Friday, October 21, 2011

An Advertising Breakthrough

As I mention in my sidebar page on the evolution of corporate identity, the longer one collects trade cards and related antique advertising, the more one sees that contemporary advertising gimmicks were first done long, long ago. Today's posting is a case in point.

You've probably watched television and seen the screen filled with a list of selling points. Then to your surprise, a car drives right through the statement! It's tiring after the 40th viewing, but that same gimmick was used with great charm more than a 100 years ago.



  1. Hello Mark:
    A most interesting and well illustrated point which begs the question as to whether or not there are any truly original ideas?!

    What is certain is that the creative, imaginative talent of the past was just that.

  2. Hello, Jane and Lance:

    One major difference between the original idea and the television version is of course the actual motion! The modern version is essentially an exclamation point that lasts for a second, while the intrigued 19th century audience lingered over the original version, seeing if they could decifer information around the breakthrough.

  3. Hi Mark, Those novelty trade cards are fun. You are right about them causing people to linger over the ads--I started examining the peripheral material automatically. I think that circuses and vaudeville also used the same jumping through paper trick, but of course in real time.

    As your enlargement demonstrates, these are small but real lithographs, exceedingly well printed, so each is in effect a miniature work of art.
    --Road to Parnassus

  4. Hi, Parnassus - Your last comment is exactly how I feel about old trade cards. They're miniature works of art that capture a time when pleasures were simpler. And these little advertising cards provide quite a window into 19th century life.

  5. The torn paper effect and shading is quite good. I prefer to think of it as early trompe l'oeil!!!!

  6. I would hang those in a place where they would be noticed by guests -- guest bathroom? -- and enjoy the subsequent conversation about advertising -- always a good topic to turn to when religion or politics threaten to ruin a perfectly good evening!

  7. Hi, Theresa - I think the last card is the most effective and would certainly be spectacular tompe l'oeil, were it life-sized. What I enjoy about this genre of antique advertising is that the cards range from crude to sophisticated, but they all have charm.

  8. Hi, Valerie - One of the beauties of collecting and collections is that there are endless conversation pieces. When guests come to my house, I automatically turn into a docent!

  9. Everything old is new again. Especially in advertising. :) Loved the first example, especially.

  10. Hi, Yvette, Yes, I could see the first one used in a very handsome still life painting. The second one is slightly off register at the center, otherwise I think it pop a little more.

  11. Hi Mark,
    Interesting in many ways. 'Montreal' caught my attention and I started reading some of the newspaper writings. Really fun.

  12. Hi, Anyes - So many of these old trade cards have interesting messages on their reverse sides, too, messages that make outreageous claims for curing every malady under the sun!

  13. As I collect old french chromo-lithographies I get in touch with US-american trade cards a lot. It is very interesting to see, that lots of original french cards are edited and brought to the US several decades later.
    A nice example is this article of you - compare it with the cards from Set 1-2-5 on my page: or in real-size (replace the last didgit by the card number you want to see).
    These cards have been issued in 1887.

    1. Hello, Moppi,

      I enjoyed looking at your collection of trade cards! I notice that we both have some Liebig cards, and as a graphic designer, I always appreciated that Liebig included a picture of his can on the advertising. He was far ahead of his time!