8.19.2011

Imbeciles, Crackers and Misfit Parlors

This fantastic card was composed and printed letterpress specifically for Smith & Pressinger,
unlike many common trade cards. It features some beautiful type and a stock engraving of
a well-dressed, laughing black guy which I actually think is fun and sensitively drawn. Am I wrong?
Metal type in 8 faces plus one size change and ornament
The caption on the front, lower right, says "Imbeciles!"
"Brooklyn Cracker Works"
What I wouldn't give for a corporate T-shirt from that place
What was the "one" to be taken "at night in a glass of hot milk"? Chloral hydrate? Bromide? Oreo?
"with neatness and dispatch."
A tasteful and Aesthetic-style card that surely spoke to all the "Chinamen", classical statuary
and palm trees on Fulton Street...
I practically swooned when I first saw a card for a "Misfit Parlor."
They are establishments selling what we'd call "seconds" or "irregulars"
I am especially interested in the phrasing of old trade cards:
"unusual advantages in our balcony" sounds appealingly flirtatious to me
Its all about the juxtaposition here: Flesh, Food, Toilet
Hidden by the Witchery of Art
I've been trolling around looking at old trade cards and these here are in many respects an unremarkable assortment of them. The most vital facts about these cards are that they're all from businesses that were on Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn, and that they currently reside at the Brooklyn Public Library's Fulton Trade Card Collection. Most of the cards in the Fulton collection are typical of late 19th century style business notices: generic preprinted chromolithographed artwork that was imprinted by letterpress job printers and personalized for the business. And as was commonly the case, most of the colorful/humorous/picturesque artwork used on the business card had absolutely nothing to do with the business. [Read more about that in the Handy Book of Artistic Printing.]

Most people love trade cards for the chromo- artwork: the bouquets, gamboling cherubs and baskets of kittens that the well-known Louis Prang (
see the NYPL collection) specialized in. Not me. While I like and admire the artwork, especially the Aesthetic style scenes of "Chinamen", sphinxes and Japanese storks, I've lately been focusing on the wording of the cards. The naive taglines, awkward names, overly intrusive punctuation and the incredible lists of goods and services on offer are what interest me the most right now. The lists—O the lists! I love word lists and when the these are made from items strange, arcane, outlandish and antique— all the better. More on this type of card, of which the below is a pale, enervated descendant, in next post.
Addendum: I found a really nice overview of illustrated trade cards worth a perusal.

3 comments:

Matt W. said...

Great stuff! Why did A.J. Nutting use a painter's palette? The one below it makes more sense....Is that iconic silhouette even recognizable to most people today?

angela said...

Thats the thing Matt-- the artwork of the cards 9 times out of 10 had nothing to do with the businesses. Sometimes it was actually farcically inappropriate.

iriekate said...

The prescription says...

"One at night in glass
hot milk."

Awesome find!

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