I’ve made a few additions to my trade card collection over the summer, and found some nice early examples in various archives. So it seemed like time for another post, as my last one on these early business cards was months ago. So many of these cards were produced in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that you can easily get lost in a sea of paper if you are thinking about starting a collection, so it’s best to narrow down your interests–by location, businesses, images, era, etc..I am always on the lookout for Salem cards, of course, as well as drums, horseshoes, elephants and anything to do with upholstery and upholsterers.
I found a few cards for Frank Cousins, my favorite turn-of-the-century Salem entrepreneur/photographer, this summer, including drum and horseshoe images. Very exciting. These both date from the 1890s; I particularly like the Who is Frank Cousins? tagline–it seems quite modern.
Some more Salem items. Early trade cards are impossible to find (they are ephemeral after all) so the best place to look for them is in the collections of historical museums and libraries. The two cards below, from the first decade of the nineteenth century, represent two businesses that were flourishing in Salem’s golden age of prosperity. As you can see the first card (from Mystic Seaport) is showing its age, while that of Jabez Baldwin, a prosperous silversmith and clockmaker (from the American Antiquarian Society), still looks pretty good.
Much more attainable cards include these two colored cards from the end of the nineteenth century. I have no idea why strange-looking–even scary–clowns were good for business but they pop up quite often on trade cards. These are not images I collect but I can’t seem to avoid them.
I can find lots of clowns, but very few upholstery trade cards, which is what I’m really looking for. I love this great eighteenth-century example from the Victoria & Albert Museum: what a great image and historical source. A century before photography, it’s an (albeit idealistic) window into Christopher Gibson’s London upholstery shop, with both customers and craftsmen present. Below the Gibson card is a much less interesting one for the Boston upholsterers Copp & Pear from the later nineteenth century and the collection of the American Antiquarian Society. No Salem upholsterers yet.
There’s another clown in this last card, but at least he is accompanied by two elephants! There’s quite a few trade cards with elephant images (owing to the popularity of Jumbo, I think), but like this one, they’re all for national businesses and brands. I’d really like to find a local, less-standardized example.