Trade cards are an early form of commercial
advertising that flourished in the second half of the 19th
century into the first decades of the 20th. The cards presented
here offer a graphic glimpse into the life of Victorian
Trenton and by extension much of America.
The cards on this page illustrate the
variety of images & styles employed to promote local
merchants. While the images were sometimes whimsical,
like that of the cherub in a shoe cart pulled by ducks
shown here, they are most often of floral, pastoral or
domestic scenes, as are the other images on this page.
Another less benign reality revealed by the 'mammy' & baby
card on this page is the pervasive racism present in
all aspects of American life. Some of the variety in
style is also illustrated here. The vast majority of
trade cards are rectangular in shape and usually range
in size from an inch to six inches to a side. The text
is either printed with the image or on the reverse. In
some cases the text was stamped on the image after printing
as illustrated by the mother with child card.
The trade cards presented on this page attempt
to represent some of the diversity of this interesting art
form. The links below provide access to more images from Trenton,
arranged by location or specific merchant: