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Advertising and symbolism

Trade Cards

Trade cards were a form of advertising very popular between the 1870s and 1900. The development of chromolithography would for the first time enable the mass printing of coloured designs, prompting the Golden Age of the Trade Card.

To start with printer’s offered stock prints to which the company’s details could be added, this meant the same image could be used for a huge variety of companies and products. However larger companies soon saw the opportunity to create personal designs, these quickly developed in a range of unique and eye-catching designs. These became hugely popular with the public and many people collected them, indeed this is the origin of the term ‘trading cards’. Studying them today gives a unique glimpse into attitudes and expectations held at the time.