18th Century Trade Cards

Thomas Bakewell, next door to the Horn Tavern in Fleet Street, London. Selleth all sorts of fine French, Italian and Dutch prints and maps...
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Today we hand out business/trade cards like confetti, most being mass produced for a few pounds. With that in mind, we thought it might be interesting to take a look at the same commodity in the Georgian period. The variety of ‘trade cards’ is immense everything from grocers, to wholesalers, from funeral directors to hosiers and hatters, the list just goes on; every trade you can think of and many more you would never have thought of. The aim of these cards was to achieve maximum publicity so it was important to make them both visual and textual.

Trade cards were used to establish links with other local businesses and were taken very seriously as they were legally binding contracts. They were often handed out in public squares and markets, a great marketing tool as they still remain today. Trade cards would usually have a merchant’s name and address along with a description of where to find them. They also served as invoices, receipts, and places to jot down quotations, price lists, and other handwritten information.

One thing we had noticed was how much more intricate they are in design than anything you would see today. They are so fascinating that we simply had to share a few with you.   According to the British Museum, many of the cards they hold were originally collected by the sister of Sir Joseph Banks, Sarah Sophia Banks, who will make an appearance in another of our books in the future. We wanted to include a portrait of Sarah Sophia Banks and in our usual style, this caricature of her really was too much for us to resist … sorry!

An old maid on a journey by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed looking for them.

Our first offering is ‘Daniel, a real working Goldsmith  & Watchmaker, of Clare Street, Bristol’.  There were so many for goldsmiths and horologists that we were totally spoilt for choice.

Daniel a Goldsmith Bristol
Courtesy of the British Museum

In the 18th century, all but the upper-class women would have had to work and there are a surprising number of trade cards still in existence relating to female occupations.  Women were barred from most trade guilds and there were few if any formal organisations to support them. The only exception being that if a woman’s husband died she would be entitled to run his business and his membership of that guild would be transferred to her meaning that she could retain his privileges and also take on apprentices thereby allowing the business to continue to operate.  For financial reasons a widow would probably need her late husband’s business to continue and so she would have trade cards printed to ensure the continued support of his clients.

elizabeth bagwell
Courtesy of the British Museum

Our next reads as follows-

Catherine West, at the Hatt & Seven Starr’s in Monmouth Street the Corner of Browns Gardens Facing the Seven Dials, Sells all sorts of Womens Apparel Both New & Second Hand Wholesale & retail at reasonable rates viz. silk gowns, scarlet cloaks, market womens cloaks, all manner of stuffs in the piece, russells, stuffs damasks, cambletts, cambletees, prunell’s , callamancoe’s, Irish stuffs, joans, spinning & made in the gentelest manner, likewise gives ready money for womens apparel rich or plain, N.B. At the above place are sold ladies beavers, mens hatts new or second hand by the maker John West.

Trade card for Catherine West
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Howgate & Edmondson, sadlers and cap makers, opposite the Coventry Cross near Conduit Street In New Bond Street, London.

Trade card for Horgate & Edmondson, sadlers and cap makers
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The painter, William Hogarth’s sister Mary and Ann were also running their own business, ‘frock makers’, frocks being outerwear, not dresses as we may refer to them as today, in their case they made clothes for children.

Trade card for Mary and Ann Hogarth. © Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection
© Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection
Charles Hill tea dealer and grocer
Courtesy of the British Museum

Our next one is Charles Hill, a grocer, selling amongst other things coffee, chocolate and cocoa – clearly a place we would have spent hours in!

Followed by Ashlin, a glass carver, grinder and guilder, his importance being denoted by the use of the Prince of Wales feathers a crown and motto ‘Ich dien’, a crown and laurel garland on top of the oval; lion and unicorn supporters.

Glass grinder
Courtesy of the British Museum

A somewhat more artistic card, that of  David Shilfox, engraver and printer, at 349 Oxford Street, opposite Oxford Market, London.

Courtesy of the British Museum

We would like to share this card that was very kindly brought to our attention by our friend, the Female Master of the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers.

Trade card for John Cotterell, china-man and glass-seller. © Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection.
© Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection

A tea that is just as popular today as it probably was in 1804 – Twinings being sold by John Deck.

Twinings Tea
Courtesy of the British Museum

For the wealthy of the 18th-century pineapple was immensely popular so we couldn’t resist including the trade card for Negri and Wetten, confectioners, at the Pineapple, Berkeley Square.

Courtesy of the British Museum

For those who like something a little more obscure, we offer the trade card for  H Longbottom, skeleton supplier.

DRAFT Trade card of H Longbottom, skeleton supplier
Courtesy of the British Museum

And finally  we have Owen and Cox, appraisers, undertakers, at their ‘upholstry and carpet warehouse’, … Funerals furnished‘.

Apraisers and undertakers

In case you weren’t aware of it, there is more information in the London Book Trade 1775 – 1800, in this excellent, searchable resource

The Bodleian Library online also has a wonderful section on trade cards that are worth a look.

9 thoughts on “18th Century Trade Cards

    1. All Things Georgian

      Fantastic!. Thank you so much for the link we’re sure our readers will spend many happy hours looking as these, as will we 🙂


  1. Pingback: Assembly Rooms, March 2015 » The Beau Monde

  2. Pingback: History A'la Carte 3-19-15 - Random Bits of Fascination

  3. Pingback: History A'la Carte 4-16-15 - Random Bits of Fascination

  4. Pingback: Assembly Rooms, March 2015 – The Beau Monde RWA™ Chapter Website

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.