Today as I write, this large, reverse-painted-on-glass nineteenth-century advertising sign is to be auctioned by Morphy’s. The image of a whale being cleaned by Soapine is one of those truly classic vintage images, and variations on the theme are popular collectibles. (For that matter, any item of 19th-century ephemera featuring a whale is a sought-after collectible.)
Here is a similar large reverse painting Soapine advertising piece, sold by the Julia firm a while back . . .
There also exist several paper wooden box labels, some of which may also have functioned as store signs . . .
Arguably the most popular Soapine trade card is found in two versions, which are of two slightly different sizes . . .
The Soapine product box itself bore the whale-washing image, and the package itself appears on various of the trade cards . . .
The box’s front label design was also adapted into a trade card (actually, several trade cards, as there are a number of slight variations of the same basic design . . .
The most scarce Soapine trade card is this large one ( 4 5/8? x 6? ) . . .
A portion of a paper product wrapper:
An 1889 Kendall Manufacturing Company Soapine billhead . . .
The front cover of a scarce pamphlet about Soapine’s premiums offers . . .
A pioneer advertising postcard with a chromo image on the reverse side . . .
There is also a slew of small Soapine trade cards, many of which feature a “gold” ink background. (Those interested should obtain a copy of Soapine Did It! / An Illustrated History of Kendall’s 19th Century Soap Advertising Campaign, by Dave Cheadle and Bill Lee, 2000)
Interestingly, in 2006 the country of Romania issued postal stationery featuring two of these American Soapine advertising trade card images . . .
In an earlier blog, I made the point that the “separate hobbies” of collecting paper, stamps, postal history, prints, and antique objects are often—perhaps always—part of the same historical trail, one encompassing hobby. Some folks chose to focus in one or another aspect, others collect a bit of everything.
The merchandising artifacts of H. W. Carter of New Hampshire provide one example of rather diverse items each contributing to the same historical story. I will post just a few Carter items from the many that can be found.
Note: After I finished writing this, I came across an article on the Historic New England website, complete with a very informative video, entitled Connecting the Threads: Overalls to Art at the H. W. Carter Sons Factory, which can be seen at:
Henry Wood Carter, born in Concord, NH set up shop out of his house and barn in Lebanon, NH. Dubbed “The Merchant Price”, Carter became a wide-ranging traveling peddler, driving a series of colorful horse-drawn wagons all around the region. He sold a very long list of notions domestic and foreign, dozens and dozens . . . watches, jewelry, cutlery, combs, thread, silk, buttons, perfumes, soap, wallets, guitar strings, boxes, stationery, brushes, fans, “segars”, you name it.
Along the way, he dropped paper trails.
An early broadside folder, with an extensive list of available notions inside . . .
A mailed advertising cover, which contained the broadside above . . .
A different, somewhat later illustrated advertising cover, sent on the road, mailed in the town of Hillsboro Bridge, sent to the town of Henniker . . .
An 1864 billhead with Civil War revenue stamp (Carter’s place in Lebanon is pictured, though the billhead was made out to an individual in Concord, on the road) . . .
An 1870 billhead (made out to a business in Sutton, on the road) . . .
Meanwhile, Henry having ceased his traveling merchant days, H. W. Carter & Sons for several generations made and sold work clothes . . . coats, overalls, shirts. The business continued under the Carter family and then the Jackson family until 1985, when production at the Lebanon factory ended when new owners moved the business to the South.
A postcard . . .
A Carter’s railroad uniform button . . .
In 1869, Carter’s nephew William S. Carter and a disaffected former salesman named Frank C. Churchill set up a competing operation very nearby HW’s place, which displeased him greatly. In 1880, the Carter & Churchill Company started to make clothing, under the “Profile” label, named for New Hampshire’s famous “Old Man of the Mountain” profile. They later moved exclusively into ski clothing, still labeled “Profile”.
A Carter & Churchill woodcut trade card . . .
An advertisement . . .
An 1896 billhead . . .
A stock trade card (a preceding card shows the photographer setting up to photograph the alligator) . . .
Today, the former Carter & Church factory is a thriving art studio and gallery venue named Ava Gallery, which itself produces modern ephemera of various sorts . . .
So many kinds of interesting ephemera, so little time.
I find match scratchers, a useful thing to have on hand back in the day of ubiquitous wooden matches, to be pretty interesting. There are all sorts of ceramic and other pottery match scratchers (also called match strikers) out there; those don’t much interest me, personally. But I do enjoy coming across examples on cardstock . . . on advertising cards, postcards, valentines, calendars. The striker itself was usually a bit of sandpaper. Many cards have diecut or grommet holes, for handy hanging on a nail near one’s stove or fireplace.
This Wistar’s scratcher also sported a circle of phosphorescent material, which would glow in the dark so that the card could be easily located in the dark . . .
Holiday and other greeting cards in the United States developed throughout the 19th century, but by the first decade of the 20th century, the industry was dominated by postcards designed and printed in Germany. That ended with the outbreak of WWI.
During “The War To End All Wars” (yeah, right), the greeting card industry in the USA began to crank up, especially after America’s entry into the war in April 1917. Some greeting cards were provided to the troops by the YMCA (who also provided postcards which soldiers could mail, for free, from Europe after their transport ship from America had safely docked, simply letting folks at home know that they had made the crossing safely. So far, so good.)
In Europe, over time, French card makers made available a range of cards for soldiers to mail home.
While many WWI greeting cards were of single card format or were postcards, cards that folded became increasingly popular during this period.
Some cards were created within a military unit, such as this Christmas 1918 black and white card from the 328th Field Artillery. . .
Many soldiers purchased embroidered silk cards, usually very patriotic, made in France and Belgium . . .
This postcard, mailed in 1919, would seem to be celebrating the Allied victory, by picturing Saint George Slaying the Dragon.
One of the basic human needs is to have a roof overhead to protect from rain, sleet, snow, high winds and wildlife looking to nest.
In new construction, roofing structure (lumber) is installed, topped off with some all-important waterproof sealant . . . tiles, slate, shingles, asphalt, tin, iron, steel, tar (sometimes with embedded gravel), canvas, rubberized paint, palm leaves, even—back in the pioneering days of the American West—sod. Over time, a roof’s direct exposure to weathering (not to mention the gnawing of rodents and the drilling of woodpeckers), requires that its protective cover be periodically renewed or replaced.
Over the decades and centuries, new products for the purpose have regularly been invented. A research study into the subject could be well-illustrated with vintage printed ephemera . . . much of which is also a rich lode of primary source detail.
Flat roofs always present a problem, because water sits and pools rather than running quickly off as it does on angled roofs. The H. W. Johns Manufacturing Company (above), a dealer specializing in asbestos construction materials, combined in 1901 with the Manville Covering Company to form the H. W. Johns-Mansville Company.
Back in the day, asbestos roofing shingles were widely used for roofing and for siding, long before its role in causing lung cancers had been realized. Even in this 21st century, it is not difficult to spot homes still sporting asbestos shingle siding, demonstrating just how long-lasting their protection can be. In many cases, they remain in place because they present little if any danger as they sit, but removal would inevitably disperse cancer-causing particles into the air.
Photography is generally considered to be one form of ephemera, and many photographs featuring roofs and roofing taken, and/or found by diligent collectors. . .
By and large, many folks think of the Victorian Era as a period of straight-laced, repressed conformity. But it was not, in any of a dozen different ways. One of the most wonderful things about Victorian graphics is the abundance of unexpected and totally delightful, off-the-wall fantasy concepts. Many of them are truly wild, from vegetable people to flying cherubs. Here are some examples.
It was the age of the Iron Horse, and bizarre images of locomotives flourished . . .
Other modes of transportation were likewise distorted in ways meant to catch attention in an era of blossoming advertising . . .
Animal people of every conceivable species were popular . . .
Exaggeration was a commonplace . . .
( ALL IMAGES UNDER COPYRIGHT AND MAY NOT BE USED WITHOUT PERMISSION )
The cultural past as codified in history books might be likened to the bare, standing steel framework of a skyscraper: we can see the broad outline, but not yet the myriad details which make the building come alive. Many a piece of printed ephemera that has somehow survived the vicissitudes of Time reveals a nugget or two of cultural information no longer available anywhere else. Much is always lost forever in the fog of passing Time, and the more Time that passes, the more that is lost.
We ephemerists come across the things we do one by one by one . . . on eBay, in dealer stock books, at flea markets, in archives, in attics. A newly unearthed or only-now-closely-examined item of ephemera can serve a number of useful purposes; to fill a gap in an existing series of related items, to serve up information about who / why / how / when / where to correct widely accepted but erroneous conventional wisdom. Collectors often agree that their’s is a “disease”, that a collection is hard to limit because so many new “finds” suggest yet more things to pursue. Each new nugget of information reveals further questions to ask, additional related items to seek. Part of the great fun of collecting is attempting to piece together from small clues unearthed in separate places a better understanding of how things really were in days gone by. Where non-collector friends and relatives see only time and money being squandered on old pieces of paper, ephemerists feel a bit like armchair Raiders of the Lost Ark or solvers of the Da Vinci Code, following breadcrumbs of obscure clues.
All of which is by way of introduction to the random items posted below, disparate pieces of ephemera each of which could be a new trailhead.
The Parisian photographer Yvon (born Pierre Yves Petit) took exceptional photographs of Paris street scenes in the 1920s-1930s when much of the flavor of more ancient Paris was still in existence. His lush gravure postcards are hugely popular. He signed his postcards, indicating his awareness that what he produced was art.
A menu for an 1882 oyster and wild game supper offers up some surprising fare . . .
This exceptional early reward of merit is a bit puzzling, as it is printed on a thin, glazed indigo blue paper stock more commonly seen on early labels.
This fishmonger advertising cover and small broadside are remarkable in their clean simplicity . . . no words at all, just the fish logo. It all feels quite modern now in the 21st century. An expert on fish tells me that the one pictured here existed only in the wood engraver’s imagination, and certainly never inhabited the Great Lakes. It would appear to be a cross between a tuna, a bass, and an anchovy.
Striking, fresh looking Victorian graphics on all sides of a tobacco tin . . .
This fellow had a unique way of trying to land a wife; wonder if it worked?. Notations on the back identify him as Lloyd Buddington, August 1935, Lake Compounse (Bristol, CT)
To guide an acquaintance apparently traveling to Paris, this person attached a label and stamp/seal from the Paul Prot & Co. (formerly, Lubin) brand of Damask Rose perfume requested . . .
An unusual format for a dentist’s advertisement . . .
A full-color chromolithography scenic letterhead pre-1900 is not often found. The image of the two factories is unusual also because it is two different factory views sharing a common blue sky with clouds . . .
A full-color chromolithography scenic advertising cover pre-1900 is likewise not often found. The color portion of this one is actually an applied label . . .
Here is something the likes of which I’d not seen before. It is a trade card featuring a stock cut of a pretty lady but clearly used to suggest that she was a prostitute some fellow wishes he had never met . . . all a promotion for a cure for venereal diseases (“Cures G & G” = gonorrhea and gleet). And then there is the matter of the name of the cure, Bonkocine. An online look tells me that the use of the verb “to bonk” likely originated in the 1970s. And yet here is this, one hundred years earlier . . .
One recognized collecting area is 19th-century images of Indians looking down from some height of land at the white man’s alleged “progress” . . . cities, factories, farms. Here a bison labeled “The Last of His Breed” gazes down; “What was only a few years ago the grazing ground of the buffalo is now the home of the McCormick” (agricultural equipment).
Allusions to Charles Darwin’s then-controversial 1859 book, The Origin of Species, surface in various trade cards and other ephemera, sometimes displaying the overt racism of the 19th century . . .
The Soldiers’ Messenger Corps was “A system of public messengers organized in this city under the auspices of the Bureau of Employment for Discharged Soldiers. The soldiers are placed at various stations where they can be called upon to convey parcels, messages, &c., to any part of the city. The first messenger, a one-armed veteran, took his station at No. 69 Wall Street yesterday. ——— The uniform of the messengers is blue, and they will wear on their caps a badge, with the letters ‘S.M.C.’ signifying Soldiers’ Messenger Corps.” (New York Times, August 19, 1865) Each received a commission and a certificate. As indicated on the salmon coated stock card below, the system was also set up in Boston. Bacon’s Dictionary of Boston, 1886, offers great detail about the various stations and routes in Boston, where the official garb was “a red fatigue cap marked “’Soldiers’ Messenger Corps”.
There are maps and there are maps. True believers of every stripe have long come to all sorts of strange conclusions based upon passages selectively mined from the Bible. A “Professor Orlando Ferguson” copyrighted this 1893 map “proving” that the world is flat, with an angel at each corner, and that the sun revolves around the earth. He also ridicules the idea that if the earth revolved around the sun, it would have to be moving at thousands of miles per hour (which, of course, we now know to be the case).
This unusually small (4 3/4? x “3) divided back postcard appears to show that Mr. Monsen was offered “your ad goes here” space on his company vehicle . . . and patting himself on the back for such “clever and original exploitation”.
A 1955 greeting card joking about its McCarthy era paranoia (“but don’t worry, you’re in the clear”) . . .
One of my favorite types of 19th century printed ephemera are small handbills, printed by local job printers, and handed out around town to announce some immediate performance or sale, often enough touting some event to be held that very evening. These handouts commonly featured bold wood type to catch the eye.
I am ancient enough to well remember the days when goods and services were delivered to the home . . . ice, coal, milk, dry cleaning, firewood, fuel oil, kerosene—even doctor care. Our family doc made visits to the house whenever anyone was too ill to visit his office (which was located in his own home). His father and his grandfather had also been family docs, working out of that same house.
Many of the companies that delivered to the home used printed cardboard cards that were to be displayed in a street-facing window to instruct the driver about how much/many to deliver. Window cards make an interesting collectible.
Before refrigerators came ice boxes, insulated boxes in the kitchen held the spoilable foodstuffs, with cold ice stored above in a separate insulated compartment. The ice melted over time and needed to be replaced regularly. An iceman would bring a requested amount to the door, and the resident then placed it into the icebox or broke it into smaller pieces as necessary with an icepick. Most icemen were of necessity strong, as each cubic foot of ice weighed almost 60 pounds.
Ice cards were arranged in the window so that the requested amount for each delivery was at the top.
Booklets of prepaid coupons were widely used for payment for ice and some other goods:
Most ice cards worked so that the number at the top indicated how much ice was wanted, but some showed the desired amount at the bottom. This ice card (below) asks on the back that patrons “assist the iceman in making deliveries early and promptly by having the ice chamber ready and ice coupon book handy.”
Milk and other dairy products arrived in time for breakfast. In the glass bottles of non-homogenized milk, the cream would have separated at the top and needed to be either poured off into another container or blended in by hand.
Devices like this (below), used to place an order for dairy products, were inserted into the neck of one of the empty bottles in the porch bottle box for the milkman to find during his next delivery.
When I was a kid, most houses I knew were heated by a coal furnace, and so there was always a coal bin in the basement. The coal delivery truck would slide a chute into the coal bin access window, and pour in the amount of coal needed. Shoveling fresh coal into the furnace after emptying the ashes that fell to the bottom through a grate was a daily chore.
Laundries and dry cleaners used window cards.
Various other vendors also adopted the window card system . . .
Burkett Brothers, Camden, NJ for bread, cake and pastry . . .
No ephemera for it here, but in those days weekly garbage removal was also a common service. Daily garbage went into containers sunk into the ground somewhere near the driveway; the lid of the pail was opened by stepping on a foot-operated lever. It all smelled quite terrible. The garbage man lifted out the pail, walked it to his truck and added it to his load, headed for some pig farm.