuits. Old news-service photos of bathing beauties.

The Letters from the Antique Store. A tale told in ephemera.

Hotel Stationery. Engravings and current views, if possible.

1953 Buick: a gorgeous brochure for the year’s models.

Labels and Caps. Just that.

Radio promotional books. So far, just WNAX.

XMAS in 1960s women's mags.

And that's just the half of it! Go HERE for the entire list.

 

 

Cities Old and New. Some of these sites are new; others are in need of a refresh. We have:

Minneapolis. It has old views, present views .

New York. Old postcard views of office buildings and hotels; a look at Times Square; some of my shots.

Main Streets. Bygone town centers before the malls emptied them out.

Malls of Yore: 1960s mall postcards.

Main street on Google Street Views. Links to the ongoing Bleat feature celebrating the greatest documentary project of the 21st century.

Modern Churches: modernism applied to religious structures.

Ghost Ads. Faded pictures painted on brick walls.

Main Streets at Night: neon!

 

 

 

I keep forgetting about this site. It’s a salute to wavy lines in tiny pictures! It’s odd to forget something like this, because it has approximately 13 bazillion pages.

Curious Lucre: the money of other lands. NOTE: Undergoing a rehab; mostly offline until 2022.

The Gallery of Corporate Allegory. The art of Stock Certificates.

First-Day Covers: lots of vignettes of people, places, and events celebrated by the Postal Service. It’s not as dull as it sounds.

 

 

The Diner My old KSTP AM-1500 radio show is back in podcast form. Over eighty half-hour episodes available - with some original shows from the 90s as well.

Bleatophany. Remixes and compositions.

 

 

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