Ephemera has been of particular interest to scholars of various disciplines in recent years. In fact, the upcoming University of Tulsa English Graduate Student Conference is focused on this topic. The Alice in Wonderland Ephemera (1000.014) is one of the department’s many collections that feature ephemeral artifacts.
While on a picnic in 1862, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson invented a story about a young girl who falls down a rabbit hole in response to the pleas of Lorina, Alice, and Edith Liddell, children of the dean of Christ Church where Dodgson taught mathematics. Ten-year-old Alice requested that Dodgson write down the story for her, which he did in a green notebook complete with his own illustrations. Three years later, Dodgson published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, now usually abbreviated as Alice in Wonderland, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. Though Dodgson particularly enjoyed drawing and sketching, John Ruskin had advised him that his talents as an artist were limited; thus, Dodgson enlisted a professional, John Tenniel, to produce illustrations for Alice.
Dodgson and Tenniel did not have a pleasant working relationship. Dodgson frequently critiqued Tenniel’s illustrations, which resulted in Tenniel refusing to work with Dodgson again after he illustrated Alice’s sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). Despite their professional enmity, Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice and Through the Looking-Glass are beloved images. Indeed, some might argue that they are inseparable from the text. It is almost impossible to discuss Dodgson’s works without immediately picturing Tenniel’s famous illustrations of Alice, the Cheshire Cat, and the Caterpillar in one’s mind.
The Alice in Wonderland Ephemera contains a variety of artifacts featuring Tenniel’s illustrations. The Tenniel-related items included in this collection are: a collector’s antique replica embossed cut-out paper dolls sheet; a pencil tin with a scene from Alice in Wonderland printed on the lid; a rubber stamp depicting Alice, the March Hare, the Dormouse, and the Mad Hatter; an Alice in Wonderland notched card construction and building set; and an Alice in Wonderland card game. This collection also contains a flip book by E. Rayher titled Alice’s Flip Book. When the pages are turned quickly, the Cheshire Cat disappears until all that remains is his smile.