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The Trade Cards Of Old London

November 27, 2018
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

10 Responses leave one →
  1. November 27, 2018

    Nice to see the now forgotten long s in these trade cards, these look like an ‘f’ but without the forward ligature, they went out of use in the nineteenth century, would like to see more of these cards in the future.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Leila, Cumber permalink
    November 27, 2018

    Always a fascinating read, and especially so for born and bred Londoners of all ages.

  3. Louise H permalink
    November 27, 2018

    Simply beautiful! The time when business cards told a story.

  4. Helen Breen permalink
    November 27, 2018

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, interesting collection of London’s old signs from the Bishopgate’s collection. Includes colorful street directions like “over against Middle Row, Holburn,” “within Three Doors of Algate, on the left side of the way,” and “in ye Broad part of St. Martin’s court.” I wonder when street numbering became universal?

    I also learned a new word PERUKE- “a man’s wig of the 17th and 18th centuries, usually powdered and gathered at the back of the neck with a ribbon; periwig.”

  5. November 27, 2018

    Beautiful. What size are these cards?

  6. Eva Radford permalink
    November 27, 2018

    This is an extraordinary peek into another time. Personalities come through in many instances. Thank you!

  7. November 27, 2018

    I especially enjoyed the Misses Hogarth, with the elaborate note on how to find them, and the offer to supply outfits for Bluecoat boys. I expect you know this, but Sir Joseph Banks’s sister, Sarah Sophia, made a large collection of ephemera, which she left to the British Museum – were such collections (of basically valueless – to them! – items) fairly common at the period?

  8. pauline taylor permalink
    November 27, 2018

    Works of Art, Wonderful.

  9. david whittaker permalink
    June 21, 2019


  10. david whittaker permalink
    June 21, 2019


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