Victorian trade cards are an early form of collectible advertising. Popularized after the Civil War by businesses, they offer a colorful and diverse look at popular culture and society in the late 1800s.
Trade cards originated in England in the 1700s with tradesmen advertising their wares. But the advent of lithography in the 1870's made it possible to mass-produce them in color, leading to a golden age from 1876 to the early 1900s when halftone printed newspaper and magazine ads became more economical.
Trade cards typically had a picture on one side and an ad on the other. There were custom cards printed for specific products, and stock cards which could be used for any product. Trade cards were popular for medicines, sewing, and farm equipment, and a range of other products. The subject matter on the front of the card often had little to do with the product being advertised on the back of the card.