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Old London Trade Cards

August 18, 2015
by the gentle author

Is your purse or wallet like mine, bulging with old trade cards? Do you always take a card from people handing them out in the street, just to be friendly? Do you pick up interesting cards in idle moments, intending to look at them later, and find them months afterwards in your pocket and wonder how they got there? So it has been for over three hundred years in London, since the beginning of the seventeenth century when trade cards began to be produced as the first advertising. Here is a selection of cards you might find, rummaging through a drawer in the eighteenth century.

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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The Signs of Old London

9 Responses leave one →
  1. August 18, 2015

    I love these! Thank you for sharing.

  2. August 18, 2015

    Lovely language and interesting businesses. I want to shop at some of these.

  3. August 18, 2015

    Wonderful collection of signs, and so much nicer than the flyers of today. Valerie

  4. Barbara Elsmore permalink
    August 18, 2015

    Absolutely fabulous thank you – I could look at these little works of art and little slices of history all day they are so very beautiful with so much to tell us.

  5. August 18, 2015

    Absolutely fascinating…so many fabulous old trades not needed or valued in our modern world. Beautiful cards too. Such a wonderful look back in time. Thank you, once again, for making my day!

  6. Jude permalink
    August 18, 2015

    Am thinking such cards were only done by more well-off establishments. My humble shoemaker ancestor on frying pan alley must have just had word of mouth :)

  7. August 18, 2015

    What a wonderful selection: the female chimney sweep must have been quite unusual for the period! You probably know that Sir Joseph Banks’s sister, Sarah Sophia, had an enormous collection of such ephemera, most of which are now in the British Museum.

  8. John Campbell permalink
    August 18, 2015

    These are fabulous! Interesting to see that even the humble ‘nightman’ had his own trade card. These chaps were regarded as the lowest of the low due to their performing of tasks such as unblocking the public lavatories and any other foul duty that nobody else would do. The irony was that they were social outcasts for the most part and unable to find decent lodgings due to their appearence and odour but were usually very rich men who demanded high prices for their skills. A large additional income was also earned from the collection of fallen coins and jewellery from gentlemens britches that floundered in the murky depths of the street lavatories. Where there’s muck there’s brass right enough!

  9. August 19, 2015

    Beautiful. We should go back to these kind of designs!

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