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Catalog Data

John B. Varick Company  Search this
Clay & Richmond  Search this
Paper, lithograph
5 1/4 × 3 in. (13.3 × 7.6 cm)
Advertising ephemera
Trade cards
Victorian (1837-1901)
Color lithographic print on cardstock. This trade card is for John B. Varick Company advertising seeds. It features an anthropomorphic Turnip man with a green coat and holding a walking stick and hat. The caption states, “Choice Seeds from our Growers.” Vegetable people were a popular subject for trade cards, especially from 1885 to 1890. They were intended to be a combination of eccentric personality-types and healthy produce with a comical twist. These caricatures are often pictured with probs including hats, walking sticks, cigars, umbrellas, gardening tools, or musical instruments.
Label Text:
In the period following the Civil War, the use of trade cards became widespread in America, reaching the height of popularity and design in the late-nineteenth century. The equivalent to the modern business card, a trade card was a means to promote a variety of goods and services, and act as a memory aid used by merchants and traders. Trade cards were usually square or rectangular, made of paper, and sufficiently small to fit inside a gentleman’s pocket or a lady’s purse. Advances in multi-color printing and color lithography fueled increasingly sophisticated designs and made cards more affordable to businesses. Cards usually had an image on one side and the businesses information on the other. Stock cards were available, with a blank space for companies to fill in their own information.
In the late nineteenth century, companies used trade cards as a form of promotion. Businesses distributed these cards to clients and potential customers at exhibitions and fairs, on sidewalks, through the mail, stuffed in packages, or in stacks on store countertops. The attractive and colorful designs and illustrations led to the popular hobby of collecting trade cards in the late nineteenth century. Cards were kept in albums, hung on walls, put in frames, and added to scrapbooks. The passion for collecting led trade cards to become trading cards as enthusiasts exchanged cards among each other.
Copyright Clay & Richmond, Buffalo, N.Y. 1885
John B. Varick Co., Manchester, New Hampshire
advertising cards  Search this
chromolithographs  Search this
ephemera  Search this
caricatures  Search this
marketing  Search this
seed  Search this
Seed industry and trade  Search this
Trade advertisements  Search this
Turnips  Search this
Victorian  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens