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Trading wind

‘Everything changes, everything progresses…’ This Gem is a trade card, a business card for companies which would have been distributed to clients and potential customers to advertise their products, services and contact details. This card was produced for the French wine company, Byrrh, probably during the 1930s. It was part of a series of trade…

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Tilting at windmills

“Those over there are not giants but windmills.” You’ve probably heard the common phrase ’tilting at windmills’, which, as the well-read amongst you might know, originates in the misadventures of Don Quixote – the influential novel written by the Spanish writer Cervantes in the early 17th century. As an idiom it refers to wasting time, fighting imaginary…

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Mill of old age

Some mills have miraculous powers. This postcard was produced by the Belgium publisher Marco Marchovici in the early 20th century. The illustration is of elderly women entering the ‘Mill of Old Age’ on the right. On leaving the mill they have been transformed into glamorous young ladies. In the middle of the mill there is…

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Unfolding a new era

You never know what may lie inside an advertisement. This Gem is a trade card for Washburn Crosby Company Flour Mills, produced in around 1890 to advertise their Gold Standard Flour. What makes this trade card a Gem is the fascinating folding design: the picture of a traditional windmill on the front of the card…

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Germans reborn

Mills are often used as a symbol of rebirth. This intriguing Gem is a pre-First World War postcard entitled ‘The Reservist Mill’. It depicts German recruits going into the mill and coming out as reservists – the image explained by a poem underneath the mill: ‘Just as the finely-milled cornComes out as flourThe Recruit goes…

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Napoleon’s folly

A supposed French invasion craft designed to cross the channel during the Napoleonic Wars. In the late 1790s, Britain was gripped by the scare of an invasion by the infamous French warlord Napoleon Bonaparte. Over the channel he was amassing his forces; rumours of his conquests were rife and everyone knew he had set his…

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