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Before and After Trade Cards

Many trade cards claimed that the products they advertised were capable of changing consumers’ lives for the better. This message was best conveyed through “before and after” illustrations on cards that were divided into panels (like the Arm & Hammer trade card of Jack Spratt), that folded, that had movable parts, that could be turned over or upside-down, or that could be held to the light.

An ad for Lily Corn Starch is printed in the folding style, the most common form of before and after card. When the card is folded up, the viewer sees that the Browns’ domestic bliss is threatened by the wife’s use of inferior cornstarch. When the bottom half of the card is flipped down, the original illustration is transformed to show Mrs. Brown presenting her now happy husband with a box of Lily Corn Starch, which apparently has rendered her baking much more palatable.

MOUSE OVER TO FOLD DOWN
Ottumwa Starch Co. (Ottumwa, IA), Lily Corn Starch, c. 1870-1900.
Chromolithographed trade card, (5 3/8 x 3 ¼ in).
Printed by Donaldson Brothers, Five Points, NY.

CLICK HERE FOR THE TOP IMAGE AND HERE FOR THE FOLDED IMAGE

Ottumwa Starch Co. (Ottumwa, IA), Lily Corn Starch, c. 1870-1900 (Reverse).
Chromolithographed trade card, (5 3/8 x 3 ¼ in).
Printed by Donaldson Brothers, Five Points, NY.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Two women are greatly upset (“life is not worth living”) when they run out of tea in an upside-down style card from the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. When the card is flipped 180 degrees, the same illustration shows smiling faces and a teapot and cup full of “strictly pure, perfectly healthy, very strong, economical and excellent[ly] flavor[ed]” Thea-Nectar brand tea.

The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. (New York), Thea Nectar, 1889.
Chromolithographed trade card, (4 x 2 ¾ in).
CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE

A trade card for “ThePure” Baking Powder Company must be held up to the light for its before and after effect. Graphics printed on the reverse then show through the thin paper to reveal a young woman waking to a highly risen loaf of bread, while a can of baking powder hovers over it like a tin angel.

“ThePure” Baking Powder Co. (Albany, NY), 1890.
Chromolithographed trade card, (3 ½ x 5 1/8 in).
CLICK HERE FOR THE FIRST IMAGE AND HERE FOR SECOND

 

 

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