The Victorian Trade Cards of Stained Glass
The German Aloys Senefelder (1771-1834) invented lithography in 1798 and made the first tests with colors. But it was the Frenchman Godefroy Engelmann (1788-1839) who patented the technique and gave it the name of chromolithography. The printing principle using a smooth limestone could finally provide a circulation in quantity and quality.
The success was instantaneous. Colour images were spread throughout publications, maps, cards, labels, calendars and posters. A plethora of illustrators emerged to produce images and among them, renowned artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alfons Mucha.
In the United States, the renowned printer and publisher Louis Prang (1824-1909) is credited with the printing of the very first Christmas card using chromolithography in 1875. At its peak, Prang & Co. Art Publishing House of Boston produced up to 5 million cards a year. In the very city where Christmas Eve had been banished 200 years earlier by the Puritans !
Trade Cards: between advertisement and atlas
From 1880 onwards, a printed product enjoyed an exceptional and unusual popularity: the Victorian Trade Cards. They are small cardboards of about 7 x 10 cm used for advertising purposes, with an illustration on one side and a text on the back. The images were custom-made for the advertiser or a generic image was used on which the business owner added his name using a rubber stamp.
In France, the department stores Au Bon Marché and the meat extract producer Liebig were large issuers of trade cards. French chocolate factories Poulain, Guérin-Boutron, d'Aiguebelle, du Planteur, Louit, Payraud, Suchard also used trade cards. They were slipped through the packaging. In the United States, the trade cards were distributed by a vast number of small businesses. They were given in stores with or without a purchase or to passers-by in the street.
While in the United States trade cards have largely retained their only advertising function, in Europe around 1900, the cardboards illustrated much more than aesthetic images or everyday life scenes. They covered a wide variety of topics about history, geography, industries, science, arts, etc. Popular atlas of a society in the midst of the industrial revolution, the victorian trade cards became collectibles objects.
They were then sold by series, exchanged in classified ads, catalogues were published to list the different issues. The London-based Liebig company has published more than 11 000 different trade cards in 12 languages, up to 1973.
(The University of Iowa Libraries)
The glass industry and stained glass
Some trade cards present the glass industry. Others illustrate stained glass, in a scene or about their confection. Liebig has published a dozen of trade cards about these subjects. The German chemist Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) is considered to be the founder of organic chemistry. His work focused on agriculture and fertilizers. In addition, he invented the silver-backed mirror as we know it today. He was a remarkable teacher by his method of teaching in the laboratory. Is it in this spirit that the transformation of the famous advertising cardboard into an educational tool was born ?
In any case, here is a selection of glass industry and stained glass victorian trade cards:
Souffleurs de verre égyptiens, d'après d'anciens documents
La canne du verrier
Chargement des fournées dans les creusets
Verrerie bohémienne de St. Georgenthal, fondée en 1442 par P. Berka
Peinture sur verre
Verrerie moderne et fabrication du verre à vitre
Stained glass window beside a pipe organ
To cut glass properly, no. 87
Verriers vénitiens XIVe siècle
Woman at her window
Peinture sur verre XIIe siècle
La Peinture sur émail au XVIIe siècle
Stained glass window in the background
La Peinture sur émail au XVIIe siècle (verso)
Colorful stained glass
Lovely girl to the window
Peinture décorative du verre au couvent des Bénédictins de Tegernsée
An idea that refuses to die
The advent of the automobile led to the drop in postal tariffs and therefore the broadening of the advertising offer. The trade cards were declining. Past 1930, the modern presses were fast and inexpensive and above all, they printed photographs, giving birth to the magazine. This was the end for the old lithographic limestones.
The idea of the collectible cards never disappeared however. The cards of professional sports players, superhero comics and recently, the real or virtual video games cards ensure the happiness of young and older children.
Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Joseph Pennell, Lithography and Lithographers, Unwin Publisher, London, 1915
New England Historical Society, The Cradle of Liberty Becomes the Cradle of the American Christmas Card
Harvard Business Schools, The Art of American Advertising: Trade Cards
James Campbell Brown, A History of Chemistry from the Earliest Times, Blakiston's Son & Co., Philadelphia, 1920
victorian trade cards digital collection:
Victorian Trade Cards Collection, The University of Iowa Libraries
The Charles and Laura Dohm Shields Trade Card Collection, Miami University Libraries
Cigarette Cards Collection, New York Public Library