Getting Carded

By Olivia Millunzi, Heritage Frederick | Posted on 01.14.22 – History, Look Back

Advertising cards, also known as trade cards, were most popular from about 1870 to 1900. The advent of color lithography dramatically lowered the cost of multicolor printing and allowed the average business to advertise using eye-catching images printed on cardstock. Usually, the image was printed first and the business name and other text were added later. In this example, E.S. Brandt & Son’s Furniture & Carpet Bazar used a stamp to add its company name to its cards.

Trade cards were carried by traveling salesmen or included in packaging for store purchases. The novelty of multicolor printing complemented the Victorian-era penchant for collecting and scrapbooking, making the cards highly valued. Collectors often traded cards to acquire specific designs or to complete sets of cards from a certain company. But by 1900, color printing became widely available, leading to a decline in interest in advertising cards.