Advertising ephemera – ads, trade cards and labels, and poster stamps – offer many avenues of research. Important for providing information on products, prices, and distribution networks, they also offer insights into everyday life through images of store displays, street scenes, and domestic interiors. These items range in date from the late 1700s into the mid 1900s, displaying a range of printing techniques and advertising strategies, and represent the shift from handcrafted to machine-made products.
Trade cards & labels
Appearing in England in the mid 17th century and in America in the 1720s, many early trade cards were elaborately engraved with cartouches, products, and shop signs to direct customers to sellers’ locations, with reverse sides sometimes doubling as invoices. As chromolithography became more popular and made printing items much cheaper, trade cards in the late 1800s typically showed colorful images of children, flowers, and animals, families at home, and comic scenes. The size also became more standardized to better fit into small product packages as an extra reminder to consumers to continue buying. Trade cards and labels have been collectible throughout their history; early ones as engraved prints, later ones as material for scrapbooks. The use of trade cards declined around 1900 as magazine advertising became more popular.
Miniature posters slightly larger than postage stamps, these stamps were adhered to envelopes, packages, and correspondence to advertise and promote products, services, events, exhibitions, and geographic areas. Popular in the early decades of the 1900s, poster stamps were eclipsed by radio advertising in the 1930s.
For a complete list of subject headings for trade cards, see the finding aid: http://findingaid.winterthur.org/html/HTML_Finding_Aids/COL0009.htm.
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