I've been giving a lot of thought, these days, to marketing and social media. While I love, the visual feast that is Instagram, I'm still quite old-fashioned, with a weakness for paper and ink. Victorian trade cards (state of the art business marketing tools back in the day) are one of my favorite categories of ephemera- the graphics, wit and vivid colors are captivating. I have some amazing examples in my collection.
That said, don't neglect to follow my Instagram account for daily posts and first dibs on new merchandise. You can now purchase items (any items with a listed price) directly…pretty nifty…almost as cool as…trade cards?
Trade cards originated in England in the 1700s with tradesmen advertising their wares. But the advent of lithography in the 1870s made it possible to mass-produce them in color, leading to a golden age from 1876 to the early 1900s when halftone printed newspaper and magazine ads became more economical.
Trade cards typically had a picture on one side and an ad on the other. Some of my personal favorites were produced by the Soapine soap company of RI. Their cards were so clever and charming- especially the reoccurring theme of washing the whale with the caption "Soapine DID IT". Adorable.
For more on Soapine and their trade cards, you can read this article Whale Washing by the Ephemera Society.
Some other examples of trade card-like advertising were quite elaborate. Some companies produced collectible series, such as Arbuckle Coffee's state cards.
Still other companies produced lavishly illustrated pamphlets as a premium to their customers, such as Chase and Sanborn's lovely North American Birds.
Or the cute Seven Barks health tonic- the cover is pictured below, but the booklet also contained entertaining stories.