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Tetley’s Tea (London), c. 1870–1900. Chromolithographed trade card, (5 x 3 in). [verso]


Trade Cards - Children Sell

By the end of the nineteenth century, childhood had attained a very special status. It was lauded by adults as the best time in a person’s life, and children (that is, white children) were thought of as innately innocent and full of goodness. Advertisers took advantage of these beliefs by using fair-skinned youngsters to promote all kinds of products, even those not associated at all with children.

For example, Tetley’s Tea published images of sweet boys and girls engaged in outdoor activities with the sole purpose of attracting adults. On the reverse of each card they printed the message: “The artistic child figure on the other side we wish you to keep by you as a reminder to purchase Tetley’s Tea.”

Companies especially used pictures of white youngsters to promote food, because they understood that children were associated with purity. They also knew that adults could be induced to buy products if they thought the goods would benefit their own offspring.


1887 [verso]
1888 [verso]
1893 [verso]
1893 [verso]

Gail Borden Eagle Brand Condensed Milk (New York). Chromolithographed trade card, (5 x 3 in). Printed by Donaldson Brothers, New York.

Gail Borden used sentimental images of charming toddlers to persuade parents to buy his Eagle Brand Condensed Milk for their infants, boasting that the product had maintained a reputation for “purity and excellence” for twenty-five years.

In another instance, T. E. Dougherty of Chicago advertised its New England Condensed Mince Meat with an elaborate picture of dozens of cute little children around a giant pie. An equally detailed story on the back of the card ended with the moral that “all good children … who eat mince pie made from Dougherty’s New England condensed Mince Meat [grow into] splendid American citizens.” [verso]


T. E. Dougherty (Chicago and Port Byron, NY), New England Condensed Mince Meat, c. 1870–1900. Chromolithographed trade card, (5 ½ x 7 in). Printed by Shober & Carquevile Litho. Co., Chicago.



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