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John and Jane Adams Trade Card Collection

Identifier: MS-0406

Scope and Contents

A variety of products are advertised in the collection. All trade cards in the collection are American except two French cards which can be found in the "Miscellaneous Products" folder. This collection has been digitized:


  • Creation: 1875-1915


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Historical Note

Trade cards, also known as advertising cards, were wildly popular collectibles in the latter half of the nineteenth century as consumer culture took over America. Advertising a huge variety of manufactured goods in bright chromolithographed colors, trade cards were produced by advertisers to encourage recognition of brand names and to stimulate demand for the products advertised. Though trade cards sometimes feature rather generic Victorian images of flowers or birds, these attractive pieces of ephemera often feature comic little vignettes with punchy slogans, or instructions for catchy games to be played using the card. Some are die-cut, and some have folding or moveable pieces--features that surely made great fun for their collectors. Trade cards were often issued in series to emphasize their collectible aspect, and this collection has many representatives from various series; for example, McLaughlin's Coffee "War Ship" series, or Arbuckle's "States" series.

Trade cards often contain a separate advertisement for the local seller of the product, usually on the verso of the card. A huge variety of social and cultural topics are open for study using trade cards. Depictions of women and femininity, domesticity and the American home, advertising methods and consumerism, social mores, race relations, humor--all are made tangible in this type of American ephemera.


0.67 Linear Feet

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Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged alphabetically by type of product. Within each folder, cards are arranged alphabetically by name of product advertised. There is a "Miscellaneous Products" folder found at the end of the collection which houses cards not readily categorizeable. Cards that do not advertise a product, but were rather meant to serve as advertising for a business, are housed in the "Individual Businesses" folder.

When a count appears in parentheses after a product listing in the finding aid (i.e., Union Sewing Machine (10)), this denotes that there are ten different cards advertising the Union Sewing Machine. There are no duplicate cards in the collection.



Related Materials

John and Jane Adams Greeting Card Collection

John and Jane Adams Autograph Album Collection

John and Jane Adams Postcard Collection

Separated Materials

These materials were separated from the unprocessed John and Jane Adams Ephemera Collection, Box 6 (Advertisements).

John and Jane Adams Trade Card Collection
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US