Posts Tagged ‘trade cards’

Late 18th century/early 19th century patent medicines, particularly the old English remedies, owed their popularity to the following fact.  The multitude of ingredients inside might have varied (unbeknownst to the customer), but the bottle shape did not.  A patent medicine’s proprietor believed this distinctiveness leant genuineness to their remedy. 

Victorian trade card, bottle of Ayers Cherry Pectoral

Victorian trade card, bottle of Ayers Cherry Pectoral

Distinctive packaging may have made patent medicines easily recognizable to even the most illiterate, but it also made them vulnerable to counterfeiters.  Naïve proprietors eventually got smart and began to vary their packaging using differing bottle heights, mouth widths, and bottle inscriptions in order to deter counterfeiters.  This may also explain why many of today’s products, not just over the counter medicines, change their packaging from time to time.  Why chance loosing sales to an unscrupulous competitor?

Victorian Trade Card Ayers Ague Cure

close up of bottle on back of Victorian trade card advertising Ayers Ague Cure (notice the similarity in bottle shapes)

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Thought I would post a couple of comical Victorian trade cards to “lift” the winter blues.  Spring can’t come fast enough for me.

Comical stock card of man leaping over fence to leave dog behind.

Comical stock card of man leaping over fence to leave dog behind rather than having a bite taken out of him. (ouch!)

Minard Liniment Victorian Trade Card

Patent medicine Victorian trade card advertising Minard's Liniment for Nelson & Co. of Boston (poor guy)

Sweet Home Soap Victorian Trade Card
Victorian Trade Card advertising Sweet Home Soap for J.S. Larkin & Co. of Buffalo, NY (what kid wants to take a bath?)

* More great Victorian trade cards for sale can be found at Remember When Vintage Postcards.

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Puzzle cards were a type of novelty victorian trade card used in late 19th century advertising to capture and keep a potential customer’s attention.  Puzzle cards differed from other novelty trade cards in that they required more effort and concentration by customers.  Below is an example of a puzzle card with hidden pictures.

Carters Backache Plasters Puzzle Trade Card

Carters Backache Plasters Puzzle Trade Card: see if you can find an elephant, monkey, giraff, bear, dog, wild boar, 2 camels, wolf, 2 rats, face, lion, lioness, and tapir.

TIP:  Hidden Picture Trade Cards with color images are scarce.  Also look for hidden picture trade cards with unusual hidden objects like “nigger eating watermelon” or “fat man on roller skates”.

** You can find more victorian trade cards with great advertising and graphics in my store, Remember When Vintage Postcards.

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Atmore's Mince Meat Trade Card - Santa Claus

Atmore's Mince Meat Victorian Trade Card showing Santa Claus (1 of 8 in set printed by Ketterlinus)

It is always tough for me to find info on the companies behind various Victorian trade cards.  I thought I’d pass along a resource/place to look when researching trade cards in your collection.

I found info on Atmore & Sons in an 1879 general survey of factories and mills in Philadelphia, PA.  It had detailed info on the factory building, plus where various business functions occured (canning on west side of factory in shed also used for wagons, main building – dried fruit storage in basement, fruit sorting on third floor, apple paring on second floor, etc).

I also found out this factory was not their first as it was erected in 1878 and the business was established in 1842.  So, where were they previously?  For now that will remain a mystery.

Anotherwards, look in old building survey records for info on companies and how, when, and where they operated.

** More great Victorian trade cards to research (and buy) available in my store, Remember When Vintage Postcards.

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Hills Optician Victorian Trade Card

Victorian Trade Card advertisement for Vivian W. Hills, Optician, of Norway, ME

Part of the claim on back reads, “… HILLS has fitted cases that the “so called opticians” said could not be fitted.  Thousands of eyes are spoiled by the use of spects not perfectly adapted to the eye…”  This claim seems to reinforce an entry from the Optical Journal of 1901 that warned of troublesome itinerant peddlers – “If you value your eyesight, you will place no confidence in the statements of tramps who go from house to house selling spectacles. They will tell you your eyes are diseased and nothing but their electric or magnetised glasses will save you from blindness. Such talk is an insult to your intelligence.”.  Sounds like wild claims aren’t confined to patent medicines.  Electric eyeglasses?  Interesting.
Trivia:  Zylonite,or zyl, is the most common type of plastic frame today.
** Additional Victorian trade cards for sale in my store, Remember When Vintage Postcards.

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Patent Medicine trade card for Hood's Sarsaparilla made by C.I. Hood & Co. of Lowell, MA

I always read what a medicine claims to “cure” before buying, to ensure I get just what I need and not more.  I’m not interested in overmedicating.  People living during the late 1800s might’ve had a difficult time following my lead.  Read below to see what I mean.

Hood’s Sarsaparilla contains the following ingredients:

Sarsaparilla (or Grandular): perennial trailing vine with prickly stems native to Central America.  It is also known as a type of soda.

Yellow Dock: perennial flowering herb used for blood and liver problems, dermatitus, and venereal diseases.  It’s powdered yellow roots were thought to’ve medicinal properties, and used as a mouthwash and dentifrice.

Wild Cherry: traditional Native American remedy for respiratory infections and anxiety.  It’s primary use over time has evolved into a component of cough syrup.

Dandelion: nutritious food whose leaves contain substantial levels of several vitamins and minerals.  The root’s historical use includes the treatment of breast diseases, water retention, digestive problems, joint pain, fever, and skin diseases.

Juniper: Its berries were used to assist in childbirth, treat congestive heart failure, stimulate menstruation (what??), treat gonorrhea (wait, didn’t yellow dock already do that?), and urinary tract infections.

Pipsissewa (or Prince’s Pine): a rare, small evergreen plant growing 3-10 inches tall sometimes used to flavor candy and root beer.  It’s leaves and stems act as a diuretic, astringent, and tonic alterative.  It is great with cardiac and kidney diseases, chronic rheumatism and scrofula.  **MN is one place it’s found.

Stillingia: a strong stimulant to immune cells.

Mandrake: plant often used for medicinal purposes as an anesthesia. If too much is taken, it can cause people to be delirious and have hallucinations.

So, basically Hood’s Sarsaparilla is a flavored, medicinal soda used to treat anything under the sun.  Geez, it even sounds like it could CAUSE medical problems; especially if mandrake’s included.  So much for not overmedicating.

** If you liked this Victorian trade card blog post on Hood’s Sarsaparilla, please click on either the buttons below or to the lower right.  Thank you for visiting!

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Sometimes I find the most unexpected content on a Victorian trade card.  In this case, I found comedy on the back of one advertising E.E. Whitne Boots & Shoes.  Although the front is quite funny (a boy hanging onto his dog’s tail for dear life), the back’s glued on newspaper clipping will leave you groaning. 

A Sunday School Assignment’s Funny Results 


Victorian trade card advertising E.E. Whitne Boots & Shoes of Hillsdale, MI

Here is what I found on the back: 

A Sunday school teacher who was accustomed to giving her scholars a verse to learn each week varied her usage on Sunday by allotting to each of her scholars three names to commit to memory.  One little five-year-old boy, who had for his lesson the names, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” scratched his head, threw up his eyes, and timidly replied, “Shake the bed, Make the bed, To bed we go.” 

Out of the mouths of babes… 


*   You can find more Victorian trade cards in my store, Remember When Vintage Postcards. 

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